What Is Nuclear Energy Used For?

A nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic.
••• vencavolrab/iStock/Getty Images

Nuclear energy is derived from uranium, a radioactive element. When the nucleus of an atom of U-235, an isotope of uranium, is split by a neutron, it releases heat and other neutrons. These released neutrons can cause other nearby U-235 atoms to split, resulting in a chain reaction called nuclear fission that is a potent source of heat. This heat can be used to generate steam, which powers turbines to provide electricity on an industrial scale.

Nuclear Power

Approximately 12% of the world's energy is derived from nuclear fission in nuclear reactors. In total, 430 nuclear reactors now operate in 31 countries, with 70 more currently under construction worldwide. France is the world's leader in nuclear power, generating three-fourths of its total electricity using nuclear reactors. The United States, by comparison, obtains about one-fifth of its electricity from nuclear power. Some countries such as Sweden and Russia also use the heat generated from nuclear fission to directly heat homes and buildings. Nuclear energy has other applications as well: 200 smaller nuclear reactors power 150 ships worldwide, including nuclear submarines, icebreakers and aircraft carriers.

Related Articles

Nuclear Energy Vs. Fossil Fuel
What Is Uranium Used For?
Difference Between 316 & 308 Stainless Steel
What Are the Primary Heat-Absorbing Gases in the Atmosphere?
How to Find Volume
How Do Grain Windmills Work?
List of Ways to Reduce the Use of Fossil Fuels
What Are the Similarities & Differences Between the...
How Can Solar Panels Help Protect the Environment?
What Are Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources?
How to Calculate the Diameter of a Circle From a Linear...
How to Calculate KVA to MVA
What Is the Safest Energy Source?
List of Earth's Resources
The Advantages of Having Nuclear Power Plants
List of the Top Ten Endangered Animals
What Is the Electrical Power Source in Hawaii?
What Type of Star Is the Sun?
What Is a Gorge in Geography?
Uses for Fossil Fuels