How Powerful (And Safe) Is Nuclear Energy?

How Powerful (And Safe) Is Nuclear Energy?

As of 2015, there are more than 400 nuclear power plants in operation around the world. Public opinion on the plants is mixed, with some decrying them as dangerous and citing the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters. Others see them as a promising symbol of a future that runs on clean, efficient energy. The plants produce electricity through a process called fission. Inside a reactor, elements such as uranium-235 split into smaller atoms during fission, releasing energy that heats nearby water and turns it into steam. The steam causes a turbine connected to an electric generator to rotate, thereby producing electricity.


Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    Uranium-235 is fissionable, meaning that its nucleus can split apart into smaller atoms, releasing heat and neutrons in the process. (0:26)

  • 2

    As of February 2015, France gets more than 70% of its energy from nuclear power plants, whereas the United States gets about 20%. (1:10)

  • 3

    Nuclear power plants can operate around the clock (unlike wind turbines), and produce more energy than solar panels. (2:09)

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