Nuclear power is a type of nuclear technology involving the controlled use of nuclear reactions, usually nuclear fission, to release energy for work including propulsion, heat, and the generation of electricity. Nuclear energy is produced by a controlled nuclear chain reaction and creates heat - which is used to boil water, produce steam, and drive a steam turbine.
A nuclear reactor is a device in which nuclear chain reactions are initiated, controlled, and sustained at a steady rate, as opposed to a nuclear bomb, in which the chain reaction occurs in a fraction of a second and is uncontrolled causing an explosion.
The most significant use of nuclear reactors is as an energy source for the generation of electrical power and for the power in some ships. This is usually accomplished by methods that involve using heat from the nuclear reaction to power steam turbines.
The United States produces the most nuclear energy, with nuclear power providing 20% of the electricity it consumes, while France produces the highest percentage of its electrical energy from nuclear reactors - 80% as of 2006. In the European Union as a whole, nuclear energy provides 30% of the electricity. Nuclear energy policy differs between European Union countries, and some, such as Austria and Ireland, have no active nuclear power stations. In comparison, France has a large number of these plants, with 16 multi-unit stations in current use.
Analysis of the Major Nuclear Power Plants in the United States takes a view of theoverall nuclear power industry worldwide, with an analysis of the basics of nuclear power, and an overview of the nuclear power industry in the United States. The report focuses on the major nuclear power plants in the U.S. – over 75 plants are focused upon in this report.
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