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Nuclear Power Plant

There is a common trend throughout the world to use
nuclear energy as a source of power.
This is because of the rapid depletion of conventional
energy sources.
Transportation network and large storage facility are not
required which is one of the major hurdle in coal based
thermal power plants. H
ow ever recently there is stiff opposition for the installation
of nuclear power plants due to a fear of radiation hazards.

Atomic structure

All matter consists of unit particles called atoms.

An atom consists of a relatively heavy , positively charged
nucleus, electrons orbiting around the nucleus.
The nucleus consists of protons and neutrons, which together
are called nucleons.
Protons are positively charged , while the neutrons are
electrically neutral.
The number of protons in the nucleus is called the atomic
number, Z.
The total number of nucleons in the nucleus is called the
mass number, A.
The atomic mass unit , is a unit of mass approximately equal
to 1.66x10-27 kg.

Mass of Neutron is 1.008665amu, Protons is 1.007277amu

and Electron is 0.005486amu. ( The mass of
Protons=1837xmas of Electron, Neutrons = 1839 x Electron. ).
An element is distinguished by its atomic number.
Some elements exist in more than one form, with the same
atomic number but with different mass numbers. These are
known as the isotopes of an element.
For example Uranium exists in three isotopic forms 92U233,
, 92U238. (Atoms which are having different number of
neutrons than the number of protons are known as isotopes.)

It is the energy required to keep the protons together in the

nucleus of an atom or It is the energy required to overcome the
binding forces of nucleus is called as binding energy.
The binding energy is very large compared with chemical bond
When two nuclear particles are combined to form nucleus . It is
observed that there is a different mass of the resultant nucleus
and the sum of the masses of the two parent nuclear particles will
be different.
This decrement of mass is called mass defect Einsteins theory of
relativity shows that mass is convertible into energy and this
energy is given by the formula .

E = mc2
E Energy(J), m- mass defect(Kg), c Velocity of light. (3 x 10 8
Energy can also be measured in electron volt ( 1 e.v = 1.6021 x
10-19 J).

The energy equivalent of 1g of mass is

E = 1x10-3 x (3 x 108 m/s) 2 = 9 x1013 J
Similarly the energy equivalent of 1 amu of mass is
E = 1.66x10-27 x (3 x 108 m/s) 2 = 9 x1013 J
= 14.94 x 10-11 J = 9.31 x 10 8 eV = 931 MeV
Therefore , if 1 amu of mass could be completely converted to
energy , 931 MeV would be yielded.
The amount of mass defect is directly proportional to the
amount of energy released.
Binding energy per nucleons increases with increase in number
of nucleons.
For example
binding energy per nucleon for H2 is 1.109MeV and for He4 it is
28.24 = 7.05 MeV.

A curve representing the variation of nuclear binding

energy per nucleon with the mass number is shown in
The curve indicates that peak value of about 8.8 MeV at
nearly 60 mass number.
As the mass number increases still further , the binding
energy curve falls gradually to 7.6 MeV for U238.
An atom with even number of protons of mass number is
more stable because of pairing of protons and neutrons.
Example 92U238 atom having 92 protons and 146 neutrons
is quite stable and requires very high energy neutrons for
fission, Where as 92U235 atom having 92 protons and 143
neutrons can be fissioned even by low energy neutrons.

Radioactive decay and half life:

All isotopes of heavier elements less stable emits radiation till
a more stable nucleus is reached. Thus a spontaneous
disintegration process , called radioactive decay occurs. For
various elements decay time is different , which follows certain
law . This law is known as radioactive decay law.
The law states that the small amount of disintegration of the
isotope in a small period is directly proportional to the total
number of radioactive nuclei and proportionality constant.
N= Number of radioactive nuclei present at any time t,
No = Initial number of nuclei,
= Proportionality constant.
Then according to the decay law
N = -Nt
dN/dt = -N


Negative sign indicates that during disintegration

number of nuclei decreasing.
Integrating the equation 2
N dN/N = - o t dt
loge N loge No = -t
loge N/No = -t
N/No = e-t
N=No e-t
dN/dt = -N = - No e-t



Equation 5 shows that the decay scheme follows the
exponential law.
If A = Activity at time t, A1 = Initial activity, k = detection
coefficient then
A = k(-dN/dt) = kN = kNo e-t = A e-t

