Nuclear energy

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Everything around you is made up of atoms. Most of the mass of each atom is concentrated in the center (which is called the nucleus), and the rest of the mass is in the cloud of electrons surrounding the nucleus.

Under certain circumstances, the nucleus of a very large atom can split in two (or fission) releasing a shockingly large amount of energy following Einstein’s famous formula: E = MC

In the 1930s and ’40s, humans discovered this energy and recognized its potential as a weapon. Technology developed in the Manhattan Project successfully used this energy in a chain reaction, where the fission of one atom cause another one to react. Soon after World War II ended, the newfound energy source found a home in the propulsion of the nuclear navy, providing submarines with engines that could run for over a year without refueling. This technology was quickly transferred to the public sector, where commercial power plants were developed and deployed to produce electricity these plants are a type of power plant that uses the process of nuclear fission in order to generate electricity. They do this by using nuclear reactors in combination with the Rankine cycle, where the heat generated by the reactor converts water into steam, which spins a turbine and a generator.

The reactor is a key component of a power plant, as it contains the fuel and its nuclear chain reaction, along with all of the nuclear waste products. The reactor is the heat source for the power plant, just like the boiler is for a coal plant. Uranium is the dominant nuclear fuel used in nuclear reactors, and its fission reactions are what produce the heat within a reactor. This heat is then transferred to the reactor’s coolant, which provides heat to other parts of the nuclear power plant. The most common power plants in the world use pressurized water reactors, which use two loops of circling water to produce steam. The first loop carries extremely hot liquid water to a heat exchanger, where water at a lower pressure is circulated. It then heats up and boils to steam, and can then be sent to the turbine section. Once the steam has been produced, it travels at high pressures and speeds through one or more turbines. These get up to extremely high speeds, causing the steam to lose energy, therefore, condensing back to cooler liquid water. The rotation of the turbines is used to spin an electric generator, which produces electricity that is sent out to the electrical grid.

Unlike other power plants, nuclear power does not need to burn anything to create steam it does not emit greenhouse gases like methane or CO2. Once a nuclear plant is up and running, the electricity it produces is inexpensive due to the low cost of uranium. Unlike wind and solar, nuclear is a consistent, reliable source of energy, which can run uninterrupted for up to a year.

However, like all thermal generation, produce waste. 97% of the waste produced is considered low- or intermediate-level waste, and as such is easily disposed of. The nuclear industry produces 34,000m³ of high-level waste globally a year, but counter to what many people believe, it does not take forever to degrade. It is generally stored in interim storage facilities, where within just forty years its radioactivity levels decrease to one-thousandth of the level.

Finally, the potential for disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima is a constant concern when considering nuclear power. Both had devastating effects on their environments and the communities close by. But it is important to remember that together with Three Mile Island, they are the only major incidents in over 17,000 cumulative reactor-years of commercial nuclear power operation in 33 countries.

Noting that Algeria has a reserve of uranium estimated at 26,000 tons, should we adopt this method as one of our energy sources that rely only on GAS.

On July 14th, 2019, Algerian Energy Minister Mohamed Arqab revealed that the government plans to build the first nuclear power plant to generate electricity.

 

 

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