Did you know that our universe is made up of teeny, tiny, invisible particles that are called atoms? Well there are so many of these atoms that it would be hard to even begin to imagine.
Just one tiny pin head is made up of millions and millions of atoms. The center of an atom is called the nucleus and this is exactly where nuclear energy is found.
The nuclear energy at the center of an atom, called the nucleus is extremely strong. It is only released when a bond in broken.
There are two ways for an atom to release nuclear energy. These are nuclear fusion and nuclear fission.
What is nuclear fusion? Nuclear fusion is energy that is released when atoms literally fuse together. This means that they join together to form a bigger atom.
What is nuclear fission? This is when energy is released when an atom breaks. They split up and form smaller atoms.
The Sun is a great example of how nuclear fusion works and produces energy. It is a huge ball of gas that is giving off energy all the time.
Nuclear energy is sometimes called uranium. Uranium is a chemical element and is a radioactive metal that is found is rocks, which is used as nuclear fuel. Uranium is used commonly by nuclear plants for nuclear fission.
Uranium is a non-renewable fuel. Once it is sourced from mines it has to be processed before it can be used as fuel. What does non-renewable mean? It means that this particular fuel source cannot be renewed and recreated.
Some power plants that produce fossil fuels poison the atmosphere with pollution. However nuclear power plants don’t pollute the air, as they don’t create carbon dioxide. That’s good to know! However, as we said before the process of sourcing nuclear fuel, in the form of uranium, does involve mining and processing before it can be used.
Nuclear energy can create radioactive waste for example when it is used as reactor fuel. This can be harmful to humans and animals as it could be radioactive. These materials have to be carefully handled and they are disposed of in special ways, according to rules and laws so that life can be protected.
Even clothes can become contaminated when radiation is produced! Any material which becomes contaminated can remain radioactive for thousands of years! Wow!
When the power plants release energy, they do this by splitting the atoms. When this happens a huge amount of energy is released.
Nuclear energy can create electricity. They create this electricity from nuclear fission – where the atoms are split up and form smaller atoms.
Radioactive: producing a powerful and dangerous form of energy
Reactor Fuel: nuclear reactors are used at nuclear power plants for electricity generation and they help to move ships along.
Contaminated: unwanted pollution of something from another substance
So, now you know all about nuclear energy! If you have a project, you’ll be the best student in the class!