Nuclear power plants Nuclear power plants
Nuclear power plants

How a nuclear power plant works

How a nuclear power plant works

A nuclear power plant is a thermal power station designed for the production of electricity in which, as opposed to conventional fuel (such as coal, natural gas, peat), the heat is generated as a result of the splitting of the uranium nuclei that takes place in the nuclear reactor, i.e. fission. In suitable conditions, the chain reaction of splitting nuclei sustains itself, thus enabling the controlled continuous generation of heat.

The energy released in fission reactions heats the nuclear fuel and transfers further into the reactor’s coolant (water). The coolant can either be led directly from the reactor to the turbine as steam or be used to heat a separate secondary circuit’s water in a steam generator so that the steam rotates the turbine. In the turbine, the steam’s thermal energy is converted into kinetic energy and further, with the help of a generator, into electricity.

The pressurised water reactor (steam is produced in the steam generators, see above) and the boiling water reactor (steam is produced directly in the reactor) are the most common reactor types in the world. In Finland, the two reactors of the Loviisa nuclear power plant and Olkiluoto power plant unit 3 are pressurised water reactors. Units 1 and 2 of the Olkiluoto power plant are boiling water reactors.

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