West Chester University


Nuclear Fission

Nuclear energy is released when atoms break up into smaller atoms and subatomic particles. This process is known as nuclear fission. When certain isotopes of uranium and other elements are involved, energy is released and the subatomic particles that are generated can be used to create a chain reaction. Thereby a source of power is created. In a conventional nuclear power plant, the neutrons released in fission are used to heat and boil water. The steam produced is then passed through turbines to generate electricity in a similar fashion to how steam generated in a coal fired power plant generates electricity.

Nucelar power is controversial and often a divisive issue. On the one hand there are the worries that its use may contribute to large scale acidents and nucelar weapons proliferation. The disposal of nuclear waste also presents a long-term challenge. On the other hand, it is a mature technolgy than is constantly evolving toward greater efficiency and safety. It does not produce significant quantities of greenhouse gases. Its role in the future of US power production continues to be a hotly debabted political issue.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the world's center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world's "Atoms for Peace" organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

The DOE spends most of its research budget on nuclear power. You can learn more about what they are doing here.