Cooling Systems in Nuclear Reactors
Nuclear power plants make up 15% of the world’s electricity production. The US produces the most nuclear power, with France and Japan following second and third. Nuclear reactors are used in nuclear power plants to produce heat that will create steam to produce energy. Nuclear power plants convert thermal energy released from nuclear fission. The core of a nuclear reactor builds up heat and this heat needs to be controlled and filtered out somewhere. The reactor needs to remain cool—usually by water but is sometimes cooled by a gas or a liquid metal.
The basic fuel for a nuclear power plant is uranium. The reactor core is what contains the radioactive material in a nuclear power plant. This radioactive material will continue to give off heat for a long time, and unless this heat is removed, it will build up and will eventually cause damage to the radioactive fuel or the reactor. The nuclear reactor coolant, as described above, consists of water, gas, or a liquid metal. This coolant is circulated through the reactor core and absorbs the heat that is generated and turns it into steam. This steam becomes pressurized and causes the turbines to turn along with the generator, which generates electricity. Figure 1 shows the flow of the coolant (in this case, water) indicated by the arrows and the color of the water represents the waters form. The water is cool as it is pumped from the condenser into the containment structure. As the water circulates in the containment structure, it is heated in the reactor core and cooled again in the steam generator. The heat from the water is released as steam and the steam is pressurized to move the turbines. The movement of the turbines also turns the generators which then produce electricity to power city grids. The control rods in the reactor core are made up of chemical elements capable of absorbing many neutrons without causing fission within themselves. The control rods are used to control the rate of fission of uranium and plutonium. Control rods are removed and inserted into the reactor core to increase or decrease the number of neutrons which will continue to split uranium atoms. These changes will affect the reactor’s thermal power, the amount of steam produced, and ultimately the electricity generated.
Nuclear Reactor Cooling Systems and Climate Change
Researchers in the US and Europe and also published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said that, “the impact on power output will vary depending on the type of cooling system the plant uses and the future climate scenario, and estimates at least a 4.4% decline in energy output.” Rising temperatures could impact the nuclear power plants’ cooling systems which would make them less effective in cooling the reactors’ temperature and making it difficult for the water to return to a state-regulated temperature before returning back to its source. Some plants are located near natural...