Video: Recalling the Energy Conversions Occurring in a Nuclear Power Station

Fill in the blanks: A nuclear power station converts _ energy into _ energy.

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Video Transcript

Fill in the blanks. A nuclear power station converts blank energy into blank energy.

Okay, so in this question, we wanna figure out what words go in each blank. And to do this, we’ll want to understand the energy conversion process that goes on in a nuclear power station. We can recall that, true to its name, nuclear power begins with energy that’s stored in the nucleus of atoms.

Say that we have a large atomic nucleus made up of protons in blue and neutrons in green. The fact that all these masses are so densely packed and bound together tells us that the nucleus has lots of energy. And if it were to split apart, in a process known as fission, then some of this energy would be released. This is exactly what takes place in a nuclear power station. Atomic nuclei are split apart to release energy. So, this tells us what kind of energy a nuclear power station starts out with.

What word goes in our first blank? Since the energy that these power stations begin with is stored in the nuclei of atoms, that means it’s nuclear energy. And when fission occurs, some of this energy is released from the process as heat. In the context of a nuclear power station, this heat energy is used to heat up water. Eventually, the water boils, becomes steam. And this steam, which is at high pressure, pushes against gigantic cylinders causing them to rotate.

It’s the rotation of these gigantic cylinders that generates electrical energy. We could say then that the nuclear energy in the atoms involved is converted to thermal energy. And then, that heat energy, stored in the steam, is converted to kinetic energy as it causes the cylinders to turn. And those rotating cylinders power the generation of the final form of energy the power station produces, electrical energy. Now that the blanks are filled in, our sentence reads, a nuclear power station converts nuclear energy into electrical energy.

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