This diagram is a simplified explanation of the internal workings of a nuclear power plant. Heavy development of nuclear power began in the late 1950s with the hopes that nuclear power would someday supply nearly all of the world's electricity. However, due to severe accidents like the major spill in Chernobyl, Ukraine, and due to high costs, public concern, and frequent malfunctions, the nuclear power experiment
has, for the most part, been halted.
Nuclear power plants produce energy
through a nuclear reaction called "fission", in which uranium atoms are split to create heat. This entire process takes place within the power plant, as seen in the diagram above.
The nuclear reaction heats water in the primary circuit
to a very high temperature. The water is pumped to a heat
exchanger, which transfers the heat
to a secondary circuit. Water in the secondary circuit
turns into high-pressure steam, which puts pressure
on a turbine, setting it into motion. The turbine then turns the generator, producing electricity. The vase-shaped towers most people think of when they think of nuclear power plants (not pictured above) are cooling towers that alleviate the heat
generated inside the plant.