Environmental Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
A reactor yields vast
amounts of energy. A standard
“pellet” of uranium fuel is only
about as big as a i ngertip, but
it can produce almost as much
energy as a ton of coal.
Isotopes and
Elements usually come in
more than one version. These
versions are called isotopes .
The nuclei of their atoms
differ in weight because they
contain different numbers of
neutrons. Take, for example,
uranium. All of its isotopes
have 92 protons. The common
form of uranium is called
uranium-238, or U-238. It
has 146 neutrons. A less
common, but very important,
form of uranium is known as
uranium-235, or U-235. It has
only 143 neutrons. Isotopes
that are radioactive are often
referred to as radioisotopes.
A Growth Industry
Burning fossil fuels is the most
common way to produce
heat to make electric power .
It accounts for about two-
thirds of the world's electricity
production. In some countries,
however, nuclear power is the
major source of electricity.
France gets about three-fourths
of its electricity from nuclear
power. It also provides almost
as much of the electricity in
Lithuania. In the United States,
fossil fuels dominate, providing
about 70 percent of electricity,
but nuclear power is still
important. The United States
has more than 100 nuclear reactors. They supply about a i fth of
U.S. electricity.
In 2009, there were more than 435 nuclear power reactors
in approximately 30 countries around the world. They produced
about 15 percent of the world's electricity. The nuclear industry
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