Almost all electricity we use is generated in power stations.
In a coal or oil-fired power station, the burning fuel heats water in a boiler to produce steam. The steam drives a turbine that turns an electricity generator.
In a gas-fired power station, we burn natural gas directly in a gas turbine engine. This produces a powerful jet of hot gases and air that drives the turbine. A gas-fired turbine can be switched on very quickly.
The fuel in a nuclear power station is uranium. The uranium fuel is contained in sealed cans in the core of a reactor.
The nucleus of an uranium atom is unstable and can split in two: energy is released when it splits, and we call this process nuclear fission. It becomes very hot because there are lots of uranium atoms in the core.
- The thermal energy of the core is taken away by a fluid called the coolant, that is pumped through the core.
- The coolant is very hot when it leaves the core.
- It flows through a pipe to a heat exchanger then back to the reactor core.
- The thermal energy…