Everything in the world is made of teeny, tiny building blocks – a bit like the smallest blocks of Lego you could ever imagine – and these building blocks are called atoms.
When I say ‘everything’, I really mean ‘everything’! Your pencil case, your bike, your phone and even you are made of atoms!
Nuclear energy is the energy in the nucleus of an atom (the nucleus is the bit in the middle). But to release this energy, the atom has to be split open!
If you get two or more atoms with the same amount of protons, but different amounts of neutrons, that’s called an isotope. As you know, uranium has two different isotopes – U235 and U238. You also know that to create nuclear energy, we need loads of U235, because U238 isn’t very good at creating nuclear energy. To get more U235, we turn uranium into a gas and spin it to separate the two different isotopes (U238 gets pushed to the side, because it’s heavier, and U235 clings to the middle). We then suck the U235 out of the middle, and use it to make nuclear energy!
But why do we need U235, and not U238? The answer is simple…
U235 can be split to release nuclear energy, whereas U238 can't!
No wonder URENCO is busy all day every day, spinning lots of uranium to enrich it with lots of U235!