Nuclear power plants generate nearly one-fifth of the energy in the United States, and as new plants are built, staffed and commissioned, more people will need to know nuclear power equipment key terms. With more than 100 reactors in 31 states, nuclear power generation may very well be one answer to ever-increasing American energy needs. As the nuclear power industry grows, so, too, will the need for citizens well-versed in the nuclear production of electricity and nuclear-related jobs.
Pressurized-water reactor (PWR)Of the two types of nuclear power plants in the United States, nearly three-fourths of the nation's reactors are pressurized-water reactors (PWRs). A PWR operates using water that remains under pressure as it passes through the core, keeping the water in liquid form instead of immediately turning it to steam to turn the turbine-generator. A PWR then requires the superheated water to pass through a steam generator where clean water turns to steam and powers the turbine-generator.
Energy Information Administration's energy kid's page.
Boiling-water reactor (BWR)Less efficient than a PWR, a boiling-water reactor converts water to steam within the reactor building itself, producing massive amounts of high-energy steam. Steam separators above the core then capture the steam and separate it from larger water droplets, transferring it to the steam line and eventually to the turbine-generators, which begin converting the energy to electricity.
CoreThe core of a nuclear reactor is the place where the fission of atomic nuclei takes place, producing massive amounts of radioactive energy in the form of heat. The core is cooled in the energy-production process, which involves the circulation of water either in a boiling-water or pressurized-water reactor, and many layers of safety and emergency operations procedures are in place to avoid core overheating, or "meltdown."
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Nuclear Reactor Laboratory to understand how a core structure looks and how equipment within it operates.
Steam generatorA steam generator is the part of a pressurized-water reactor that uses the heat of nuclear fission to convert water into steam. Steam generators can be five stories high and weigh up to 800 tons, and they house an intricate system of small tubes that carry hot, radioactive water under tremendous pressure to prevent boiling. Outside the tubing, non-radioactive water then begins to boil and turn to steam, which turns large turbines to generate electricity.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is doing to inspect and prevent steam generator tube degradation in nuclear power plants.