Nuclear Energy

There is energy everywhere inside the atoms that make up everything in the universe. The energy that is stored inside an atom by the forces that hold together the nucleus of an atom is called nuclear energy. The term nuclear comes from the nucleus which is the center of every atom. Over many years of research and experimenting scientists have learned how to harness or capture the incredible amounts of energy from these forces. The energy from the nucleus of an atom can be used to generate electricity.

Albert Einstein discovered a mathematical formula that demonstrated that all matter can be converted into energy. His formula, E = mc2 may be a simple formula, which he discovered while working on his theory of relativity, proved that a large amount of energy could come from a very small amount of matter, such as the single atom.

In a process called nuclear fission the atom is split. In this process the larger atom is split into two or more smaller atoms and a large amount of energy is then released. When the splitting is controlled and done slowly, such as what happens in a nuclear power plant, it provides electricity to homes and businesses. If the energy is released quickly, all at once, a chain reaction takes place and the result is a nuclear explosion.

The nuclear fission occurring at a nuclear power plant produces heat, the heat is then used to create steam from water, which then powers electrical generators creating the electricity for towns and cities. A non-nuclear power plant may use coal, wind, oil, or water to power generators. Around twenty percent of the electricity in the United States is produced by nuclear power plants.

For fuel, a nuclear power plant uses an element called uranium. Rods of uranium are used to make sure the splitting of the atom takes place in a controlled manner during the chain reaction. If it is not controlled, a nuclear explosion may occur. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of nuclear energy is radioactive waste. Radioactive waste is the leftover material not used during the nuclear reaction that generated the electricity. The material can be dangerous to all life.

An advantage of nuclear power is its ability to be used to power ships and submarines, which can stay under water and travel at high speeds for a long time. There is no need to refuel like traditionally powered ships or submarines.

Nuclear fusion is a second type of nuclear energy. Nuclear fusion takes place when two or more atoms are joined together, not split apart. This is how the stars in the galaxies get their power. Hydrogen atoms deep inside the star are constantly being converted into helium atoms through fusion. The process results in the light and heat energy given off by the Sun and the other stars in the sky.

Unlike fission, scientists do not yet know how to control fusion to produce useable nuclear energy. The advantage to using fusion over fission is that it would produce less radioactive waste. It would also lead to an unlimited supply of energy and electricity.

In summary, nuclear energy is produced by splitting the atom, first introduced by Albert Einstein during experiments with his theory of relativity. When the atom is split in a controlled manner, energy is produced, and in many places throughout the world, this energy is used for electricity. If the atom is split without this control, a chain reaction can result in a nuclear explosion.

A: Inside the nucleus
B: Outside the nucleus
C: In an electron
D: In a proton

A: A smaller atom is split and made into larger atoms and a large amount of energy is then released.
B: A larger atom is split into two or more smaller atoms and a large amount of energy is then released.
C: A smaller atom is combined with other atoms causes a reaction and a large amount of energy is released.
D: A larger atom is split into another atom and small amounts of energy is then slowly released.

A: Nuclear explosion
B: Radioactive leak
C: Electricity
D: None of the above

A: Hydrogen
B: Helium
C: Uranium
D: Oxygen

A: Helium atoms are converted to hydrogen through fusion
B: Helium atoms are joined with hydrogen atoms through fusion
C: Hydrogen atoms are converted to helium atoms through fusion
D: Hydrogen atoms are joined with helium atoms through fusion

A: Nuclear fusion
B: Nuclear fission
C: Nuclear waste
D: Nuclear collision

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