The nucleus at the center of the atom contains electrons that orbit around it. Tightly crowded protons and neutrons make up the nucleus of the atom (UCS, 2003). Hydrogen is the lightest element containing only one proton. Moreover, uranium is the weightiest natural element containing 92 protons (UCS, 2003). Although the nucleus of an atom is contained with intense force it can be split apart when it is blasted with a neutron. This is known as a process called fission (UCS, 2003). Due to the fact that the nucleus of uranium atoms are somewhat weak and that uranium atoms are sizeable, uranium makes a perfect element for fission (UCS, 2003). Fission is what makes nuclear power possible (Hewitt et. al, 2006).
The Element That Makes it Possible
Uranium is mined in a process similar to coal mining. After the uranium is mined the uranium ore is delivered to a processing plant so it can be condensed into a suitable fuel (UCS, 2003). Currently, in the U.S. there are 16 processing plants, however eight are now inactive. Filtering the uranium from the ore with the use of acids is the most common method of making uranium concentrate (UCS, 2003). After filtering the uranium, it is transformed into the fuel structure of uranium known as U3O8 and formed into small pellets (UCS, 2003). Then 12-foot rods are packed with these pellets to become fuel rods. Bundled together and made into fuel assemblies, the fuel rods are now ready to be used in the core of a nuclear reactor (UCS, 2003).
Nuclear Power in the United States
Presently there are 65 commercially working nuclear power plants located in 31 states around the U.S. containing a combined 104 nuclear reactors. Over half of these nuclear power plants hold two or ...
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...ministration (EIA) (2013). How many nuclear power plants are in the U.S. and where are they located? - FAQ -. Retrieved November 30, 2013, from http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=207&t=3
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) (2003). How Nuclear Power Works | Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved November 30, 2013, from http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_technology/how-nuclear-power-works.html
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) (2007). Nuclear Power and Global Warming |. Retrieved November 30, 2013, from http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear-power-and-our-energy-choices/nuclear-power-and-global-warming/
Hewitt / Suchocki / Hewitt / Lyons / Yeh. (2006). Conceptual Integrated Science for Education Management Corporation (1st ed). Pearson Learning Solutions. Retrieved from http://digitalbookshelf.argosy.edu/books/9780558983604/id/ch10boxfn01
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