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Nuclear Energy: Glossary

A

alternative
a possible choice, different from the usual selection
atoms
the smallest particle of any element that has all the properties of that element

B

boiling-water nuclear reactor
a nuclear reactor in which water boils in the core to make steam

C

carbon dioxide
a greenhouse gas that is released when oil, coal, natural gas, and biomass are burned
chain reaction
process in which neutrons released in fission produce additional fission in other uranium atoms
climate change
changes due to rising temperatures, such as changes in weather patterns, storm strength, melting polar ice, and rising sea levels
containment vessels
large structures of steel-reinforced concrete that surround and protect the reactor
contaminate
to make something polluted or impure
Control rods
rods that are inserted into or removed from the reactor core during the fission process to speed up or slow down the chain reaction
controversial
causing much disagreement or debate

E

electrons
particles moving around the nucleus of an atom that carry a negative charge
element
a substance that cannot be chemically broken down and of which all matter is composed
Energy
the power for doing work
environmental impact
negative effect on the environment

F

fuel assembly
bundles of 100 to 200 fuel rods that are loaded in the reactor core
fuel rods
long metal tubes that hold about 200 stacked uranium fuel pellets used in the nuclear fission reactor

G

generators
machines that generates electrical current
global warming
a planet-wide rise in temperature
greenhouse gases
gases in the atmosphere that trap heat

N

neutrons
particles within the nucleus of an atom that carry no charge
nonrenewable
energy source that cannot be replenished in a short period of time (coal, oil, gas, uranium)
nuclear fission
the process of splitting a large atom into two or more smaller atoms, releasing large amounts of energy
nuclear fusion
the process of combining two atoms to form a new atom, releasing large amounts of energy
nuclei
the plural of nucleus
nucleus
the center core of an atom

P

permanent
designed to last for a long time
potential energy
stored energy; the capability to produce energy
predictable
acts or occurs in an expected way
pressurized-water nuclear reactor
a nuclear reactor in which water is kept under pressure in the reactor core so that the water can be heated to high temperatures without boiling
pros and cons
good points and bad points; benefits and drawbacks
protons
particles within the nucleus of an atom that carry a positive charge

R

radiation
particles and electromagnetic waves emitted from the center of an atom during nuclear decay
radioactive
capable of giving off hazardous radiation
reactor
the part of a nuclear power plant where fission takes place
reliable
dependable
renewable
an energy resource that is replaced rapidly by natural processes (solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower)

T

turbines
wheels with many blades that are spun and connected to a generator to make electricity

U

uranium
a metallic, radioactive element found in rocks that is used as the fuel for nuclear power plants
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