Constructing by xuyuzhu



Nuclear power plants use the amazing power of the atom to generate electricity with a
very low fuel cost and much less pollution than fossil fuel plants. However, the
planning, building, and operating of a nuclear power plant is a long, costly, and very
complex process.

When the idea for nuclear power plants first came out, the Atomic Energy Commision
(AEC) claimed that it would be a cheap way of generating electricity. Compared with
fossil fuel power plants, nuclear power plants use very little fuel, so the cost is small,
but it is made up for in other areas. The AEC was wrong. In fact, today, nuclear
power plants cost just as much to build and run as coal plants do.

Nuclear power is generated using Uranium, which is a metal mined in various parts of
the world.

The first large-scale nuclear power station opened at Calder Hall in Cumbria,
England, in 1956.

Some military ships and submarines have nuclear power plants for engines.

Nuclear power produces around 11% of the world's energy needs, and produces huge
amounts of energy from small amounts of fuel, without the pollution that you'd get
from burning fossil fuels.


After an order is received to start working on a nuclear power plant, the long multi-
year process begins. The most important part of a plant is the nuclear reactor. That is
where the nuclear reactions take place. During these reactions radiation is released. To
make sure that none of this radiation is released into the environment, the building
that houses the reactor must be made to hold it in. The reactor is housed in a dome-
shaped building made with extremely thick walls of concrete and steel. The building
must be strong enough to stand even if a jet plane crashed into it!!

The engine house is the building where the control and computer rooms are located.
In the control room, engineers constantly keep watch over the entire power plant. If
something were to go wrong, an alarm would sound and by the simple push of a
button the problem would be automatically fixed. In the computer room, many
computers are constantly recording information on every little thing that happens in
the power plant. The construction of the buildings, the reactor, and the complex
electrical network needed to run the power plant could take years. Then electricity can
be generated.

The Generating Process

Billions and trillions of atoms, tiny little particles, make up all matter. Inside of an
atom, there is a core, or nucleus made up of protons and neutrons. When the nucleus
of an atom is split, nuclear fission occurs. That is what happens in the core of a
nuclear reactor, and is the start of the process of generating electricity in a nuclear
power plant.

Uranium, the most commom fuel, is placed in rods in the reactor's core. Free neutrons
are released into the core. When a neutron hits the nucleus of a uranium atom, fission
occurs, tremendous amouts of heat are released. When the nucleus was split 2 or 3
neutrons were set free. Those, in turn, split the nuclei of other atoms, setting more
neutrons free. A chain reaction takes place in the core creating large amounts of heat.
A coolant circulates around the rods of uranium in the core. The most used coolant is
water, but newer plants use liquid metal instead.

As you might have guessed, the coolant is used to keep the
reactor from getting too hot. It is also needed in the
generation process. The coolant absorbs the heat produced
by fission. It travels through tubes until it reaches the
steam boiler. Pressure inside the tubes prevents the coolant
from boiling. At the steam boiler, the heat from the coolant
passes through the tube walls and heats up sea water. The
sea water was pumped in from a nearby river or stream.
The heated sea water boils into steam. The steam travels
through pipes to a turbine. The steam causes a turbine to turn, which then turns a
generator to create electricity. (Back to Generating page for more information) After
the coolant releases its heat in the steam boiler, it circulates back around toward the
reactor's core. A pump keeps the coolant circulating so that none of its radioactivity
can escape.

If the core reaches the point where it is too hot, control rods are moved down into it.
The control rods are made of an element that absorbs excess neutrons. When the
control rods are moved into the core, they absorb neutrons, slowing down the chain
reaction. When this happens less fission occurs and the heat is reduced.


As of 2005, nuclear power provided 2.1% of the world's energy and 15% of the world's
electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for 56.5% of nuclear
generated electricity. In 2007, the IAEA reported there were 439 nuclear power reactors in
operation in the world, operating in 31 countries.

In 2007, nuclear power's share of global electricity generation dropped to 14%. According to
the International Atomic Energy Agency, the main reason for this was an earthquake in
western Japan on 16 July 2007, which shut down all seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-
Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. There were also several other reductions and "unusual
outages" experienced in Korea and Germany. Also, increases in the load factor for the
current fleet of reactors appear to have plateaued.
The United States produces the most nuclear energy, with nuclear power providing 19% of
the electricity it consumes, while France produces the highest percentage of its electrical
energy from nuclear reactors 78% as of 2006.In the European Union as a whole, nuclear
energy provides 30% of the electricity.Nuclear energy policy differs between European
Union countries, and some, such as Austria, Estonia, and Ireland, have no active nuclear
power stations. In comparison, France has a large number of these plants, with 16 multi-unit
stations in current use.

