nuclear power

(redirected from atomic power)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Wikipedia.

nuclear power

power, esp electrical or motive, produced by a nuclear reactor

nuclear power

[′nü·klē·ər ′pau̇·ər]
(nucleonics)
Power whose source is nuclear fission or fusion.

Nuclear power

Power derived from fission or fusion nuclear reactions. More conventionally, nuclear power is interpreted as the utilization of the fission reactions in a nuclear power reactor to produce steam for electric power production, for ship propulsion, or for process heat. Fission reactions involve the breakup of the nucleus of high-mass atoms and yield an energy release which is more than a millionfold greater than that obtained from chemical reactions involving the burning of a fuel. Successful control of the nuclear fission reactions utilizes this intensive source of energy.

Fission reactions provide intensive sources of energy. For example, the fissioning of an atom of uranium yields about 200 MeV, whereas the oxidation of an atom of carbon releases only 4 eV. On a weight basis, this 50 × 106 energy ratio becomes about 2.5 × 106. Uranium consists of several isotopes, only 0.7% of which is uranium-235, the fissile fuel currently used in reactors. Even with these considerations, including the need to enrich the fuel to several percent uranium-235, the fission reactions are attractive energy sources when coupled with abundant and relatively cheap uranium ore.

Although the main process of nuclear power is the release of energy in the fission process which occurs in the reactor, there are a number of other important processes, such as mining and waste disposal, which both precede and follow fission. Together they constitute the nuclear fuel cycle. See Nuclear fuel cycle

Power reactors include light-water-moderated and -cooled reactors (LWRs), including the pressurized-water reactor (PWR) and the boiling-water reactor (BWR). The high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR), and the liquid-metal-cooled fast breeder reactor (LMFBR) have reached a high level of development but are not used for commercial purposes. See Nuclear reactor

Critics of nuclear power consider the radioactive wastes generated by the nuclear industry to be too great a burden for society to bear. They argue that since the high-level wastes will contain highly toxic materials with long half-lives, such as a few tenths of one percent of plutonium that was in the irradiated fuel, the safekeeping of these materials must be assured for time periods longer than social orders have existed in the past. Nuclear proponents answer that the time required for isolation is much shorter, since only 500 to 1000 years is needed before the hazard posed by nuclear waste falls below that posed by common natural ore deposits in the environment. See Radioactive waste management

Nuclear power facilities present a potential hazard rarely encounted with other facilities; that is, radiation. A major health hazard would result if, for instance, a significant fraction of the core inventory of a power reactor were released to the atmosphere. Such a release of radioactivity is clearly unacceptable, and steps are taken to assure it could never happen. These include use of engineered safety systems, various construction and design codes, regulations on reactor operation, and periodic maintenance and inspection.

References in periodicals archive ?
Japan Atomic Power officials have called on the panel to wait until June for more data to come up, but Shimazaki said during the panel's previous meeting in April that an assessment at the present moment will be compiled at the next meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
It pointed at an ongoing energy saving campaign, in which companies in Japan s northeast are being asked to cut back use by 15 percent, and argued that, if it works, it proves that Japan can live without atomic power.
BMPC will assume operation of the Bettis and Knolls Atomic Power Laboratories on Feb.
The leak happened only days after the South of Scotland Electricity Board showed Pressup around the station in an effort to allay fears over the proposed atomic power station for Torness, East Lothian.
ANTI-nuclear campaigners last night urged Welsh secretary Peter Hain to snub calls for more atomic power.
Ted Heath gave away our fish and now Blair is proposing to pollute our atmosphere for generations to come with more atomic power stations.
We have a projected pounds 500B `clean-up' bill due in 10 years from a previous generation of atomic power stations so hardly an attractive proposal
THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS PUSHING AHEAD WITH A FULL-SCALE REVIVAL OF ATOMIC POWER
Atomic power plants in Eastern Europe --hardly one of them is upto the latest state-of-the-art with regard to safey - are to be retrofittled the West to make them safer.
Strickland, CPA assistant to vice-president of finance and administration Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company Augusta, Maine
Dismantling has just begun on the 72-megawatt Shippingport Atomic Power Station outside Pittsburgh--the first commercial U.
Shaw and Westinghouse have a long history of working together, dating back over 50 years, including their joint efforts in the building of Shippingport Atomic Power Station, the first commercial nuclear reactor in the United States.