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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

Le chatelier's principle
Adepoju Reply
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Faith Reply
3 isotopes
3 isotopes
an lmportant medical use of nuclear radiation is
Faith Reply
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the minimum amount of energy required for effective collosion btw reacting particle is known as
the minimum amount of energy required for effective collosion btw reacting particle is known as
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state the periodic law
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the modern periodic state dat element are arranged in row and column according to their atomic number
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What is matter
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something that absorbs some form energy
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why is borontrihydride considered a Lewis acid
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electronic configuration
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Pls what is the structural formula for propanonitrile
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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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