A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. The most common use of nuclear reactors is for the generation of electric energy and for the propulsion of ships.
The nuclear reactor is the heart of the plant. In its central part, the reactor core's heat is generated by controlled nuclear fission. With this heat, a coolant is heated as it is pumped through the reactor and thereby removes the energy from the reactor. Heat from nuclear fission is used to raise steam, which runs through turbines, which in turn powers either ship's propellers or electrical generators.
Since nuclear fission creates radioactivity, the reactor core is surrounded by a protective shield. This containment absorbs radiation and prevents radioactive material from being released into the environment. In addition, many reactors are equipped with a dome of concrete to protect the reactor against external impacts.
In nuclear power plants, different types of reactors, nuclear fuels, and cooling circuits and moderators are sometimes used.