Nuclear power is energy which is produced with the use of a controlled nuclear reaction. Many nations use nuclear power plants to generate electricity for both civilian and military use, and some nations also utilize this type of energy to run parts of their naval fleets, especially submarines. Some people favor an expansion of nuclear power plants because this form of energy is considered cleaner than fossil fuels such as coal, although they come with a number of problems which must be addressed, including the safe disposal of radioactive waste products.
The process of generation nuclear power starts with the mining and processing of uranium and other radioactive elements. These elements are used to feed the reactor of a power plant, generating a reaction known as fission which creates intense heat, turning water in the plant into steam. The steam powers steam turbines, which generate electricity and feed the electricity into the electrical grid.
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When nuclear energy is used to power something like a submarine, the reactor runs the engines, with the steam directly powering the engines. In both cases, the reactor requires careful supervision, because runaway nuclear reactions must be stopped as quickly as possible to prevent serious problems. Many nuclear power plants have extensive automated systems which help to identify potential trouble spots, and these systems can also re-route power, turn off parts of the plant, and perform other tasks which make the plant safer and cleaner.
One of the advantages of nuclear energy is that it does not produce greenhouse gases. It does, however, produce hazardous waste. Spent nuclear fuel is radioactive and extremely dangerous, requiring a substantial infrastructure to secure the power plant and to handle the fuel. Unfortunately, some nations do not have adequate measures for handling their spent fuel in place, and it is not uncommon to see “temporary” solutions for the storage of nuclear material which last for decades.
The process of mining and refining the necessary radioactive elements used in a nuclear power plant is also not very clean, and these elements require secure transport, which can add to the cost of this type of power significantly. Several nations have instituted a moratorium on the development of nuclear energy until these problems have been addressed.