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Nuclear Power Plant – Working, Advantages and Disadvantages
A power generating station which converts heat energy of the nuclear fission into electrical energy is called the nuclear power plant.
The most important characteristic of a nuclear power plant is that a large amount of electrical energy can be produced from a relatively small amount of nuclear fuel. Therefore, the running cost of a nuclear power plant is lower than the thermal and diesel power plants.
In practice, it has been found that the complete fission of 1 kg of Uranium (U235), which is a radioactive material can produce energy equivalent to that can be produced by the burning of 4500 tons of coal. Therefore, the nuclear energy can be used for producing low cost electrical energy at a large scale so that the problem of energy crisis can be overcome.
Block Diagram and Working of Nuclear Power Plant
The block diagram of a typical nuclear power plant is shown in the figure.
In a nuclear power plant, heavy elements such as Uranium (U235) or Thorium (Th232) are subjected to nuclear fission (i.e., breaking up of nuclei of heavy atoms into two nearly equal parts with release of large amount of energy) in an equipment called the nuclear reactor.
The heat energy, released in the nuclear fission, is utilised for producing the steam at high pressure and temperature. This steam runs a steam turbine which converts the heat energy of steam into mechanical energy. The steam turbine drives the electric generator which converts the mechanical energy of the turbine into electrical energy.
Advantages of Nuclear Power Plant
The advantages of a nuclear power plant are as follows −
Nuclear power plants are very economical for producing bulk electrical power.
Nuclear power plant requires very small amount of nuclear fuel. Hence, there is a considerable saving in the cost of fuel transportation.
A nuclear power plant requires less space than other types of power plants.
As small amount of nuclear fuel can produce huge amount of electric power. Therefore, it has low running cost.
The nuclear power plants can be constructed near the load centres because it does not require large quantity of water. Thus, the cost of primary distribution is reduced.
Nuclear power plants ensure the reliability of electric power supply.
As the nuclear fuel is available in abundance all over the world. Hence, nuclear power plants can ensure the continued supply of electrical energy for thousands of years.
Disadvantages of Nuclear Power Plant
The following are the disadvantages of a nuclear power plant −
The nuclear fuel is very expensive and its recovery is very difficult.
The initial cost of a nuclear power plant is very high as compared to other types of power plants.
Generally, the by-products of nuclear fission are radioactive and may produce a dangerous amount of radioactive pollution.
The erection and commissioning work of the nuclear power plants requires great technical knowledge.
The maintenance cost of a nuclear power plant is high due lack of standardization.
Nuclear power plants require specially trained personnel to handle the plant, which increases the operation cost due high salaries.
The disposal of radioactive by-products of fission is a big problem. They need to be disposed either in a deep trench or in a sea quite away from the sea-shore.
Nuclear power plants are not suited for varying loads because the nuclear reactor does not respond to the load fluctuations efficiently.
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