nuclear power

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nuclear power

power, esp electrical or motive, produced by a nuclear reactor
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005

nuclear power

[′nü·klē·ər ′pau̇·ər]
Power whose source is nuclear fission or fusion.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Engineering. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Nuclear Mythology From Electricity "Too Cheap to Meter" to "Inherently Safe" Reactors (1999).
Nuclear power would provide 'electricity too cheap to meter' and the Atoms for Peace program would herald the end of human want by providing whatever humans wanted.
These are the same people who assured us electricity from the Seabrook nuclear plants would be "too cheap to meter." The choice we faced was between "a hot bath and a cold shower," or as another full-page ad put it, "a cooked meal or cold food.
The crisis is grave, belying once again sunny predictions that safe nuclear power would provide electricity too cheap to meter. But Americans who have rushed out to buy potassium iodide tablets as protection against the effects of radiation have wasted their money.
Today about 100 nuclear plants operate in the United States, more than in any other country, but far fewer than the thousands once predicted for an era of electricity that would be "too cheap to meter."
An enterprise that Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, launched in the early 1950s with heady promises of "electrical energy too cheap to meter" came to a virtual standstill by the 1980s, with public opinion solidly favoring caution and more research over renewed expansion.
For 50-plus years the nuclear industry has promised us variations on "energy too cheap to meter" and yet despite the billions "invested" in it (far more than has ever been given to renewables and energy efficiency) it has still to deliver on this.
Remember the nuclear electricity that was going to be "too cheap to meter"?
Their theme was it would be too cheap to meter. And so it is with "free" renewable fuels.
THE INDUSTRY THAT ONCE CLAIMED that it would produce energy "too cheap to meter" has been battered by poor economics, serious safety concerns, growing radioactive waste problems, the reality of nuclear weapons proliferation and an increasingly informed and sceptical global community.
[bar] SIR - Where have I ever said of the nuclear option that it would generate energy "too cheap to meter" (Nigel BaKer's letter, May 9)?