What are the different components of a nuclear power plant?
In depth - December 19, 2014

What are the different components of a nuclear power plant?

Here is a graphic with the components of a nuclear power plant of the most common type, with a pressurized water reactor (PWR):

Components of a nuclear power plant
Components of a nuclear power plant

The cooling water is taken from a river, reservoir or the sea, and used to liquify the water vapor in the condenser

A component of the primary cooling circuit where the liquid and vapor stages are balanced in conditions of saturation, so as to control the pressure.

Steel vessel that houses the nuclear reactor, the main component of the nuclear power plant where the fission chain reactor is produced. Its nucleus is composed of the fuel elements.

The material where the fission reactions take place. The most common material used is enriched uranium oxide. It is used simultaneously as a source of energy and neutrons in order to maintain the chain reaction. It is presented in solid state, in the form of cylindrical pellets encapsulated into metallic rods around 4 meters tall.

These are the reactor's control elements, acting as neutron absorbents. They are made up of indium-cadmium or boron carbide, which make it possible to control at all times the neutron population and the reactor reactivity, making it critical during its operation and subcritical during the stops.

Heat commuters where the cooling water from the primary cycle, which circulates around the inside of the inverted U-shaped tubes, yields its energy to the secondary circuit water and turns it into water vapor.

A building that houses the reactor's cooling system as well as several auxiliary systems. It functions as shielding in normal operation and prevents the leakage of polluting products to the exterior. Along with other safeguarding systems, it has the functional responsibility to avoid the release of fission products into the atmosphere in case of accident.

A device that receives the water vapor from the vapor generators, whose energy is transformed via the paddles into mechanical rotation power. There are various sections for the expansion of the vapor. Its axis is solidly attached to the alternator axis.

A device that produces electricity by converting mechanical rotation energy from the turbine into medium-power and high-intensity energy.

A device that raises the tension of the electricity produced in the alternator, in order to minimize losses during its transport to the consumption points.

Water taken from a river, reservoir or the sea and used to liquify the water vapor in the condensator. It can be directly returned to its origin (open cycle) or be reused via the cooling tower (closed cycle).

A device that makes it possible to yield to the atmosphere, which acts as a cold focus, part of the residual heat produced during the electricity generation. It is used to cool the water that circulates inside the condensator and is part of the plant's auxiliary cooling circuit.

Heat commuter composed by a set of tubes where cooling water circulates. The water vapor going inside the condensator from the turbine is liquified. This conversion produces a vaccuum that improves the turbine's performance.

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