Energy & Electricity in Science : How Does Nuclear Energy Work?

Energy & Electricity in Science : How Does Nuclear Energy Work?


Hi I’m Steve Jones and I’m going to explain
how nuclear energy works. Now nuclear energy generally is produced from either uranium
or plutonium. Plutonium is another radioactive material. But the process is basically the
same. And the process is called fission. Fission is something that happens in biological spheres
that is a cell divided into two. And the suggestion here is that our atom of uranium two three
five, actually splits into two and when it does that it produces by products which are
full of energy and produce a huge amount of heat. So this is the first point that the
process produces massive amounts of energy. So here’s my uranium two three five atom,
in comes a neutron, this is a neutron.Neutrons are around all the time. And when the uranium
two three splits apart it’s spits out neutrons as well. And these neutrons can hit other
uranium two three five atoms and then can split up two and they also produce neutrons
and see how many they are producing.This process takes ten to the minus nine seconds, that’s
one thousand millionth of a second. And you can imagine these processes each time you
are getting a doubling of the numbers involved.You get a huge amount of energy very, very quickly.Instantaneously
almost. So you get a massive explosion. An explosion is simply a large amount of energy
being created at in a very short time. And it can’t all sit together in one little heap
it has to move. So this is how nuclear energy works. It works from this process to stop
this happening, this would be the normal process and normally most of these neutrons just disappear
into the air and don’t do any harm. However, if each of these neutrons produces yet another
reaction, then we get an awful lot of energy produced at once and an awful lot of heat.
So in a nuclear reactor what we try and do is bring the uranium two three five nuclei
atoms close together so that the neutrons don’t have a chance to escape. So if you have
a big piece of uranium then the neutrons formed inside are almost certain to hit another uranium
atom. That’s one thing but in a reactor we also have to have something to slow down these
neutrons because actually even if the neutrons hits a uranium two three five atom it doesn’t
necessarily work in this way. Actually sometimes you just get absorbed and it turns into something
else so sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. So what we have to do within a nuclear reactor
is we slow down the neutrons. And we put the material like heavy water in between to slow
them down. In a bomb we don’t, we just make sure that they’re so close together that it
all happens at once. And then we get a huge bang. So this is basically how nuclear energy
works.

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