Nuclear Energy Examples in Everyday Life


Nuclear power plant

Nuclear energy, a powerful source of energy, is the result of nuclear reactions to generate electricity. Nuclear energy is the energy stored in the mass of the nucleus, or core of an atom. During a nuclear reaction, the conversion of mass into energy takes place (Einstein’s theory), and this energy produced during the reaction is termed as nuclear energy. There are two ways by which nuclear energy can be obtained, namely, nuclear fission, and nuclear fusion. As the name itself suggests, nuclear fission is the splitting of the nucleus into multiple parts, and nuclear fusion is the process of the combination of two or more atoms.

Types of nuclear energy

1. Nuclear fission

Nuclear fission reaction uses highly radioactive elements, like uranium, plutonium, and thorium, which splits into multiple parts to form smaller nuclei, when these radioactive elements are attacked by low-energy neutrons. A huge amount of heat energy is produced during this reaction which is further used to generate electricity in nuclear power plants.

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2. Nuclear fusion

A nuclear fusion reaction is the fusion of two or more atoms to release heat energy. Conversion of mass into energy takes place, as the total mass of the fused atom is less than the mass of two original nuclei. Helium is formed on nuclear fusion of hydrogen isotopes namely, TritiumH^{3} and DeuteriumH^{2}.

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Examples of Nuclear Energy

There are a variety of daily life applications that make use of nuclear energy for their basic operation. Some of them are listed below:

1. Electricity Generation

An exponential increase in the population and expanding economy, are the significant reasons for the rocketed demand for electricity. Nuclear energy is one of the best sources to fulfill the ever-surging demand for electricity. Nuclear fission reaction is vastly employed by all power plants to produce electricity, and most of them use uranium atoms, for fission reaction, to generate a huge amount of heat and radiation. As nuclear power plants do not burn fuel, This heat is then used by a turbine generator to produce electricity.

Power plants

2. Medical applications

The medical field employs nuclear energy to a large extent for diagnostics, treatment, and disease management. Radioactive materials or radio-isotopes, produced from either reactors or cyclotrons, are used by doctors for therapeutic use to kill cancerous tissue, reduce the size of tumors, and alleviate pain. Nuclear medical imaging, a combination of radioisotopes and camera imaging, helps doctors to detect tumors, size anomalies, or other problems in the human body. Nearly 1/3 of patients admitted in US hospitals are diagnosed with the help of radioactive materials.

Medical applications

3. Food and Agriculture Industry

The Agricultural and food industry has several benefits of using nuclear energy. These are explained as follows-

  • Improvement in food crops
  • Preserving food
  • water usage control
  • Climate change adaptation by increasing resource-use efficiency and productivity
  • Food safety
  • Genetic modification
  • Insect pest control using sterilization
  • Seasonal famine prevention
  • Measuring soil moisture content
  • Soil erosion rate measuring
  •  Measuring the efficiency of fertilizer uptake


4. Industrial Applications

Nuclear energy is widely used in various field industries like civil engineering, materials analysis, measuring devices, process control in factories, oil and mineral exploration, and checking oil and gas pipelines for leaks and weaknesses. These industries use radioactive materials for productivity and safety measures. For example, measuring devices use radioactive materials for, testing the moisture content of the soil, measuring the thickness of paper and plastics during manufacturing, and checking the height of fluid when filling bottles in factories. Apart from these, radioactive materials are also used to detect explosives.

Explosives detection neutron

5. Archaeological Applications

Carbon dating (used for geological, anthropological, and archaeological research) is used for measuring the radiation release profile of the materials 9radioactivity) which is beneficial in archaeological findings.

Archaeological findings

6. Consumer Products

Smoke detectors are one of the best examples that contain tiny amounts of radioactive materials which make the detectors sensitive to smoke. Other examples include luminous watches, Sun lamps and tanning salons, Televisions and monitors, Commercial fertilizers, EXIT signs, etc.

Luminous watches

7. Environmental Applications

Nuclear techniques and tools, like radioisotopes, are used as tracers by experts for monitoring silt, water, and pollutants. Nuclear energy is also beneficial in global warming as it saves our atmosphere from more than 470 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Isotopic and nuclear tools are used to monitor the pathways of heavy metals, radioactive gases, and greenhouse gases in the air.

Environmental application

8. Criminal Investigation

Nuclear energy plays a significant role in obtaining evidence of a specific crime. Nuclear forensics determines the characteristics of the radioactive material, related to the crime scene, by analyzing its isotopic and chemical characteristics. Radioisotopes are used in criminal investigations to identify trace chemicals in materials, such as paint, glass, tape, gunpowder, lead, and poisons, which are tested and identified in forensic labs.

Criminal investigation

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