Nuclear reaction is the process in which either the parent atom decays and produces various atoms and radiation (Nuclear Fission) or two atoms combine to produce a massive atom which also releases some radiation (Nuclear Fusion). Both type of the nuclear reaction releases higher amount of energy, in the form of heat. The heat produced by them (especially nuclear fission) is used in nuclear Power. Nuclear Fission is the process in which the parent atom decays to form daughter atoms and emits some radiation in between the process. After any nuclear reaction there is a product formed which is highly radioactive and termed as nuclear waste.
Nuclear Power is one of the most growing energy source used widely in the world today and expected to be growing hugely in future. The major advantage of using nuclear power is that it doesn’t produce carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas) which is contributing highly for global warming and climate change. None of the other energy source can be seen as the replacement for coal and fossil fuels except for the nuclear energy. It produces almost 11% of world’s electricity.
Nuclear technology was first developed in 1940, especially to produce bombs during the first world war. However later in 1950, it was used for peaceful purpose for producing electricity. Sixteen countries depend on nuclear energy for at least one quarter of their electricity. France which is highly dependent in nuclear energy produce almost three quarters of its electricity from nuclear energy. It produces around 20% of electricity used in U.S. though it is the country with highest nuclear generation capacity.
Nuclear power uses nuclear fuel cycle. It consists of process like mining to disposal. The first step include:
The nuclear fuel cycle is generally carried out by the mining of Uranium. It is essential to find where can we find the required Uranium and mine them to extract the Uranium. It requires various techniques like radioactive surveys, sampling of soils. As soon as the exploration is completed and located, mining is done very carefully by determining the amount of Uranium available and the cost to recover it.
When the Uranium is found and it is estimated that the mining will be economically feasible, the mining is carried out. The four different methods to mine includes underround mining, open pit mining, in-situ solution mining and heap leaching. Before 1980, Uranium in US were extracted from open pit or underground method but now in-situ leach (ISL) is followed commomnly. Here a solution clled lixiviant (a slightly high pH solution) is injected through well into ore to dissolve uranium, which is recovered in the pile.
– Uranium Miling:
The solution is circulated through the raisin bed to separate it and make it more concentrated. The concentrated uranium is produced by ion separation which is mostly bright yellow in color and is known as yellowcake. The solid waste is returned where mining is repeated.
– Uranium conservation:
This step includes the conversion of Yellowstone to a gas called uranium hexafluoride. (UF6). There are three different isotopes of Uranium i.e. U-234, U-235, U-238, among which U-235 is preferred for more efficiency. The uranium hexafluoride is also termed as the natural UF6 because it contains the original amount of all the isotopes i.e. the natural form without changing the concentration.
– Uranium enrichment:
The next step include enrichment. It is the process in which the gas (UF^) is sent to an enrichment plant to separate the isotopes to produce an enriched UF6, which have 4 to 5 percentiles of the concentration of U-235.The enriched UF6 is allowed to cool and solidified before it is transported to a nuclear plant. AVLIS and MLIS are new enrichment technology that will be used in future which will produce more concentrated uranium quicker than other techniques.
– Uranium reconversion and nuclear fuel fabrication:
Once the uranium is transported, the enriched uranium is ready to be converted to nuclear fuel , which is heated to form gaseous form, and chemically reacted to form uranium dioxide(UO2) powder. The powder is converted to form small ceramic fuel pellets which are stacked to form a metal ball about 0.5 cm in radius to form a fuel rod. The rods are then kept together to form a nuclear assembly which has 179 to 264 fuel rods according to the reactor which may hold 121 to 193 fuel assemblies.
– At the reactor:
The truck will help the transportation of the assembled fuel which are stored in the storage fuel until it comes for the time for the reaction. The uranium may be little radioactive in this situation All the radiation is controlled in the metal tube which is about some inches thick. The core is about 6 feet in radius and height is about 14 feet enclosed inside a high pressure steel wall.
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