Half life:
Half time represents the rate of decay of the radioactive
The half life is the time required for half of the parent nuclei
to decay or to disintegrate.
Using N =No/2 and t = t1/2 in equation 6 we get.
No/2 = No e-t1/2
e-t1/2 =
t1/2 = log e 2 = 0.693
t1/2 = 0.693 /

Nuclear fission
In this type of process heavy nucleus is divided in two equal
number of fragments.
Fission can be caused by bombarding with high energy
particles, Protons, X-rays as well as neutrons.
How ever neutrons are most suitable for fission, they
require less kinetic energy to collide with nuclei.
Two or three neutrons are released for each neutron
absorbed in fission, and can thus keep reaction going .
Isotopes like U233, U235 and Pu239 can be fissioned by neutrons
of all energies , where as isotopes U238, Th232 and Pu240 are
fissionable by high energy only.
When neutron enters nucleus of U235 the nucleus splits in to
two fragments and also releases 2 to 3 neutrons per fission.

The difference in the binding energy between the products

of fission and the original nucleus is evolved during the
fission reaction. This is known as nuclear fission.
The breaking of U235 can takes place in different ways ,
forming a variety of different products.
Each way of splitting U
of neutrons 1,2,3.


nucleus ejects different numbers

As an average of 2.5 neutrons released per neutron

absorbed. Out of 2.5 neutrons , nearly 0.2 to 0.3 neutron is
lost due to escape at the surface and out of remaining 2.2
neutrons are allowed to continue chain reaction.
The reaction rate will increase exponentially and enormous
amount of heat energy will be released. Such reaction is
known as uncontrolled chain reaction .
When only one neutron after every fission is allowed to
continue to cause fission reaction ,
it is known as

This is the type of nuclear fission reaction used for power

production and energy evolved remains at constant level.
For sustaining of the chain reaction at least there must be
an one neutron available for absorption.
This condition can be conveniently expressed in the form of
multiplication product or reproduction factor of the system
which may be defined as

No of neutrons in any particular fission

No of neutrons in the preceding fission.

If K > 1 , chain reaction will continue and if K<1 , chain

reaction can not be maintained.
When K<1 system is known as sub critical and
when K>1 the system is known as super critical and
when K=1 , the system is known as critical and this is the
desirable requirement for power reactors.

Prompt gama rays

Fission fragments


Prompt neutron

Fission fragment
Prompt neuttron
Chain reaction figure

Nuclear fusion

Advantages of fusion power plants:

The supply of deuterium is almost inexhaustible.
Radioactive wastes are not produced.
It is very safe to operate.
High energy conversion efficiency can be achieved.
Low heat rejection to the environment takes place per KW
of electricity generated.

Comparison between nuclear

fission and fusion
Heavy nucleus splits in to two
nuclei of equal mass and
energy released.
About one thousandth of the
mass is converted in to
problem is great
material in a fission reactor is
Health hazards are high in the
event of accidents.
It is possible to construct self
Manageable temperatures are
Raw fissionable material is not

Lighter nuclei fuse together to
form heavy nucleus with the
release of energy.
It is possible to have four
thousandth of mass converted
in to energy.
Residual problem is much less.
Radioactive material produced
is much less than that of the
fission reaction.
Health hazards is much less.
It is extremely difficult to
construct controlled fusion
Un manageable temperatures
Reserves of deuterium, the

Fuels used in the reactor:

Natural uranium containing 0.7% U235 or enriched uranium
containing 1.5 to 2.5 % u235
Some of artificial or man made fuels such as pu 239, pu241, and
u 233 are also used
Considering the necessary requirement of fission process
and its availability economically the fuels used in reactors are
uranium, plutonium and thorium
U235 is easily available nature with concentrations up to 0.7%
and its content increases up to 90% in enriched uranium.
Available in three states solid, liquid and gas.
In reactors fuel is mostly used in solid state or in the form of
solution dissolved in water.

The liquid metal reactors are in practical use.

The fuel used in the reactors is in the form of rods or plates.
The fuel rods are surrounded by the moderator.
The fuel rods are clad with stainless steel or zirconium to
prevent oxidation.
The minimum amount of fuel required to maintain chain
reaction is known as critical mass.
The fuel core must contain at least the critical mass and more
often, slightly larger than the critical mass in order to maintain
the chain reaction.

Elements of the nuclear reactor:

The essential components of nuclear reactor are as
1) Fuel rods
2) Control rods
3) Moderator
4) Reflector.
5) Coolants.
6) Shielding
7) Control mechanisms
8) Measuring systems.

