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About Nuclear Power

Nuclear Power in US    Nuclear power provides about twenty percent of the electricity generation for the United States. Nuclear power also is the largest source of electricity generation that is emission free, surpassing both hydroelectric power and renewable energy. Most electricity in the United States is generated by the burning of fossil fuels, mainly coal, including almost all the electricity generated in West Virginia. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has licensed 104 commercial nuclear power reactors in 31 states, with the closest nuclear power plant to West Virginia being Beaver Valley Power Station. While many reactors share design similarities, each reactor is totally unique. 
    Nuclear power plants use uranium fuel to heat water and produce steam that spins a turbine producing electricity. All nuclear reactions occur inside a reactor vessel in a containment building. Every nuclear power plant is designed with multiple safety systems and back-up systems, including automatic shutdowns. There are two basic types of reactors in the United States. Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs) are the most common with 69 units across the county, including Beaver Valley Units 1 and 2. Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) make up the remaining 35 units in the country. The two types function similarly although the steam generator line is totally seperate from the reactor vessel in a PWR. 
    Each nuclear power plant has certain components, such as the control room, alternative power systems, monitoring systems, cooling systems (both primary and secondary), steam turbine, electricity generators, and three barriers (fuel rod cladding, reactor vessel, containment systems). The reactor vessel is also called the core and houses the fuel rod assemblies or bundles and serves as a barrier between nuclear fission products and the environment. The fuel rod assemblies consist on cylindrical fuel rods grouped in bundles. Each fuel rod is made of ceramic pellets of uranium dioxide sealed in long metal alloy tubes. One fuel pellet can provide as much energy as a ton of coal, 149 gallons of oil, or 17000 cubic feet of natural gas. The hardened containment building serves as an additional barrier between fission products and the environment. 
    When nuclear fuel is expended the material is stored in spent-fuel ponds located near the reactor at nuclear power plants. It is stored in the these ponds and allowed to cool. Fuel rods may later be loaded into dry cask storage for a longer period of time. It is important to note, that there is no long-term solution, such as an underground repository, to the problem of spent nuclear fuel and currently the United States does not reprocess the fuel rods into usable fuel.

Nuclear Power (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Just the Facts from Nuclear Energy Institute (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

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