Nuclear Power Quiz


Some people think of nuclear power as a threatening menace, while others see it as a long-term source of greener electricity. How's your knowledge on the pros and cons of nuclear energy?

start quiz

Question 1 of 10

Nuclear power plants produce energy through:

induced fission
induced fusion
beta decay

... Nuclear power plants get their energy from splitting atoms of uranium-235. This is induced fission. Uranium-235 is one of the few materials on Earth that can undergo induced fission.


Question 2 of 10

Uranium-235 splits when _______ hits its nucleus:

a proton
a neutron
an electron

... In induced fission of uranium-253, a free neutron runs an atom's nucleus. The nucleus absorbs the neutron, becomes unstable and splits into two parts.


Question 3 of 10

Uranium is a fairly common element on Earth, but it was originally formed:

on the moon
in stars
on asteroids

... Uranium started out as stardust that became part of the Earth as the planet formed. This happened billions of years ago, but uranium has a very long half-life, which means there's plenty of it still around.


Question 4 of 10

Fission produces lots of energy because:

Some of the subatomic particles disintegrate, releasing lots of energy.
The fission products and neutrons have more mass than the original atom.
The fission products and neutrons have less mass than the original atom.

... In induced fission, a uranium-235 atom splits into two parts and expels two or three neutrons. These parts are less massive than the original atom, and the difference in mass is converted to energy. The equation that describes this process is Einstein's famous E = mc2.


Question 5 of 10

The ideal shape for the uranium-235 sample used in a nuclear reactor is:

a sphere
a pyramid
a sheet

... In a nuclear reactor, fission is a chain reaction. A free neutron from each split uranium-235 nucleus should hit another nucleus, causing another split. Pyramids and sheets have lots of surface area from which neutrons can fly off, hitting nothing.


Question 6 of 10

The main difference between a nuclear plant and an oil- or coal-fired plant is:

the size of the generator
the shape of the generator
the fuel

... Coal-fired, oil-fired and nuclear power plants all have the same basic purpose -- to use heat to make steam. A heat source turns water into steam, which drives a steam turbine in a generator. The generator produces electricity. In a nuclear plant, the heat source is the uranium fuel.


Question 7 of 10

For optimal energy production, the uranium-235 in a nuclear reactor must be:

slightly supercritical

... When a reactor operates in a critical state, one neutron from each fission causes another fission. Each time an atom splits, energy is released in the form of heat and gamma radiation. The fuel bundle in a reactor is slightly supercritical, causing the fuel to heat up.


Question 8 of 10

To prevent overheating, control rods:

move extra uranium out of the way
absorb excess neutrons
create a barrier between different parts of the fuel

... Control rods are made of materials that absorb neutrons. If plant operators need the fuel to produce more heat, they raise the rods out of the fuel sample. If the sample is at risk of overheating, operators lower the rods, cutting down on the number of free neutrons.


Question 9 of 10

What prevents the escape of radiation in the event of an accident at a nuclear plant?

secondary containment structures
cooling towers
control rooms

... Between a nuclear reactor and the outside world are a radiation shield and a containment vessel. These keep radioactive material inside the plant. A large concrete building designed to withstand impact acts as a secondary containment structure in case of emergency.


Question 10 of 10

What are some of the difficulties with nuclear power?

dealing with spent fuel, which is toxic
transporting fuel to the power plant
both A and B

... Nuclear power plants are clean and efficient, but there are some difficulties with nuclear energy production. They all relate to the fuel -- mining, purifying and transporting it, both before and after it's been used in the reactor. Accidents, while rare, can also be deadly.


More Curiosity

The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth

The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth

When you're surrounded by cubicles and concrete, it's easy to forget that we live on a planet packed full of breathtaking natural beauty, so take a trip with us as we explore 10 of the very best the Earth has to offer.

Top 10 Memorable TV Moments Ever

Top 10 Memorable TV Moments Ever

From The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show to the latest breaking news, TV makes more memories than there are viewers. Here are 10 of the most talked-about broadcasts in television history.