In the US, while the Coal and Gas Electricity industry is projected to be worth $85 billion by
2013, Nuclear Power generators are forecast to be worth $18 billion.

Many military and some civilian (such as some icebreaker) ships use nuclear marine
propulsion, a form of nuclear propulsion. A few space vehicles have been launched using
full-fledged nuclear reactors: the Soviet RORSAT series and the American SNAP-10A.

International research is continuing into safety improvements such as passively safe plants,
the use of nuclear fusion, and additional uses of process heat such as hydrogen production
(in support of a hydrogen economy), for desalinating sea water, and for use in district
heating systems.

Flexibility of nuclear power plants

It is often claimed that nuclear stations are inflexible in their output, implying that other,
typically fossil stations would be used to meet peak demand. Whilst it may have been true
for certain reactors, this is not longer true of at least some modern designs. Nuclear plants
are routinely used in load following mode on a large scale in France.

How much of the world's electricity comes from nuclear power?

Sixteen percent of the world's electricity is supplied by nuclear power, according to
the World Nuclear Association. The electricity is produced by 440 nuclear reactors in
31 countries.

The United States has the most reactors with a total of 104, according to the
International Atomic Energy Agency. The reactors are responsible for producing
nearly 20 percent of the country's electricity.

The country that gets the highest percentage of its electricity from nuclear power is
France. Its 59 reactors generate more than 78 percent of its electricity
How it works:

Nuclear power stations work in pretty much the same way as fossil fuel-burning
stations, except that a "chain reaction" inside a nuclear reactor makes the heat

The reactor uses Uranium rods as fuel, and the heat is generated by nuclear fission:
neutrons smash into the nucleus of the uranium atoms, which split roughly in half
and release energy in the form of heat .

Carbon dioxide gas or water is pumped through the reactor to take the heat away,
this then heats water to make steam .

The steam drives turbines which drive generators. Video clip: Nuclear reactor

Modern nuclear power stations use the same type of turbines and generators as
conventional power stations .

In Britain, nuclear power stations are often built on the coast, and use sea water for
cooling the steam ready to be pumped round again. This means that they don't have
the huge "cooling towers" seen at other power stations .

The reactor is controlled with "control rods", made of boron, which absorb neutrons.
When the rods are lowered into the reactor, they absorb more neutrons and the
fission process slows down. To generate more power, the rods are raised and more
neutrons can crash into uranium atoms .

Natural uranium is only 0.7% "uranium-235", which is the type of uranium that
undergoes fission in this type of reactor .

The rest is U-238, which just sits there getting in the way. Modern reactors use
"enriched" uranium fuel, which has a higher proportion of U-235 .

The fuel arrives encased in metal tubes, which are lowered into the reactor whilst it's
running, using a special crane sealed onto the top of the reactor .

With an AGR or Magnox station, carbon dioxide gas is blown through the reactor to
carry the heat away. Carbon dioxide is chosen because it is a very good coolant, able
to carry a great deal of heat energy. It also helps to reduce any fire risk in the reactor
(it's around 600 degrees Celsius in there) and it doesn't turn into anything nasty
(well, nothing long-lived and nasty) when it's bombarded with neutrons.

You have to be very careful about the materials you use to build reactors - some
materials will turn into horrible things in that environment. If a piece of metal in the
reactor pressure vessel turns brittle and snaps, you're probably in trouble - once the
reactor has been built and started you can't go in there to fix anything..

Uranium itself isn't particularly radioactive, so when the fuel rods arrive at the power
station they can be handled using thin plastic gloves. A rod can last for several years
before it needs replacing.

It's when the "spent" fuel rods are taken out of the reactor that you need the full
remote-control robot arms and Homer Simpson equipment

Why use nuclear power?

Unlike burning fossil fuels, using nuclear fission to generate electricity
produces no soot or greenhouse gases. This helps keep the skies clean and
doesn't contribute to global warming. The World Nuclear Association
estimates that the electricity industry would add 2.6 billion tons of carbon
dioxide to the atmosphere each year if it used coal power instead of nuclear.

Some governments also like nuclear power because it reduces their
dependency on foreign oil.

Finally, the fuel used to power nuclear reactors is very compact in comparison
to fossil fuels. For instance, one pound of uranium can supply the same energy
as 3 million pounds of coal. This makes it attractive for use in nuclear-
powered vehicles like submarines, aircraft carriers and spacecraft.

How does a nuclear power plant produce electricity?

A nuclear power plant is basically a steam power plant that is fueled by a
radioactive element, like uranium. The fuel is placed in a reactor and the
individual atoms are allowed to split apart. The splitting process, known as
fission, releases great amounts of energy. This energy is used to heat water
until it turns to steam.

