Q:

How does a nuclear power station work?

A:

Nuclear power stations generate electricity through the fission, or splitting, of uranium atoms inside the reactor core, which generates extreme amounts of heat. The core is surrounded with water, which boils due to the heat, creating steam that is then used to drive a turbine to create electricity.

This same type of steam turbine is also used in fossil fuel-burning power plants, with the only major difference being the source of the heat that creates the steam.

In nuclear power plants, there are two different ways to generate the steam. The first is a boiling water reactor, where steam is created directly within the reactor and then carried to the turbine through pipes. The other method is the pressurized water reactor, where the heated water surrounding the reactor is kept under intense pressure to prevent it from boiling. After reaching a specific temperature, the heated water is then transferred to a secondary container near the turbine, where it is then allowed to boil and create steam.

There are approximately 100 nuclear power stations in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of those are pressurized steam reactors. Despite the small number of nuclear power plants, nuclear energy accounts for around 20 percent of the country's total electricity output.

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