1)Fuel rods
Natural uranium and enriched uranium cast in the form of rods and plates.
The fuel rods are clad with stainless steel to prevent the oxidation.
The fuel rods are surrounded by the moderator.
The minimum amount of the fuel must be maintained in the reactor in order
to sustain the chain reaction this is known as the critical mass.
The fuel rods must contain at least the critical mass and slightly larger than
the critical mass in order to maintain the chain reaction.
2) Control rods
The purpose of the control rod is to maintain the value of multiplication
factor as one this is the minimum condition required to maintain the nuclear
This maintains the steady state heat generation in the reactor.
The control rod helps to vary the out put according to the load and shut
down the reactor under emergency conditions.
When the shutting down of the reactor is required the control rods, absorb
more number of neutrons than emitted and the fission reaction dies out.
The material which are commonly used for control rods are cadmium, Boron
etc. The control rods are automatically operated.

3) Moderator
The function of the moderator is to reduce the energy of the neutrons
evolved during fission from 2Mev to 0.25 Mev in order to maintain the chain
By the slowing down of high energy neutrons, possibility of escape of
neutrons is reduced and possibility of absorption of neutrons to cause further
fission is increased.
This also reduces the quantity of the fuel required to maintain the chain
The common moderators used are ordinary water , heavy water , graphite
and beryllium.
4) Reflector
The neutrons which may escape from the surface of the core without
taking part in fission can be reflected back in to the core to take part in
the chain reaction . This is done by a reflector.
The required properties of a good reflector are low neutron absorption ,
high capacity to reflect and resistance to oxidation and radiation.
The moderators which are commonly used also work as reflectors.
A blanket of reflector can reduce the critical mass required to maintain
the chain reaction.

5) Coolants
The purpose of the coolants is to transfer the heat generated in the reactor
core and use it for steam generation.
The coolant circulated in the reactor core keeps the temperature of the fuel
below safe level by continuous removal of energy from the core.
The coolant used must have very high specific heat to carry more heat per
kg of coolant used.
It should not absorb neutrons, It must be non corrosive , non oxidizing and
non toxic.
Ordinary water , heavy water, sodium, potassium and carbon dioxide are
the common coolants used in power generating reactors.
6) Shielding
The reactor is source of intense radio activity and these radiations are very
harm full to the human life.
Therefore it is necessary to prevent the escape of these radiations to the
The inner core is made of 50 to 60cm thick steel plate and it is further
thickened by few meters using concrete.
The thermal shield is cooled by circulation of water.

7) Control mechanisms
The control system is also necessary to prevent the chain reaction from
becoming violent and consequently damaging the reactor.
It is an essential part of a reactor and serves the following purposes
i) Starting the reactor , ii) Maintaining the reactor at that level ,iii)
Shutting down of the reactor during emergency conditions.
The control system works on the principle of absorbing the excess
neutrons with the help of control rods either made up of boron steel or
cadmium strips.
8) Measuring systems
Main instruments required in nuclear reactor are thermocouples for
measuring temperatures instrument for determining the thermal neutron

Types of Nuclear reactors:

1) Pressurized water reactor. (PWR)

1) The coolant used is cheap and easily available.
2) The reactor is compact, small in size and power density is
3) Fission products remain in the reactor and are not
4) There is a complete freedom to inspect and maintain the
turbine, feed water heaters, and condensers during the
5) Small number of control rods are required.
6) The fuel costs are less as the reactor extracts more
energy per unit weight of fuel
1) High primary circuit pressure requires strong pressure
vessel and so high capital costs.
2) Severe corrosion problems.
3) Reprocessing of fuel is very difficult.
4) The reactor must be shut down for recharging.
5) Fuel fabrication is very difficult.

Boiling water reactor (BWR)

heat generated in the nuclear core is removed by water circulating at

high pressure through the primary circuit.
The heat is transferred from primary to secondary circuit in a heat
exchanger , or boiler, there by generating the steam in the secondary
As such the steam in the turbine is not radioactive and need not be
The pressure in the primary circuit maintained high using pressurize
so that boiling of water will not takes place.
In order to vary the pressure in the primary circuit electric heating
coils are used in the pressurize.
PWR produces only saturated steam. By providing separate furnace
steam formed from the reactor could be super heated.

