Nuclear energy was once the stuff of futuristic sci-fi novels. Now, it’s a seriously promising source of carbon-free energy. Recent breakthroughs in the production of small, modular reactors mean that nuclear energy is becoming even more accessible, so small businesses could be looking at a future that includes getting more of their business electricity from nuclear sources.

How does nuclear power work?

Nuclear power plants operate on the same principles as fossil fuel plants. The aim is to create energy which can heat up water, turning it into steam. This steam then turns a generator turbine and produces electricity.

In a nuclear power plant, instead of burning coal, oil or gas to create the initial burst of heat, a radioactive material, most commonly uranium, is used. Radioactive material produces heat through nuclear fission, which occurs when an atom splits into two parts, releasing energy as it does so. Uranium is a common element found naturally occurring in the earth’s surface. In its natural state uranium constantly undergoes spontaneous fission, although the uranium used in power plants is typically enriched to make it more reactive, meaning it will give off even more energy in the form of heat, producing more steam and in turn, more electricity.

What does this mean for small businesses?

Nuclear power has many positive attributes for business energy, one of them being that it’s produced with fewer carbon emissions than traditional fossil fuels. British Gas use a mix of different fuels to generate the electricity that is supplied to customers. This is called the British Gas fuel mix.

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