Aug 5, 2015

[Video] The science of new and old energy, part 2: nuclear power

Energy Digital Staff
2 min
Click here to read The science of ne...

Click here to read The science of new and old energy, part 1: fossil fuels

There are presently 99 nuclear power plants in operation in the United States and 19 in Canada. Nuclear power generates 15 percent of Canada’s electricity, and they plan to build two additional reactors over the next 10 years.

[Related: [INFOGRAPHIC] Picturing the complex nuclear energy landscape]

The United States expects an additional six to come online by 2020. While the United States leads the world in nuclear generating capacity, Canada has long been a leader in nuclear research, developing and exporting reactors to other countries.

The demand for low-carbon technologies has sparked new interest in nuclear power: It is cost competitive, and new technologies continue to improve safety. In addition, nuclear reactors are designed to sustain chain reactions produced by the fission of heavy nuclei. 

[Related: After Fukushima-Daichi, why is the European commission subsidizing nuclear plants in the UK?]

At the most basic level:

  1. The reactor core converts energy from the reaction to heat energy. 
  2. The heat is used to produce steam that drives a turbine for the production of electricity.
  3. The amount of power generated is controlled with control rods; as such, control rods absorb neutrons and are used to reduce the number of neutrons available for fission.

By inserting the control rods deep in the reactor, power is reduced. Removing them will increase the power output.

Check out this video from on the inner-workings of nuclear power:

Video courtesy of

There are several types of nuclear reactors used for power production, and they are categorized by either the type of fuel employed or by coolant. 

Uranium fuelled reactors can produce as much energy as 10 tonnes of oil from 1 kg. of uranium. Plutonian fuelled reactors are capable of generating as much energy as 1 tonne of oil from 1 g. of plutonium.

[Related: How nuclear and renewables can work together for a cleaner future]

Plutonian is 100 times more energetic than uranium. Light water reactors include pressurized water reactors and boiling water reactors. Light water reactors use regular water for cooling as well as for a moderator to slow the reaction while heavy water reactors use deuterium oxide.

Carbon dioxide is used for cooling in gas cooled reactors and graphite is employed as the moderator.

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Apr 23, 2021

Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Drax is advancing biomass following Pinnacle acquisition it reported in a trading update

Drax' recently completed acquisition of Pinnacle more than doubles its sustainable biomass production capacity and significantly reduces its cost of production, it reported in a trading update.

The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.

The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).

Drax CEO Will Gardiner said its Q1 performance had been "robust", supported by the sale of Drax Generation Enterprise, which holds four CCGT power stations, to VPI Generation.

This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.

In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.

The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.

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