33+ Nuclear Energy Uses: Detailed Facts


Nuclear energy is also known as atomic energy released from the atomic nuclei from certain processes. Here is various nuclear energy uses listed below:

A detailed explanation of Nuclear energy uses

Nuclear energy is so beneficial in all fields. Radioactive isotope carries nuclear energy in it. Some of such nuclear energy uses are explained in detail in this section.

Generation of electricity

In the olden days, the purpose of inventing nuclear energy is to generate electricity. Inside the nuclear reactor, the nuclear reactant undergoes a nuclear fission reaction. This fission generates the heat and makes the water boil creating the steam. The steam thus produces the turbine to rotate, and electricity is generated.

The Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) - Animated | This is an … | Flickr
Nuclear powerplant generating electricity
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Nuclear fuels

Nuclear fuels are the source of nuclear energy. Nuclear fuels are made of uranium atoms or other radioactive elements. These fuels serve as the reactant in the nuclear reactor to generate other forms of energy. Nuclear fuels consist of a tremendous amount of nuclear energy, which is further used for fission or fusion processes.

Plant mutation breeding

Nuclear energy uses have a wide range of applications in the plantation field. Plant mutation mutates the plant breed by irradiating the gamma rays, which carry the nuclear energy in it on seeds or cutting the plant part by radiation. Cultivating these seeds or irradiated plants leads to generating the “plantlets.

Manufacturing of fertilizers

If fertilizers are not used properly, they may damage the soil; thus environment may also be damaged. Nowadays, fertilizers are manufactured with small contamination of isotopes such as nitrogen-15 are used, which helps the better management of fertilizers and also prevents environmental damage. The radioactive isotopes also help to increase crop production.

Production of Consumer products

The functioning of some consumer products, such as clocks and non-stick products, depends on the natural radioactive property. So they are manufactured with small traces of radioactive elements.

Smoke detectors

The household smoke detectors are a very good example of nuclear energy uses. The smoke detectors are made up of a small amount of a particular radioactive isotope known as americium-241, a decay product of plutonium-241. The am-241 can emit alpha particles, which can be ionized in the air. It allows for passing current between the two electrodes.

File:Smoke detector by mimooh.svg - Wikimedia Commons, nuclear energy uses
Nuclear energy uses in Smoke detectors
Image credits: Wikimedia commons

The alarm of the smoke detectors rings due to this isotope. When the smoke enters the detector chamber, it absorbs the alpha particle. Due to this process, the current between the electrodes is interrupted, so the alarm sets up.

Food irradiation

Nuclear energy uses are extended to the food industry in this innovative era. The irradiation of certain nuclear radiation such as gamma-rays helps prevent the spoiling of the food product. So nuclear energy is widely used in the preservation of food products. These are also used to delay the early ripening of vegetables and fruits.

Industrial filtration and leaking control

The short-lived radioisotopes are used in the industries in the filtering machines and can control the leaking pipes. Gamma radiography is a technique widely used in industries to detect leakage and trace the new oil or gas in the pipeline by taking special films around the weld of the pipe.

Inspection devices

The devices used to inspect the metal part and integrity of weld use gamma radiography. This works similarly to the x-ray screening of luggage at the airport. Gamma radiography does not require any bulky machines for inspection. It has a small pellet of radioactive sources sealed by a titanium capsule. Same as x-ray screening, the bone damage, when the gamma rays pass through the object and create an image on the screen if there are any flaws in metal casting or welding joints.

Industrial gauges

The industrial gauges are used to check the solid, liquid, and gas levels in the types of equipment. The gamma rays are the main nuclear source used in the gauges. The gauges measure the number of gamma rays absorbed by the material, and using this data; the level is measured accurately. The gauges are also useful in detecting the corrosion of the substance and the effect of heat and pressure on molten glass or metal.

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Nuclear energy uses in Industrial gauges
Image credits: Pixabay

Manufacturing of certain sheets of paper

The manufacturing of certain sheets and thin papers utilizes radioactive sources because radioactive isotopes measure the thickness of the material accurately.

Carbon dating

Carbon dating is a process of measuring the age of certain rocks and other organic materials. A radioactive isotope of carbon, i.e., carbon-14, is used for this process. Carbon dating has a wide range of applications in the geology and anthropology and archeology department.

Nuclear defense missiles

For national security purposes, each and every country has nuclear missiles. Nuclear warheads are the explosive that destroys by the process of nuclear fission reaction, fusion, or a combination of both. The effect of this nuclear missile can destroy the whole continent, so commonly is not used.

Nuclear energy uses in Nuclear missiles
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Criminal investigation

Advance forensic technology uses radioactive isotopes to collect evidence of the crime. In the analysis of DNA, hair, and fingerprint, along with other chemicals, the radioactive isotopes are useful to identify the physical shreds of evidence of suspects.

Nuclear district heating

Nuclear district heating is a distribution process of heat into residential or commercial buildings. The hot steam produced by the nuclear power plant supplies regional heating networks to keep the house warm. This heating project relies on decarbonizing the residential heating process.

Water desalination

The growing demand for potable water can be fulfilled by the desalination of seawater. Desalination plants require heat energy for the distillation process. As the supply of heat via fossil fuel and electricity is expensive, nuclear power plants are used for the supply of heat. It uses low-carbon alternatives from nuclear reactors for heat. The seawater is driven from the pump and passed through a thin membrane to separate the salt and water.

Medical Diagnosis

Nuclear energy is widely used in the medical field for diagnosis purposes. Commonly technetium-99m, whose half-life is about 6 hours, is used in the diagnosis, which is injected into the body by swallowing or by inhaling it in a gaseous form.

