Nuclear- Basics


“A” is for Atom!
Although the “Atoms for Peace” campaign was formally launched in 1957, corporate America began to promote peaceful uses of atomic energy as early as the first few months after Hiroshima. A Is For Atom, an artifact of this effort, takes this highly loaded and threatening issue straight to the public in an attempt to “humanize” the figure of the atom.

A Is For Atom speaks of five atomic “giants” which “man has released from within the atom’s heart”: the warrior and destroyer, the farmer, the healer, the engineer and the research worker. Each is pictured as a majestic, shimmering outline figure towering over the earth. “But all are within man’s power Ñ subject to his command,” says the narrator reassuringly, and our future depends “on man’s wisdom, on his firmness in the use of that power.”…Read more and watch the short film>>

DYK Thorium a is for atom



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How Nuclear Power Works

– Principles of nuclear power

…The nucleus of an atom is held together with great force, the “strongest force in nature.” When bombarded with a neutron, it can be split apart, a process called fission (pictured to the right). Because uranium atoms are so large, the atomic force that binds it together is relatively weak, making uranium good for fission.

In nuclear power plants,…Learn more>>

– Mining and processing nuclear fuels

Uranium is one of the least plentiful minerals—making up only two parts per million in the earth’s crust—but because of its radioactivity it is a plentiful supply of energy. One pound of uranium has as much energy as three million pounds of coal…Learn more>>

– Nuclear reactors

In the United States, two-thirds of the reactors are pressurized water reactors (PWR) and the rest are boiling water reactors (BWR). In a boiling water reactor, the water is allowed to boil into steam, and is then sent through a turbine to produce electricity…Learn more>>

In pressurized water reactors, shown below, the core water is held under pressure and not allowed to boil. The heat is transferred to water outside the core with a heat exchanger (also called a steam generator), boiling the outside water, generating steam, and powering a turbine. In pressurized water reactors, the water that is boiled is separate from the fission process, and so does not become radioactive…Learn more>>

– Nuclear waste

…the Department of Energy has been studying storage sites for long-term burial of the waste, especially at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Under the guise of research, DOE has built a full-scale system of tunnels into the mountain at a cost of over $5 billion…Learn more>>

– The rise of nuclear power
The principles of nuclear power were formulated by physicists in the early 20th century. In 1939, German scientists discovered the process of fission, triggering a race with American scientists to use the incredible power of fission to create a bomb.

Through the intense effort of the Manhattan Project, the atomic bomb was created by 1945, and used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

After the war, “great atomic power” was seen as…Learn more>>

– The fall of nuclear power
After absorbing as many losses as they could, manufacturers ended turnkey offers. By the 1970s, about 200 plants were built, under construction or planned. But a number of factors conspired to end the nuclear boom.
Because construction…Learn more>>

– The future of nuclear power
American reactors were initially licensed to operate for up to 40 years. Beginning with the two reactors at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Maryland, many owners have applied to the NRC for permission to extend the reactor operation licenses for an additional 20 years.

Nearly three-quarters Nearly three-quartersof the U.S. fleet have been re-licensed and the NRC is reviewing several other license renewal requests. A second round of 20-year license extensions is currently in discussion between the NRC, the Department of Energy, and the nuclear industry.

In 2012, the NRC issued…Learn more>>

Advancing Small Modular Reactors: How We’re Supporting Next-Gen Nuclear Energy Technology-

DYK NUCLEAR small mod graphic   The basics of small modular reactor technology explained. | Infographic by Sarah Gerrity, Energy Department. 



-Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs), In a typical commercial pressurized light-water reactor(1) the core inside the reactor vessel creates heat, (2) pressurized water in the primary coolant loop carries the heat to the steam generator, (3) inside the steam generator, heat from the steam, and (4) the steam line directs the steam to the main turbine, causing it to turn the turbine generator, which produces electricity. The unused steam…Learn more>>



-Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs),  In a typical commercial boiling-water reactor, (1) the core inside the reactor vessel creates heat, (2) a steam-water mixture is produced when very pure water (reactor coolant) moves upward through the core, absorbing heat, (3) the steam-water mixture leaves the top of the core and enters the two stages of moisture separation where water droplets are removed before the steam is allowed to enter the steam line, and (4) the steam line directs the steam to the main turbine, causing it to turn the turbine generator, which produces electricity. The unused steam…Read more>>