Lesson Plan For Nuclear Energy

After the tragedy in Japan, many teachers and students are trying to understand the risks and benefits of nuclear energy. Several reactors in Japan are in danger of “melting down” as emergency workers work round the clock.

The media is abuzz with stories about radiation contamination even on the West Coast of the United States.

In order to help students, teachers and parents separate fact from fiction we’ve compiled a lesson plan that helps understand nuclear energy.


A. Teacher:

  1. To ensure students understand how nuclear energy is generated.
  2. To help students learn how a nuclear power plant works.
  3. To inform students about the benefits and risks of nuclear power.

B. Students should be able to:

  1. Explain the process of nuclear fission.
  2. Explain how nuclear power plants provide energy.
  3. Differentiate between different types of nuclear power plants.


Nuclear power plants are similar to coal/fossil fuel powered plants in that both create heat that produces steam that turns a turbine.

Instead of coal, uranium rods are used as fuel. To generate heat,  neutrons collide into the nucleus of the uranium atoms. This process is called nuclear fission. Once they split in half, energy is released.

Steam is created and this turns a turbine generating power.

A reactor has four main parts: the uranium fuel assemblies, the control rods, the coolant/moderator, and the pressure vessel. The fuel assemblies, control rods, and coolant/moderator make up what is known as the reactor core. The core is surrounded by the pressure vessel.

Q and A

  1. What percentage of total power does nuclear energy make up in your city/state/country?
  2. What are the different types of nuclear plants?
  3. What is a cooling tower?
  4. What is uranium and where can it be found?
  5. What are the main components of a reactor?