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Nuclear Energy

(The 1st Nuclear Chain Reaction, the UChicago, Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)


[World Nuclear Association]: Nuclear technology uses the energy released by splitting the atoms of certain elements. It was first developed in the 1940s, and during the Second World War research initially focused on producing bombs. In the 1950s attention turned to the peaceful use of nuclear fission, controlling it for power generation. 


The Nuclear Fuel Cycle

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle
(The Nuclear Fuel Cycle - World Nuclear Association)

  • The nuclear fuel cycle is the series of industrial processes which involve the production of electricity from uranium in nuclear power reactors.
  • Uranium is a relatively common element that is found throughout the world. It is mined in a number of countries and must be processed before it can be used as fuel for a nuclear reactor.
  • Fuel removed from a reactor, after it has reached the end of its useful life, can be reprocessed so that most is recycled for new fuel.

The various activities associated with the production of electricity from nuclear reactions are referred to collectively as the nuclear fuel cycle. The nuclear fuel cycle starts with the mining of uranium and ends with the disposal of nuclear waste. With the reprocessing of used fuel as an option for nuclear energy, the stages form a true cycle.

To prepare uranium for use in a nuclear reactor, it undergoes the steps of mining and milling, conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication. These steps make up the 'front end' of the nuclear fuel cycle.

After uranium has spent about three years in a reactor to produce electricity, the used fuel may undergo a further series of steps including temporary storage, reprocessing, and recycling before wastes are disposed. Collectively these steps are known as the 'back end' of the fuel cycle.


Nuclear Waste Storage


Next to climate change, nuclear waste storage is one of the biggest generation-spanning issues facing the world. The stakes are high; world powers like the US and the U.K get a fifth of their power from nuclear plants, while in France the share is 40 percent. This reliance makes the need for safe and sustinable storage obvious.

The Onkalo spent nuclear fuel repository is a deep geological repository for the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel, the first such repository in the world. It is currently under construction at the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant in the municipality of Eurajoki, on the west coast of Finland, by the company Posiva. It is based on the KBS-3 method of nuclear waste burial developed in Sweden by Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB).


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