Nuclear power reactors
Nuclear power now supplies a significant amount of the world's energy needs.
The structure of a nuclear power plant in many aspects resembles that of a conventional thermal power station, since in both cases the heat produced in the boiler (or reactor) is transported by some coolant and used to generate steam. The steam then goes to the blades of a turbine and, by rotating it, the connected generator will produce electric energy.
The difference between a conventional and a nuclear power plant is how heat is produced. In a fossil plant, oil, gas, or coal is fired in the boiler, and the chemical energy in the fuel is converted into heat. A nuclear power plant, however, uses the energy that comes from a controlled nuclear chain reaction.
Nuclear power reactors have evolved over time through several 'generations':
- Generation I (no longer in operation)
- Generation II
- Generation III and III+
- Next generation IV reactors (currently in development).
Find out more about nuclear power reactors:
- The Power Reactor Information System website, run by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has information about the number of nuclear power reactors worldwide
- The World Nuclear Association (WNA) Reactor Database contains information on past, present and future nuclear reactors globally
- The Evolution of nuclear power page on the Generation IV International Forum has a useful visual representation of nuclear power systems over time