From here, the mechanics of a steam power plant take over. The steam pushes
on turbines, which force coils of wire to interact with a magnetic field. This
generates an electric current.

Why does splitting a uranium atom release energy?

The answer has to do with Einstein's most famous equation -- E=mc² -- which
essentially says that energy is directly related to mass.
Under the right conditions, a uranium atom will split into two smaller atoms
and throw off two or sometimes three neutrons in the process. (Neutrons are
the glue that hold atoms together.)

The combined mass of these resulting particles tends to be roughly 99.9
percent of the mass of the original uranium atom. The other 0.1 percent of the
original mass got converted to energy, as Einstein described.

The energy is released in the form of gamma rays. These rays are similar to X-
rays and can cause burns, cancer and genetic mutations in living things. They
can be slowed or stopped with thick walls of concrete, lead or packed dirt.

Where do the extra neutrons go when the atom splits?

The neutrons hit other atoms in the reactor core, starting a chain reaction.
Initially, about 3 or 4 percent of the uranium atoms are uranium-235 -- the
same as the first set of atoms that split. If these atoms are hit with neutrons,
they split readily and throw off more energy and neutrons.

But the other 96 or 97 percent of the uranium atoms in the core initially are of
a type that is hard to split, known as uranium-238. If hit with a neutron, a
uranium-238 atom will absorb the neutron and eventually turn into
plutonium-239. It's not until these plutonium atoms are hit again with more
neutrons that they finally split and release energy.


       Nuclear power costs about the same as coal, so it's not expensive to make .

      Does not produce smoke or carbon dioxide, so it does not contribute to the
greenhouse effect.

       Produces huge amounts of energy from small amounts of fuel.

       Produces small amounts of waste.

       Nuclear power is reliable .



       Although not much waste is produced, it is very, very dangerous .

It must be sealed up and buried for many thousands of years to allow the
radioactivity to die away .

For all that time it must be kept safe from earthquakes, flooding, terrorists and
everything else. This is difficult.
       Nuclear power is reliable, but a lot of money has to be spent on safety - if it
does go wrong, a nuclear accident can be a major disaster .

People are increasingly concerned about this - in the 1990's nuclear power was the
fastest-growing source of power in much of the world. In 2005 it was the second

Nuclear Waste

During fission, very harmful radiation rays are released. The most harmful of which
are gamma rays. When the human body is exposed to radiation, it can cause tumors
and can do extreme damage to the reproductive organs. For this reason, problems
associated with radioactivity can be passed on to the victim's children as well. That is
why radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants is so dangerous.

After about 18 months in a reactor, fission begins to slow down, and the uranium rods
must be replaced. It takes about 2 months to remove the old rods and place in the new
ones. The used-up uranium rods are stuck in containers which are placed in
swimming-pool sized tanks of water. In these tanks, the old rods lose some of their
radioactivity and begin to cool down. However, many nuclear power plants are now
running into the problem of their water tanks getting full of the rods, and are in need
of a permanent storage place.

Many scientists have argued about a long term storage for our nuclear waste. Many
think the waste should be placed in concrete containers and buried far beneath the
Earth's surface. Others say that some of the waste should be loaded into rockets and
shot at the sun. Some countries have already decided on their plans. Canada is
currently looking at a plan to bury their radioactive waste underneath the Canadian
Shield. The United States has a plan to bury their waste underground in Nevada where
some nuclear experiments and tests have already been conducted. So far, continuing
debates have prevented much of anything from being done about nuclear waste.
Unfortunatelly, after buried underground, the nuclear waste can take millions of years
to decay.

Nuclear reactor technology

Just as many conventional thermal power stations generate electricity by harnessing the
thermal energy released from burning fossil fuels, nuclear power plants convert the energy
released from the nucleus of an atom, typically via nuclear fission.

When a relatively large fissile atomic nucleus (usually uranium-235 or plutonium-239)
absorbs a neutron, a fission of the atom often results. Fission splits the atom into two or
more smaller nuclei with kinetic energy (known as fission products) and also releases gamma
radiation and free neutrons. A portion of these neutrons may later be absorbed by other
fissile atoms and create more fissions, which release more neutrons, and so on.

This nuclear chain reaction can be controlled by using neutron poisons and neutron
moderators to change the portion of neutrons that will go on to cause more fissions. Nuclear
reactors generally have automatic and manual systems to shut the fission reaction down if
unsafe conditions are detected.

