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© 2019 STP Nuclear Operating Company

Fundamentally, nuclear power plants are giant steam engines that use uranium to heat water and produce steam. The steam turns the blades of turbines connected to a generator. Inside the generator, a magnet rotates in a magnetic field and generates electricity.


Uranium naturally emits neutrons and releases heat. When uranium is used inside a power plant reactor, the process becomes self-sustaining. It is controlled with various neutron-absorbing elements that are formed into movable control rods. The control rods are added to the water, which envelopes the reactor core.


A reaction starts when the control rods are withdrawn from the core; it stops when the rods are reinserted. The reaction can be stopped and the reactor shut down – manually or automatically – in just a few seconds.


Uranium is the most efficient power plant fuel. A single uranium fuel pellet, about the size of a pencil eraser, contains as much energy as:


  • 149 gallons of oil

  • 157 gallons of gasoline

  • 1,780 pounds of coal

  • 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas


Nuclear power is carbon-free and emits no greenhouse gases. It produces 20 percent of America’s electricity and almost 75 percent of all emission-free power generation nationwide.