How Does Nuclear Energy Work?

Nuclear energy is produced in much the same way that electricity is produced by other power plants; the splitting of atoms creates heat, turning water into steam, and then the pressure of the steam turns the generator with the end product being electricity. The process of splitting atoms is known as nuclear fission, and it is nuclear fission that replaces the fossil fuels of coal, natural gas or oil that are normally used to produce electricity in traditional power plants.

In a nuclear power plant, nuclear energy is created when a nuclear reactor creates heat. The heat is used for making steam. The steam is used to turn a turbine that is connected to a generator, which is essentially an electromagnet. The generator produces electricity that is then routed to customers' homes.

Uranium is the type of fuel that is used in nuclear fission. Inside pellets of uranium fuel reside millions of uranium nuclei that are split during nuclear fission. This splitting sets off the release of a huge amount of energy; most of it is from kinetic energy, but some is from radiation. The kinetic energy produces the heat inside the nuclear reactor that produces steam and in the end, electrical power.