1) The cost of the pressure vessel is less compared to vessel
required for PWR.
2) This reactor does not requires separate steam generator
therefore the cost is further reduced.
3) The metal temperature remains low for given out put
4) The reactor is capable of meeting the small fluctuating load
5) Thermal efficiency is high compared to PWR.
6) BWR is more stable than the PWR.
1) Steam leaving the reactor is slightly radioactive therefore
shielding of turbine and piping is required.
2) Power density of the reactor is only 50% of PWR.
3) Part of the steam is wasted at low loads.
4) Enrichment of the fuel for the reactor is extremely costly
5) More biological protection is required.
6) Possibility of burn out of fuel is more in this reactor than PWR

3) CANDU ( Canadian-Deuterium-Uranium ) Reactor.

Sodium Graphite reactor (Liquid metal cooled reactor)

1) The thermal efficiency is high .
2) The cost of graphite moderator is low.
3) Excellent heat removal capability.
4) The size of the reactor is small.
5) High temperatures are available at low pressure.
6) Super heating of steam is possible.
7) High conversion ratio.
8) The coolant sodium need not be pressurized.
1) Sodium reacts violently with water in the air.
2) Heat exchanger must be leak proof.
3) The problem of thermal stresses can not be maintained.
4) Intermediate system is necessary to prevent the reaction of
sodium with water.
5) The leak of sodium is very dangerous as compared with
other coolants.
6) It is necessary to shield the primary and secondary circuits
with concrete blocks as sodium is highly radioactive.

Fast breeder reactor

1) High breeding gain is possible.
2) High power density.
3) It has high boiling point.
4) It has low vapor pressure at
5) Absorption of neutrons is low.
6) High burn up of fuel is achievable.
7) Small core is sufficient.
8) The moderator is not required.


1) Requires highly enriched fuel .
2) Neutron flux is high at the centre of the core.
3) The specific power of the reactor is low.
4) Handling of hot radioactive sodium is major
5) Safety must be provided against the melt

eneous graphite reactor and gas cooled reactor (HGGCR)

a) Indirect circuit gas cooled reactor

1) Fuel processing is simple.
2) There is no need for limiting the fuel element temperature.
3) Graphite remains stable even at high temperatures under
high intensity radiation.
4) There is chances of explosion in the reactor due to the use
of carbon dioxide as the coolant.
5) There is no corrosion problem.
6) It gives better neutron economy.
1) Power density is too low. Therefore reactor vessel is very
2) The leakage of gas is the main problem.
3) The loading of the fuel is more elaborate and costly.
4) The coolant circulation absorbs as large as 10 to 20% of
plant capacity where as only 5% is required in water cooled
5) The critical mass is high.
6) The control is more complicated.

b) Direct circuit gas cooled reactor

1) Thermal efficiency is high.
2) The capital cost is low.
3) The reactor can be made more compact as high density gas
can be used.
4) The use of gas turbine offers greater flexibility for selection of
1) The system design is more complicated.
2) The components must be designed to bear higher stresses as
high pressure gases are used. This increases the capital cost of
the plant.

Advantages of Nuclear power plants

1) Nuclear power plants need less space compared to other
types of power plants.
2) Better performance at higher load factors.
3)There is saving in cost of the fuel transportation.
4) The operation is more reliable.
5) Nuclear power plants operation is independent of the
weather conditions.
6) Advantage is more with large size power plants.
7) The expenditure on metal structures piping , storage
mechanisms is much lower for a nuclear power plant than a
coal burning power plant.
8) The nuclear power plants, besides producing large amount
of power , produce valuable fissile material which is produced
when the fuel is renewed.

1) The capital cost is high.
2) The danger of nuclear radiations always persists in the
nuclear plants.
3) The maintenance cost is high.
4) The disposal of fission products is major problem..
5) Working conditions in the power plants always
detrimental to heath of workers.

Selection of site for Nuclear power plants:

Proximity to load.
Population distribution.
Land use.

