Examples of Nuclear Energy





There are two main categories of nuclear energy. These are nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Currently we only use nuclear fission for commercial, industrial, medical, and energy production which offers less energy output when compared to nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion has been accomplished in laboratory settings but requires a tremendous initial energy cost to start the reaction which is why we haven’t been able to bring this technology out of research settings. However, one example of nuclear fusion that is all around us is stars.

Nuclear Fusion

Diagram showing the process of nuclear fusion.

Diagram showing the process of nuclear fusion.

Nuclear Fission

Diagram showing the process of nuclear fission.

Diagram showing the process of nuclear fission.

For more information on these two forms of nuclear energy visit our how nuclear energy works page.

Nuclear energy is a very common term used in today‚Äôs society. It is a magnificent thing that could really improve the world, but it could also be the cause for mass destruction. A lot of people have no idea what nuclear energy is. Many also do not know where nuclear energy comes from. However, this form of energy is a treasure to many. Here are some of the many nuclear energy examples you’ll find in the world.

Power Plants

Top down view of a Pulstar2 nuclear reactor. Image by Zereshk.

Top down view of a Pulstar2 nuclear reactor. Image by Zereshk. License: GNU FDL

Nuclear power plants are the most visible source of nuclear energy. There are over four hundred power plants worldwide, which function off of nuclear reactors. The reactors hold the reaction that is produced by nuclear fission. This gives off heat which is in turn used to generate electricity. Over twenty percent of the United States power is generated by power plants.
Submarines

Nuclear powered Los Angeles class submarine.

Nuclear powered Los Angeles class submarine.

Nuclear submarines are a valued treasure of many world navies, even though submarines have been used since the Cold War. Nuclear submarines run off of a nuclear reactor, which provides a great deal of power for a much longer time than fossil fuels. As an added bonus, these submarines run quietly because no sound is generated by nuclear fission.
Weapons

Trident II SLBM launched from a ballistic missile submarine.

Trident II SLBM launched from a ballistic missile submarine.

Nuclear energy is not always benign. Nuclear warheads still remain a threat worldwide. These weapons can be one hundred times more destructive than atomic bombs, and also have the capability to demolish cities and kill thousands of people. In addition to nuclear warheads depleted uranium ammunition has become a mainstay in the modern military due to its penetration capabilities.
Radiation Therapy

Example of medical radiation therapy equipment.

Example of medical radiation therapy equipment.

One of the more modern, and common, uses for nuclear energy is cancer treatment. Cancer is essentially caused by cells that won’t undergo regular cell death (apoptosis) so radiation therapy is used in an attempt to kill cancer cells. However, healthy cells are similarly affected.
Food Processing

Radura Symbol created by US FDA to show food has been processed with radiation.

Radura Symbol created by US FDA to show food has been processed with radiation.

It has become very common to expose foods to small amounts of nuclear radiation of part of the processing routine. Radiation kills micro-organisms, bacteria, and other deadly things that could be in your food before it has been packaged.
Stars

The Crab Nebula and stars, the largest examples of nuclear energy.

The Crab Nebula and stars, the largest examples of nuclear energy.

Some of the nuclear energy that is produced is done so naturally. Stars, such as the sun, make light and heat by nuclear reactions particularly nuclear fusion. In this way the source of solar energy is nuclear energy.
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