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Nuclear fuels

Nuclear fuel consists of a fissionable isotope, such as uranium-235, which must be present in sufficient quantity to provide a self-sustaining chain reaction. In the United States, uranium ores contain from 0.05–0.3% of the uranium oxide U 3 O 8 ; the uranium in the ore is about 99.3% nonfissionable U-238 with only 0.7% fissionable U-235. Nuclear reactors require a fuel with a higher concentration of U-235 than is found in nature; it is normally enriched to have about 5% of uranium mass as U-235. At this concentration, it is not possible to achieve the supercritical mass necessary for a nuclear explosion. Uranium can be enriched by gaseous diffusion (the only method currently used in the US), using a gas centrifuge, or by laser separation.

In the gaseous diffusion enrichment plant where U-235 fuel is prepared, UF 6 (uranium hexafluoride) gas at low pressure moves through barriers that have holes just barely large enough for UF 6 to pass through. The slightly lighter 235 UF 6 molecules diffuse through the barrier slightly faster than the heavier 238 UF 6 molecules. This process is repeated through hundreds of barriers, gradually increasing the concentration of 235 UF 6 to the level needed by the nuclear reactor. The basis for this process, Graham’s law, is described in the chapter on gases. The enriched UF 6 gas is collected, cooled until it solidifies, and then taken to a fabrication facility where it is made into fuel assemblies. Each fuel assembly consists of fuel rods that contain many thimble-sized, ceramic-encased, enriched uranium (usually UO 2 ) fuel pellets. Modern nuclear reactors may contain as many as 10 million fuel pellets. The amount of energy in each of these pellets is equal to that in almost a ton of coal or 150 gallons of oil.

Nuclear moderators

Neutrons produced by nuclear reactions move too fast to cause fission (refer back to [link] ). They must first be slowed to be absorbed by the fuel and produce additional nuclear reactions. A nuclear moderator    is a substance that slows the neutrons to a speed that is low enough to cause fission. Early reactors used high-purity graphite as a moderator. Modern reactors in the US exclusively use heavy water ( 1 2 H 2 O ) or light water (ordinary H 2 O), whereas some reactors in other countries use other materials, such as carbon dioxide, beryllium, or graphite.

Reactor coolants

A nuclear reactor coolant    is used to carry the heat produced by the fission reaction to an external boiler and turbine, where it is transformed into electricity. Two overlapping coolant loops are often used; this counteracts the transfer of radioactivity from the reactor to the primary coolant loop. All nuclear power plants in the US use water as a coolant. Other coolants include molten sodium, lead, a lead-bismuth mixture, or molten salts.

Control rods

Nuclear reactors use control rods ( [link] ) to control the fission rate of the nuclear fuel by adjusting the number of slow neutrons present to keep the rate of the chain reaction at a safe level. Control rods are made of boron, cadmium, hafnium, or other elements that are able to absorb neutrons. Boron-10, for example, absorbs neutrons by a reaction that produces lithium-7 and alpha particles:

Questions & Answers

What is saturated hydrocarbon?
Ebenezer Reply
Alkane series are saturated Hydrocarbon
Adam
ok
hamza
it is hydrocarbon without double bond, like alkane
habibah
hydrocarbons that can no longer undergo additional reaction
OLADAPO
what is the meaninh of link
Aisha Reply
Yes wish to join am a science ⚗ student
Emmanuel Reply
What is acid
Emmanuel
is agroup of substance that relaise hydrogen ion in the water solution.
mengistu
thanks
Aisha
An acid is a proton donor or an electron pair acceptor
amanda
how can someone understand chemistry vividly
Mercy Reply
Maybe by reading proofs or practical work and application in modern world.
Abdelkarim
what is isotopes
Samuel Reply
whats de shape of water
Amara Reply
water has no shape because it's liquid
Wil
water is a shapeless, odourless, colourless and tasteless substance that only takes the shape of its container.
mikefred
i think they're referring to the molecular shape?
It has no shape but takes the shape of the container
kpadonu
Yeah I think so too and it's a bent shape
amanda
what isthe maening pkw
Wilson Reply
what is the meaning of STP
Laura
introduction to chemistry for beginner
Lansana Reply
hi
noble
through out human history
marwan Reply
Yes?
Esther
hello
noble
yes
Bol
what
noble
is euglena a unicellular organ
Agio Reply
is euglena a unicellular organism
Agio
how is hydrogen can be heated
Buwembo Reply
what is difference between atom and molecule
Aqeela Reply
Atom is the smallest part of matter; it consists of equal number of protons and electrons. It may have neutrons. A molecule is a compound made of atoms covalently bonded.
Abdelkarim
does amoeba has structure
Mercy Reply
what is the effect of green house on the earth 🌎
kolawole Reply
what is the effect of green house on the earth 🌎
kolawole
what's an atom?
Davy Reply
it's the smallest unit of Matter
Orsine
atom
Eden
smallest part of an element
lydia
also, depending on its (atom's) structure, that is the amount of protons and neutrons and electrons, is the determining factors of what element it is.
Richard
is a smallast particals of an element
Buwembo
it is the smallest part of an element that can take part in a chemical reaction
Ayub
is the smallest part of an element
Jonathan
An atom is the smallest indivisible part of a matter
kpadonu

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
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