Uranium (Nuclear Power): Energy Source Fact File!

Nuclear power can be quite controversial, but why? What is nuclear energy, and how does it generate electricity?

Here’s the need-to-know stuff about the energy source, Uranium (Nuclear Power)!

Description

Uranium is a silvery-black metal. Uranium ore is mined from deep underground.

Where can you find Uranium?

Uranium can be found in many places but Australia and Canada are the largest exporters.

How is it made into electricity?

Uranium atoms split and release energy in a process called nuclear fission. This energy heats up the uranium. This heats water to produce steam that turns the blades of a turbine. These are attached to a generator which produces electricity.

What are the advantages of using nuclear power?

  • Nuclear power is relatively cheap to produce; it costs about the same as producing electricity from coal.
  • It does not contribute much to the greenhouse effect because it produces very little carbon dioxide.
  • A large amount of electricity can be produced from a relatively small amount of fuel.
  • It produces small amounts of waste compared to other forms of energy generation.

What are the disadvantages of using nuclear power?

  • Although the amount of waste produced is very small, it is highly dangerous.
  • The initial costs to build a nuclear power station can be very high.
  • Generating electricity can be quite inefficient – only a tiny percentage of the fuel is used although we’re getting better at using more.
  • Nuclear waste must be sealed up and buried for many years to allow the radioactivity to die away. A nuclear leak would contaminate the surrounding area with lethal toxic waste.
  • It does not use a renewable resource; when the uranium is used up it cannot be replaced.
  • It is very difficult to turn off a nuclear power station.

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