Radiation hazards.
Human beings are continuously exposed to radiation from cosmic
rays and various radioactive materials in the earth and air. Small
amounts of radiation can be tolerated but exposure to radiations
above certain level is dangerous to health and life.
Living tissues are affected in three different ways when exposed
to radiations they are
i) Ionization: The formation of ion pair in tissue requires 32.5
MeV of energy. About 3100 ion pairs are formed when single
1MeV beta particle is stopped by tissue. This absorption results in
complete damage of tissues in the body man, or beast or bird.
ii) Displacement: If the energy of the impinging particle is
sufficiently high, an atom in the tissue is displaced from its normal
lattice position with possible adverse effects.
iii) Absorption: Absorption of neutron by a tissue nucleus
results in forming a radioactive nucleus and change the chemical
nature of the nucleus. This severe alteration of the tissue causes
malfunctioning of the cell and cell damage may have severe
biological disorders including genetic modifications.
Ultimate effect of all these hazards on human being is to
damage the living cells of body by ionization. The result of such
damage may be immediate , effects like burns, even death, or
delayed effects like lukaemia , a anemia or cancer or may be

The desirable properties of the good shielding materials are
1) It must have ability to absorb more radiation with
minimum thickness.
2) It must be fire resistant.
3) The strength of the material should remain constant under
the influence of radiations.
4) It must have high density and it must contain light
5) Density of the material must remain constant.

Nuclear waste disposal

a) Storage in tanks on site

b) Dilution
c) Sealed containers
d) Underground burial

1) Each Fission of U235 yields 190 MeV of useful energy. Assuming

that 85% of neutrons absorbed by U235 cause fission, the rest being
absorbed by non fission capture to produce an isotope U-236 , estimate
the fuel consumption of U-235 per day to produce 3000 MW of thermal
Soln: Data:- 190 MeV/ fission , P= 3000 MW
Each fission yields 190 x 106ev x 1.60 x10-19 J/ eV = 3.04 x 10 -11 J
Fission rate / W = 1/ 3.04 x 10 -11 = 3.3 x 1010 /s
In one days operation(86400 s) of reactor per MW of thermal
power, the number of U 235 nuclei burned is
= (106 w) ( 3.3 x1010 fission / W-s) ( 86400 s/day) / 0.85 fission /
= 3.35 x 1021 absorptions / day
Mass of Uranium consumed to produce 1 MW power is
= (3.35 x 10 21 / day) (235 g / g mol) / 6.023 x 1023 ( nuclei/g
= 1.3 g /day
Therefore the fuel consumption of U235 to produce 3000 MW is 1.3 x
3000 /1000 = 3.9 Kg / day

2) A nuclear reactor consumes 12 kg of U235 per day. Calculate its power out
put if the average energy released per U235 fission is 200 MeV.
Soln: Data:m = 12 kg / per day of U235, Average energy released per U235 fission = 200
Number of atoms in 235 kg of U235 = 6.02x1026 (AN)
Hence number of atoms contained in 12 Kg of U235
= (6.02 x 1026 / 235) x 12 = 3.07 x 1025
Total fission energy produced by these atoms
= 200 x 3.07 x 1025 x 1.60 x10-13 =982.41012 J
Time taken to consume 12 kg of U235
= one day =- 24 x 3600 = 86400 s
Power produced = 982.41012 J / 86400 = 11.37 x 109 W

3) 500 MW of electrical power is required for a city . If this is to be supplied by a

nuclear reactor of efficiency 20 percent , using U235 as the nuclear fuel,
calculate the amount of fuel required for one days operation.
Soln: Data- P = 500 MW / day , = 20%,
Energy consumed by the city in one day = 500 x 106 x 24 x 3600 =4320 x 1010 J
Power to be produced by the reactor = Energy per day / Efficiency
= 4320 x 1010 / 0.2
= 2160 x 1011 J
Energy released per atom = 200 x 1.6 x 10-13
= 32 x 10-12 J
Total number of atoms to be fissioned = Energy to be produced/ Energy
= 2160 x 1011 J / 32 x 10-12 J
= 67.5 x 1023
6.02 x 1026 number of atoms contained in the 235 kg of U235 , hence 67.5 x
1023 atoms are contained in a mass = 235 x 67.5 x 1023 / 6.02 x 1026
= 2.635 kg

4) Calculate the binding energy and mass defect per nucleon of oxygen . Given
mp= 1.007277 amu,
mn = 1.008665 amu, me = 0.00055 amu atomic mass of
oxygen 16 = 15.99491 amu.
A molecule of oxygen has 8 proton, 8 neutrons and 8 electrons therefore mass
defect m
= 8x 1.007277 + 8 x 1.008665 + 8 x 0.00055 15.99491 = 0.13703 amu
Binding energy = m x energy equivaelent of 1 amu
= 0.13703 x 931 = 127.6 MeV
Binding energy per nucleon = Binding energy / Number of nuclei = 127.6 / 16 =
7.97 MeV

Thank you..