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Physics - Conventional Power Stations (AQA)
Conventional power stations burn coal, oil or gas.

Physics - Conventional Power Stations (AQA)

Electrical energy is amongst the subjects studied in GCSE Science. This is one of six quizzes on that particular topic and it looks at how conventional fuel burning power stations and nuclear power stations both work.

In a conventional power station a fuel is used to heat water and so produce steam. The steam is then passed through a turbine which is connected to a generator. As the turbine rotates, it turns the generator which produces the electricity. The electricity is then fed into the National Grid for distribution to homes and businesses.

The fuels that are used vary from power station to power station. Some burn fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas. Some burn biofuels, but these are generally much smaller than the other types. The fuel is burnt in a boiler where the heat released is used to boil some water to form steam. The steam is then used to turn the turbine.

The main disadvantage of fuel burning power stations is the production of waste gases. These need to be cleaned before they enter the atmosphere, however, it is not possible to remove the carbon dioxide from the waste gases. Many people, including scientists, believe that carbon dioxide is contributing to global warming.

An alternative to burning fossil fuels or biofuels is to use nuclear fuels. These undergo a controlled chain reaction in the core of a nuclear reactor which releases a huge amount of heat. This heat is collected using a coolant and used to make steam in a heat exchanger. There are two big advantages to nuclear power - there are no waste gases and there is a huge amount of energy released from just small amounts of nuclear fuel. But there are some really big problems too - the possibility of accidental release of radioactive materials into the air, and what to do with the highly radioactive materials that are produced.

What is the purpose of the turbine in a power station?
To burn the fuel
To boil the water
To turn the generator
To generate the electricity
The turbine transfers heat energy into kinetic energy
In a power station using a fossil fuel or biofuel, what is the overall energy transfer?
Chemical to electrical
Nuclear to electrical
Heat to electrical
Kinetic to electrical
Fossil fuels and biofuels contain stored chemical energy which is released as heat when it is burnt. This heat is then transferred to kinetic energy by the turbines, and from kinetic to electrical by the generators
In a nuclear power station, which of the following represents the sequence of energy transfers in the correct order?
Nuclear → heat → kinetic → electrical
Chemical → nuclear → heat → kinetic → electrical
Chemical → nuclear → heat → electrical
Nuclear → kinetic → electrical
The heat energy is transferred to kinetic energy in the turbine, exactly as with the fuel burning power station
To which of the following environmental issues does burning fossil fuels to generate electricity contribute?
Acid rain
Global warming
Ozone depletion
Burning fossil fuels produces a lot of carbon dioxide
Which of the following is also released when fossil fuels are burnt?
Methane and soot
Sulfur dioxide and soot
Sulfur dioxide and soot from power stations used to contribute to the problems of acid rain and smog but, in the UK, power stations are now fitted with systems to clean up the gases and solid particles that were responsible. There are some countries in the world where they don't bother to do this
In a nuclear fuel, where is the energy released from?
From the electrons
From reactions between atoms
From the effects of vibrations of the atoms
From changes in the nucleus
That is why it is called nuclear fuel
Which of the following power stations has the shortest start up time?
Coal fired
Oil fired
Gas fired
This type of power station is usually used to provide extra electricity at peak times. Nuclear and coal fired have the longest start up times so they are constantly running and used to provide what is termed 'base load' electricity. This means that electricity is always available from the National Grid
Although nuclear fuel is relatively cheap, electricity from nuclear power stations is relatively expensive. Why?
They need to be built to high safety standards to ensure that no radioactive material escapes
Dealing with the used nuclear fuel requires special reinforced containers
It is very difficult to safely decommission (dismantle) them at the end of their useful life
All of the above
Containing, handling and disposing of radioactive materials needs special equipment and procedures
What are the two elements used as nuclear fuels?
Uranium and polonium
Uranium and plutonium
Plutonium and krypton
Polonium and neptunium
Plutonium is also used in a destructive capacity in atomic bombs
What type of nuclear reaction occurs in a nuclear power station?
Some scientists are attempting to build nuclear recators that work using fusion reactions. This is proving to be very difficult but would be much better as there would be no nuclear waste to dispose of
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - Electricity

Author:  Kev Woodward

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