What is Nuclear Energy?

What if there were benefits to energy that reached way beyond providing electricity?

Currently, nuclear energy supplies 12 percent of the world’s electricity – but did you know that it also powers space exploration, sterilises medical equipment and desalinates water?

There are also hundreds more important uses including in industry, agriculture and in our homes.

How is nuclear energy created?

Nuclear energy holds together the nucleus of atoms. Atoms are invisible to the eye and make up matter. Every atom has a small nucleus, consisting of protons and neutrons at its center – and this is where nuclear energy is formed.

How is nuclear energy released?

There are two ways for an atom to release nuclear energy. These are nuclear fusion and nuclear fission.

  • Nuclear fusion is energy that is released when atoms literally fuse together. This means that they join together to form a bigger atom.
  • Nuclear fission is when energy is released when a uranium atom breaks. They split up and form smaller atoms.

How is electricity created from nuclear energy?

Nuclear energy originates from the splitting of uranium atoms – a process called fission. This generates heat to produce steam, which is used by a turbine generator to generate electricity.

As the world’s population increases, so does the demand for energy. Nuclear energy is one of the solutions to assist while fossil fuels are diminishing, as it is able to generate electricity in an environmentally responsible manner.

The UK currently has 15 nuclear reactors that generate almost a quarter (21%) of the nation’s electricity, but the government is planning to halve this capacity by 2025, and create centralised power plants with a widespread network of smaller reactors.

What about the waste from nuclear energy?

Nuclear power does produce low-level radioactive waste. This gives off heat and needs to be carefully managed. Its radioactivity is short-lived and the waste can be incinerated or buried in shallow ground.

Because nuclear power plants do not burn fuel, no greenhouse gas emissions are created.