Imaging and scanning

Detecting the damage to bones, tissues, and other organs inside the body requires imaging and screening. This technique uses radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers for detection. The radiotracers emit the radiation of the required frequency, which is swallowed or inhaled by the patients in gaseous form. As the radiations are emitted by the radiotracers, the images of the organ, tissue, or bone are captured on the screen. Computed tomography and Magnetic resonance imaging work on this principle only.

05810079 | A physicist measuring the CT radiation output. (A… | Flickr
Nuclear energy uses in computed tomography scanning
Image credits: Flickr

Nuclear imaging and screening are advantageous over x-ray imaging as x-ray imaging is restricted to the bones. It is not applicable for soft tissue and other organs.

Nuclear energy for curing cancer

For the therapeutic purpose of treating and curing cancer, an isotope of iodine I-131 is used in small amounts. Cancer cells are very sensitive to radiation. Thus, gamma rays from the cobalt-60 source are irradiated on the cells to disperse them. A new medical process called targeted-alpha-therapy is used to cure cancer by radiating very low-energy alpha rays on the cells.

Nuclear energy is used to the destruction of tumors

Implanting radioactive radiation directly on the tumor can destroy the tumor completely. For this destruction process, high-energy isotopes in the form of removable wires are used. Generally, IRT, iridium-192, or iodine-125 are used. Ir-192 is the most convenient since its half-life is only 74 days.

Sterilization

Sterilizing medical products such as syringes, gloves, and other surgical instruments are done with the radioactive isotopes. Most commonly, gamma rays from cobalt-60 are widely used because it is not much expensive and more effective.

Sterile insect techniques

Sterile insect technique (SIT) is the biological controlling of the mosquitoes and other insects and preventing the health problem caused by the insects. Generally, cesium-137 or cobalt-60 is used to produce the gamma rays to sterile the insects.

Radiation mutagenesis

Radiation mutagenesis is a complex process of genetic mutation by high energetic ionizing radiation. This is caused by damaging the DNA spontaneously at a very low rate. The mutagenesis uses 64% of ionized gamma rays and 22% of x-rays. Yeast is cultivated through this technique.

Pesticides and insecticides

To prevent the crop from pests and insects, pesticides and insecticides are spread over the plant, seeds, and crops. Some of the radioactive isotopes are used in the manufacturing of these pesticides and insecticides. Generally, carbon-14, phosphorous-32, and chlorine-36 are used. Stable isotopes such as oxygen-18, nitrogen-15, and carbon-13 are extremely important in pesticide research.

Nuclear powered ships

Marine propulsion of ships or submarines is enhanced by the nuclear reactors in which uranium-235 is used as the nuclear fuel. The heat generated by the nuclear reactors is responsible for the safe sailing of the ships. Certain submarines also utilize this propulsion because mid-fueling under the water can be easily done with nuclear energy.

File:Pressurized Water Reactor for ship.png - Wikimedia Commons
Pressurized water nuclear reactor used in ship
Image credits: Wikimedia commons

Nuclear energy in space exploration

Nuclear energy uses are extended toward space exploration also. The generators of spacecraft require heat which is provided by the plutonium isotope, to produce electricity. This is the long-term electricity source for the spacecraft, which can last more than a year.

Nuclear powered automobiles

One of the advanced innovations in fueling automobiles is nuclear power. Nuclear reactors produce electricity, and they can be utilized to fuel automobiles. Electric motors can replace fossil fuel-consuming vehicles.

Analysation of pollution

Analyzing and detecting the pollution can be done by the radioactive isotopes. This technique of nuclear energy can be applied to detect the smog formation and contamination of sulfur dioxide in the air.

Measuring underground Water resources

Isotope hydrology is a nuclear technique that enables the tracking and measuring of the extent of underground water resources. This technique is also empowered to determine the origin and age of the groundwater and helps to connect the ground eater to the surface water.

Detecting the leakage of dams and channels

The isotope hydrology is applicable to surface water also. The technique is used to detect the leakage in the dam, open water reservoir, and also leakage in the irrigation channel. Rn-222 is used to detect the leakage of open water reservoirs.

Measuring the soil moisture

A neutron probe is a nuclear device that detects the amount of moisture in the soil. When the probe immerses in the soil, neutrons are emitted and collides with the soil water, and thus, neutron becomes slow and called the thermalized neutron—the count of thermalized neutron measures the soil moisture.

File:NeutronProbe-0001.svg - Wikimedia Commons
Neutron probes to measure soil moisture
Image credits: Wikimedia commons

Nucleonic gauges in the coal and plastic industry

Advance industrialization enables the use of nucleonic gauges in the manufacturing of coal and plastic. The nucleonic gauges utilize high-energy gamma and beta particles to measure the thickness of the plastic films and the coal level in the hopper.

Prevention of rhino poaching

Rhisotope is a project to prevent rhino poaching by using radioactive isotopes. The horns of rhinos are injected with these stable isotopes, which are sensitive to poaching and prevent from smuggling of the horns.

Initiative for non-electric applications

Initiative for non-electric appliances is a project which spreads the usage of nuclear energy rather than electric devices. The main purpose of this project is to produce hydrogen products from nuclear reactions and make use of them instead of electricity-consuming appliances.

Keerthi Murthi

I am Keerthi K Murthy, I have completed post graduation in Physics, with the specialization in the field of solid state physics. I have always consider physics as a fundamental subject which is connected to our daily life. Being a science student I enjoy exploring new things in physics. As a writer my goal is to reach the readers with the simplified manner through my articles. Reach me – keerthikmurthy24@gmail.com

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