Most of the worlds electricity is generated by either thermal or hydroelectric power plants.
Thermal power plants use fuel to boil waterwhich makes steam. The steam turns turbines that generate electricity. Hydroelectric power plants use the great force of rushing water from a dam or a waterfall to turn the turbines. The majority of thermal power plants burn fossil fuels because thermal power plants are cheaper to maintain and have to meet less of the governments requirements compared to nuclear power plants. Fossil fuels are coal and oil.
The downfall of using fossil fuels is that they are limited. Fossil fuels are developed from the remains of plants and animals that died millions of years ago. Burning fossil fuels has other downfalls, too. All the burning that is required to turn the turbines releases much sulfur, nitrogen gases, and other pollutants into the atmosphere.
The cleanest, cheapest, and least polluting power plant of the two types is the hydroelectric power plant. The main reason most countries use thermal versus the hydroelectric is because their countries dont have enough concentrated water to create enough energy to generate electricity. Nuclear power plants generate only about eleven percent of the worlds electricity. There are around 316 nuclear power plants in the world that create 213,000 megawatts of electricity. (INFOPEDIA) Radioactive, or nuclear, waste is the by-product of nuclear fission. Fission occurs when atoms nucleus split and cause a nuclear reaction.
When a free neutron splits a nucleus, energy isreleased along with free neutrons, fission fragments that give off beta rays, and gamma rays. A free neutron from the nucleus that just split splits another nucleus. This process continues on and is called a chain reaction. The fission process is used to create heat, which boils water inside the nuclear reactor. The steam that boiling the water makes is used to turn turbines, which in turn, generate electricity. Fission happens inside a carefully monitored nuclear reactor, when being used in a nuclear power plant.
The fission process that nuclear power plants use spends approximately 30,000 tons of highly radioactive waste a year.