Nuclear physics is a fascinating branch of physics that you’ll encounter while studying science at school or in an H2 physics tuition class. It mainly delves into the subject of atomic nuclei, their components, and the interactions that hold them together. Here, the topic of nuclear energy is a fundamental discussion that will help you understand nuclear physics and how it applies to the real world.
Nuclear energy essentially refers to the energy in the nucleus of an atom. It is released in substantial amounts during processes that affect the atomic nucleus or the atom’s dense core. With the escalating developments in science, researchers have found a way to maximise nuclear energy for the benefit of humanity. To learn more, read on, and we’ll share some of the most essential and interesting facts about nuclear energy that you should know.
1. Nuclear energy is used by many countries to generate electricity
One of the most fundamental and popular real-life applications of the concept of nuclear energy is its conversion to electricity. As a matter of fact, about 11% of the world’s electricity is from nuclear energy. Among the countries that generate the most nuclear power are the United States, China, Russia, France, and South Korea.
However, in Singapore, the inclination to utilise nuclear energy to produce electricity has never been consistent due to safety reasons. Nuclear power plants generally need to be built in an exclusion zone with a 30-kilometer radius around the plant in order to ensure safety in case of an emergency. According to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, there is simply not enough land in the country to build nuclear power plants with the necessary safety radius.
2. Nuclear energy is considered a climate change solution
Nuclear energy is considered by many of its proponents as a zero-emission clear source of energy. This is one of the main reasons why more and more governments are considering adopting nuclear energy as a source of electricity. Since nuclear reactors do not emit many greenhouse gases that worsen global warming, the nuclear energy advocates insist that it should be considered a climate change solution.
According to them, nuclear-generated electricity saves the earth’s atmosphere from over 470 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. These emissions usually come from fossil fuels. However, some opposed claim that nuclear energy is just as harmful as that of fossil fuels since it still produces greenhouse gases at every step, from manufacturing to the reprocessing of waste.
3. Nuclear power plants only use nuclear fission to date
At present, all nuclear power plants currently active only use nuclear fission to produce nuclear energy that generates electricity. Nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which a heavy nucleus spontaneously splits apart and releases a large amount of energy in the form of heat and radiation.
Nuclear fusion is the exact opposite of nuclear fission, where two or more atomic nuclei are combined to form a heavier nucleus. Compared to nuclear fission, the energy requirements of nuclear fusion are high, which is why nuclear power plants have not been able to harness electric power from it. Generally, an enormous temperature of at least 100,000,000 degrees Celsius is needed for nuclear fusion to occur.
4. Nuclear energy comes from uranium
Uranium is a fuel that nuclear power plants most widely use to conduct nuclear fission. Nuclear energy arises from the splitting of uranium atoms during fission, which produces steam-generating heat used to make electricity. The utilisation of uranium is not a new thing. While its use as an electrical power source is relatively recent, it was already employed to transform the colour of glass during the middle ages.
5. Nuclear energy is also used in medicine
Aside from generating electricity, the concept of nuclear energy is also used in medicine to diagnose and treat numerous diseases. Nuclear medicine is a specialised field of radiology that utilises isotopes to explore the human body. It uses radiation to provide diagnostic details about the functioning of a person’s body organs. Radiation is also used in radiotherapy to treat certain cancers by targeting and destroying cancer cells.
The lessons of nuclear physics have numerous applications in real life. The concept of nuclear energy, particularly, has proven to be very beneficial to society as a whole. By knowing how nuclear energy is released from the nucleus and how it is converted to electricity or used in medicine, you can better appreciate the importance of nuclear physics to humanity and the world.
If you would like to learn more about nuclear physics, its concepts, and its benefits, you might consider signing up for physics tuition classes. At Best Physics Tuition Centre, we have O Level and JC physics tuition classes specially designed to make physics more easily understandable and exciting for students. With the help of our reputable physics tutor, you will surely learn more about physics and its impact on the world.