5 Examples of Nuclear Energy Utilization Explained

Examples of nuclear energy utilization are; natural solar processes, space crafts and exploration, domestic power generation, food and agriculture, and medical radioscopy. They may alternatively be referred to as the uses of nuclear energy.


This article discusses the examples of nuclear energy utilization, as follows;





1). Natural Solar Processes (as one of the Examples of Nuclear Energy Utilization)

Naturally-occurring solar energy is a form of nuclear energy because it is produced from spontaneous and continuous radioactive fusion between hydrogen isotopes in the Sun's core, to form helium.

The continuous nature of solar radioactive fusion is a result of nuclear recycling; whereby reactants and products are involved in a sustainable series of effect-reversals and chain reactions.

These processes yield large amounts of radiant renewable energy that can be captured and utilized on Earth by solar panels among other mechanisms and technologies [4].

Gravity also plays a role in sustaining nuclear energy generation in the Sun. Natural solar energy is the most significant example of nuclear energy utilization, and indicates that all energy used in the planetary ecosystem might originate from nuclear reactions.





2). Space Crafts and Exploration

Nuclear energy is used in space exploration by the installation of radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) or nuclear batteries in spacecrafts [1].

These batteries have been applied for electricity supply to some components of space probes, among other functions.

Nuclear energy can also be used for rocket propulsion, although other options like liquid hydrogen have gained better acceptance.

In spite of its enormous potential, nuclear energy is not used in space exploration as much as other energy resources, because of the complexity of nuclear reactor units, and the need for careful handling of radioactive materials.

However, a combination of nuclear technology breakthroughs and increase in prominence of space exploration have led to renewed efforts to integrate nuclear energy into more aspects of space operations.

Examples of Nuclear Energy: Space Crafts and Exploration (Credit: NASA 2006)
Examples of Nuclear Energy: Space Crafts and Exploration (Credit: NASA 2006)





3). Domestic Power Generation (as one of the Examples of Nuclear Energy Utilization)

Nuclear power generation is the conversion of nuclear energy to electricity using turbines and electric generators.

In order for nuclear energy to be used for electricity generation, a nuclear power plant (NPP) is used.

The nuclear power plant uses heat from the core of a nuclear reactor to generate electricity.

Details about the operation of NPPs can be understood within the context of how a nuclear reactor works, since these plants are centered around nuclear reactors.

Types of nuclear power plants can also be outlined based on the types of nuclear reactors, to include; boiling-water, fast neutron, and pressurized-water power plants among others.

Nuclear power generation has been in practice since the mid-twentieth century, and its increased integration into domestic electricity supply chains is one of the objectives of the energy transition agenda, especially since nuclear power usage is capable of reducing net emissions and climate change contribution of the power sector.





4). Food and Agriculture

Nuclear energy is used in food production, processing, safety and preservation, by powering equipment and processes by which sustainable agriculture and food management can be practiced.

At the point of food production, nuclear energy can be used to power farm equipment and systems for sustainable irrigation and pest/disease control, among other functionalities that improve the output volume and quality of agriculture.

In food processing, nuclear irradiation can be used to eliminate contaminants and microbes in food, thereby increasing its shelf-life and safety [5].

The role of nuclear energy in food and agriculture is beneficial in the effort to tackle hunger and food insecurity.





5). Medical Radioscopy (as one of the Examples of Nuclear Energy Utilization)

Medical radioscopy is also known as nuclear imaging.

Nuclear imaging is used in medicine to observe the functions of internal tissues and organs [2].

Types of radiation used in nuclear medicine are; α (alpha), β (beta), and γ (gamma) radiation respectively; among which the use of gamma radiation is most common.

Some types of nuclear medical imaging are; Computed Tomography (CT), Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT).

Among these the two most common are; Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET).

Nuclear imaging can be used for various purposes in medicine including; gallium, brain, renal, bone, breast and thyroid scans.

Benefits of nuclear imaging are; organ-function observation, effective diagnosis, relative safety, and versatile application.

Disadvantages and risks of nuclear imaging include; high cost, prolonged-exposure hazard, and technical requirements.

Aside nuclear imaging or radioscopy, other uses of nuclear energy in medicine include targeted tumor-treatment and therapy for cancer [3].

Examples of Nuclear Energy Utilization: Medical Radioscopy (Credit: IAEA Imagebank 2018 .CC BY 2.0.)
Examples of Nuclear Energy Utilization: Medical Radioscopy (Credit: IAEA Imagebank 2018 .CC BY 2.0.)






Examples of nuclear energy utilization are;

1. Natural Solar Processes

2. Space Crafts and Exploration

3. Domestic Power Generation

4. Food and Agriculture

5. Medical Radioscopy






1). Cataldo, R. L.; Bennett, G. L. (2011). "U.S. Space Radioisotope Power Systems and Applications: Past, Present and Future." In (Ed.), Radioisotopes - Applications in Physical Sciences. IntechOpen. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5772/23914. (Accessed 12 January 2023).

2). Kharfi, F. (2013). "Principles and Applications of Nuclear Medical Imaging: A Survey on Recent Developments." Imaging and Radioanalytical Techniques in Interdisciplinary Research - Fundamentals and Cutting Edge Applications. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5772/54884. (Accessed 12 January 2023).

3). Kramer-Marek, G.; Capala, J. (2012). "The role of nuclear medicine in modern therapy of cancer." Tumor Biology 33(3):629-40. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13277-012-0373-8. (Accessed 12 January 2023).

4). Shayan, M. E.; Ghasemzadeh, F. (2020). "Nuclear Power Plant or Solar Power Plant. In (Ed.), Nuclear Power Plants - The Processes from the Cradle to the Grave." IntechOpen. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.92547. (Accessed 11 January 2023).

5). Wijetunda, S. (2009). "Irradiation as an Effective Way of Microbial Control in Food Preservation and Processing." Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306357179_Irradiation_as_an_Effective_Way_of_Microbial_Control_in_Food_Preservation_and_Processing. (Accessed 12 January 2023).

Similar Posts