What it is

The atom is the smallest part of each element found in nature which preserves its chemical properties; for a long time, it was considered to be indivisible (from the Greek word ατομος, atomos, that which cannot be cut). In reality, it is made up of a nucleus (formed by protons and neutrons) surrounded by electrons able to promote chemical reactions that can produce energy (for example combustion reactions). Use of nuclear energy stems from the possibility of using the considerable energy present in the atom’s nucleus, much greater than the energy obtained from chemical reactions where the atom’s nucleus is not involved. Nuclear power can be produced both by nuclear fission (separation of the nuclei of heavy radioactive materials) and by fusion (combination of the nuclei of lighter elements). Of the two reactions, fission is the only one that can be achieved and controlled by humans, using the necessary technical precautions linked to prevention of incidents and management of radioactive waste.
On the contrary, it is not yet possible to use fusion for sufficiently long times for continuous production of energy. Indeed, as yet there is no device able to contain hydrogen and keep it “trapped” for long enough at sufficiently high temperature to make aggregation of the nuclei possible.

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From the Multimedia section

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    Major uranium producing countries in 2019

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    Electricity from fission

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    Enrico Fermi

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    Inventor of X-rays

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    Nuclear reactor

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    Uranium

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    Uranium bar

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  • energy

    Nuclear reactors under construction

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    energy

    Major uranium producing countries in 2019

    Look
  • energy

    Nuclear planned reactors

    Look

    energy

    Electricity from fission

    Look
  • energy

    Enrico Fermi

    Look

    energy

    Inventor of X-rays

    Look
  • energy

    Nuclear reactors under construction

    Look
  • energy

    Major uranium producing countries in 2019

    Look
  • energy

    Nuclear planned reactors

    Look

Facts

  • ITER fusion reactor

    The reactor that will be able to produce electronuclear energy without risk of explosion or radioactive waste...

    Where does energy come from?

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need...

    Electricity and electrons

    In all electric plants, excluding photovoltaic solar plants, mechanic energy is transformed into electric energy through the same basic procedure...

  • Peat and peat-bogs

    The age of coal starts towards the mid 1600s, stimulated by the need for finding an alternative energy source to…

    Geographical distribution of energy

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need. Unfortunately we cannot exploit all this…

    Orimulsion

    In order to improve supply security, and therefore the diversification of sources to produce electric energy...

  • Cracking operations

    At the end of the fractional distillation, long hydrocarbon molecules can be transformed into lighter molecules by means of more…

    A hydrogen house

    In Settimo, a municipality close to Turin, the first Unité d’Abitation has been created...

    Hydrogen from biomass

    Hydrogen is an energy carrier that allows to generate energy in an environmentally sustainable way...

  • 16 May 2011

    ITER fusion reactor

    The reactor that will be able to produce electronuclear energy without risk of explosion or radioactive waste...

    2 March 2011

    Where does energy come from?

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need...

  • Electricity and electrons

    In all electric plants, excluding photovoltaic solar plants, mechanic energy is transformed into electric energy through the same basic procedure...

    Peat and peat-bogs

    The age of coal starts towards the mid 1600s, stimulated by the need for finding an alternative energy source to…

  • Geographical distribution of energy

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need. Unfortunately we cannot exploit all this…

    Orimulsion

    In order to improve supply security, and therefore the diversification of sources to produce electric energy...

  • 16 May 2011

    ITER fusion reactor

    The reactor that will be able to produce electronuclear energy without risk of explosion or radioactive waste...

  • 2 March 2011

    Where does energy come from?

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need...

  • Electricity and electrons

    In all electric plants, excluding photovoltaic solar plants, mechanic energy is transformed into electric energy through the same basic procedure...