The world’s first nuclear power plants began operations in the 1950s in both the United States and what was then the Soviet Union. There are now over 400 nuclear power plants operating throughout the world. Nuclear power uses the energy released from a process called nuclear fission to turn water into steam, which turns a turbine and generates electricity. Nuclear fission is also responsible for the destructive power of the atomic bomb. In the picture above, the reactors are the dome-shaped structures on the far left and right of the image. The large towers releasing steam are for cooling the heated water before it can be reused or returned to the environment. Nuclear power has been very controversial throughout its history due to the risk of radiation release in the case of an accident and the problems of dealing with the radioactive waste generated by the plant. In this chapter, you will learn about nuclear chemistry. Nuclear reactions involve changes to the nuclei of atoms, whereas ordinary chemical reactions only involve rearrangements of electrons and atoms.
Peretz Partensky (Flickr:peretzp). www.flickr.com/photos/ifl/7238289476/. CC BY 2.0.