<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

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

how do you work out the practicals
Ann Reply
how many grams of calcium contain atoms of calcium equal to iron atoms in 5.6g of iron
Soni Reply
what is d meaning of organic chemistry
Elizabeth Reply
it's a compound that comprises of hydrocarbon
what iz alkanol
icha Reply
alkanol there are organic compounds with the functional group of ROH and relative molecular formula (CnH2n+1+OH)
ok tnk u
you are welcome
Sam. A
What's alkaline soil
Amoo Reply
a system in which only energy is transferred between the system and the surrounding is called?
Ani Reply
which Element exhibit diagonal relationship with aluminum
following processes: Solid phosphorus pentachloride decomposes to liquid phosphorus trichloride and chlorine gas b. Deep blue solid copper(II) sulfate pentahydrate is heated to drive off water vapor to form white solid copper(II) sulfate
Hisham Reply
How to know periodic table oftend
Ahmed Reply
u can know it through singing it as song it simple
how to get atomic number of an element
Ogunleye Reply
how do you solve the examples in a much more explanatory way
it seems by multiplying d number of d element by 2
E.g like carbon 6*2=12 so d atomic number is 12
The reaction of aceto nitrile with propane in the presence of the acid
Explain this paragraph in short
Manish Reply
What is solid state?
Manish Reply
What is chemical reaction
transforming reactants to product(s)
solid state is composed of tightly particles and it has a definite shape and volume
Example of Lewis acid
Chidera Reply
Example of Lewis acid
Anything with an empty orbital... the hydrogen ion is the most common example. BH3 is the typical example, but any metal in a coordination complex can be considered a Lewis acid.
okay thanks
aluminium and sulphur react to give aluminium sulfide.How many grams of Al are required to produce 100g of aluminium sulphide
Soni Reply
aluminium and sulphur react to give aluminium sulphide how many grams of Al are required to produce 100g of aluminium sulphide?
aluminium and sulphur react to give aluminium sulphide how many grams of Al are required to produce 100g of aluminium sulphide?
150 comes from?
thank you very much
molar mass of Al2S3
what's periodic table
Why can't atom be created or destroyed
Jacaranda Reply
matter simply converts to pure energy
that's nice

Get the best Chemistry course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Chemistry' conversation and receive update notifications?