Physics: Senior High School: 11th and 12th Grade Quiz - Physics - Conventional Power Stations (Questions)

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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.

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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 gasses. These need to be cleaned before they enter the atmosphere, however, it is not possible to remove the carbon dioxide from the waste gasses. 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 gasses 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.

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1. 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
2. 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
3. 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
4. To which of the following environmental issues does burning fossil fuels to generate electricity contribute?
[ ] Acid rain
[ ] Global warming
[ ] Smog
[ ] Ozone depletion
5. Which of the following is also released when fossil fuels are burnt?
[ ] Methane and soot
[ ] Nitrogen
[ ] Sulfur dioxide and soot
[ ] Hydrocarbons
6. 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
7. Which of the following power stations has the shortest start up time?
[ ] Nuclear
[ ] Coal fired
[ ] Oil fired
[ ] Gas fired
8. 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
9. What are the two elements used as nuclear fuels?
[ ] Uranium and polonium
[ ] Uranium and plutonium
[ ] Plutonium and krypton
[ ] Polonium and neptunium
10. What type of nuclear reaction occurs in a nuclear power station?
[ ] Oxidation
[ ] Combustion
[ ] Fission
[ ] Fusion
Physics: Senior High School: 11th and 12th Grade Quiz - Physics - Conventional Power Stations (Answers)
1. What is the purpose of the turbine in a power station?
[ ] To burn the fuel
[ ] To boil the water
[x] To turn the generator
[ ] To generate the electricity
The turbine transfers heat energy into kinetic energy
2. In a power station using a fossil fuel or biofuel, what is the overall energy transfer?
[x] 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
3. In a nuclear power station, which of the following represents the sequence of energy transfers in the correct order?
[x] 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
4. To which of the following environmental issues does burning fossil fuels to generate electricity contribute?
[ ] Acid rain
[x] Global warming
[ ] Smog
[ ] Ozone depletion
Burning fossil fuels produces a lot of carbon dioxide
5. Which of the following is also released when fossil fuels are burnt?
[ ] Methane and soot
[ ] Nitrogen
[x] Sulfur dioxide and soot
[ ] Hydrocarbons
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 gasses and solid particles that were responsible. There are some countries in the world where they don't bother to do this
6. 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
[x] From changes in the nucleus
That is why it is called nuclear fuel
7. Which of the following power stations has the shortest start up time?
[ ] Nuclear
[ ] Coal fired
[ ] Oil fired
[x] 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
8. 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
[x] All of the above
Containing, handling and disposing of radioactive materials needs special equipment and procedures
9. What are the two elements used as nuclear fuels?
[ ] Uranium and polonium
[x] Uranium and plutonium
[ ] Plutonium and krypton
[ ] Polonium and neptunium
Plutonium is also used in a destructive capacity in atomic bombs
10. What type of nuclear reaction occurs in a nuclear power station?
[ ] Oxidation
[ ] Combustion
[x] Fission
[ ] Fusion
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