A cooling system removes heat from the reactor core and transports it to another area of
the plant, where the thermal energy can be harnessed to produce electricity or to do other
useful work. Typically the hot coolant will be used as a heat source for a boiler, and the
pressurized steam from that boiler will power one or more steam turbine driven electrical

There are many different reactor designs, utilizing different fuels and coolants and
incorporating different control schemes. Some of these designs have been engineered to
meet a specific need. Reactors for nuclear submarines and large naval ships, for example,
commonly use highly enriched uranium as a fuel. This fuel choice increases the reactor's
power density and extends the usable life of the nuclear fuel load, but is more expensive and
a greater risk to nuclear proliferation than some of the other nuclear fuels.

A number of new designs for nuclear power generation, collectively known as the
Generation IV reactors, are the subject of active research and may be used for practical
power generation in the future. Many of these new designs specifically attempt to make
fission reactors cleaner, safer and/or less of a risk to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Passively safe plants (such as the ESBWR) are available to be built and other designs that are
believed to be nearly fool-proof are being pursued. Fusion reactors, which may be viable in
the future, diminish or eliminate many of the risks associated with nuclear fission.

Life cycle

A nuclear reactor is only part of the life-cycle for nuclear power. The process starts with
mining (see Uranium mining). Uranium mines are underground, open-pit, or in-situ leach
mines. In any case, the uranium ore is extracted, usually converted into a stable and
compact form such as yellowcake, and then transported to a processing facility. Here, the
yellowcake is converted to uranium hexafluoride, which is then enriched using various
techniques. At this point, the enriched uranium, containing more than the natural 0.7% U-
235, is used to make rods of the proper composition and geometry for the particular reactor
that the fuel is destined for. The fuel rods will spend about 3 operational cycles (typically 6
years total now) inside the reactor, generally until about 3% of their uranium has been
fissioned, then they will be moved to a spent fuel pool where the short lived isotopes
generated by fission can decay away. After about 5 years in a cooling pond, the spent fuel is
radioactively and thermally cool enough to handle, and it can be moved to dry storage casks
or reprocessed.

Conventional fuel resources

Uranium is a fairly common element in the Earth's crust. Uranium is approximately as
common as tin or germanium in Earth's crust, and is about 35 times more common than
silver. Uranium is a constituent of most rocks, dirt, and of the oceans. The fact that uranium
is so spread out is a problem because mining uranium is only economically feasible where
there is a large concentration. Still, the world's present measured resources of uranium,
economically recoverable at a price of 130 USD/kg, are enough to last for "at least a century"
at current consumption rates. This represents a higher level of assured resources than is
normal for most minerals. On the basis of analogies with other metallic minerals, a doubling
of price from present levels could be expected to create about a tenfold increase in
measured resources, over time. However, the cost of nuclear power lies for the most part in
the construction of the power station. Therefore the fuel's contribution to the overall cost of
the electricity produced is relatively small, so even a large fuel price escalation will have
relatively little effect on final price. For instance, typically a doubling of the uranium market
price would increase the fuel cost for a light water reactor by 26% and the electricity cost
about 7%, whereas doubling the price of natural gas would typically add 70% to the price of
electricity from that source. At high enough prices, eventually extraction from sources such
as granite and seawater become economically feasible.[58][59]

Current light water reactors make relatively inefficient use of nuclear fuel, fissioning only the
very rare uranium-235 isotope. Nuclear reprocessing can make this waste reusable and
more efficient reactor designs allow better use of the available resources.


As opposed to current light water reactors which use uranium-235 (0.7% of all natural
uranium), fast breeder reactors use uranium-238 (99.3% of all natural uranium). It has been
estimated that there is up to five billion years’ worth of uranium-238 for use in these power

Breeder technology has been used in several reactors, but the high cost of reprocessing fuel
safely requires uranium prices of more than 200 USD/kg before becoming justified
economically. As of December 2005, the only breeder reactor producing power is BN-600 in
Beloyarsk, Russia. The electricity output of BN-600 is 600 MW Russia has planned to build
another unit, BN-800, at Beloyarsk nuclear power plant. Also, Japan's Monju reactor is
planned for restart (having been shut down since 1995), and both China and India intend to
build breeder reactors.
Another alternative would be to use uranium-233 bred from thorium as fission fuel in the
thorium fuel cycle. Thorium is about 3.5 times as common as uranium in the Earth's crust,
and has different geographic characteristics. This would extend the total practical fissionable
resource base by 450%.Unlike the breeding of U-238 into plutonium, fast breeder reactors
are not necessary it can be performed satisfactorily in more conventional plants. India has
looked into this technology, as it has abundant thorium reserves but little uranium.


Fusion power advocates commonly propose the use of deuterium, or tritium, both isotopes
of hydrogen, as fuel and in many current designs also lithium and boron. Assuming a fusion
energy output equal to the current global output and that this does not increase in the
future, then the known current lithium reserves would last 3000 years, lithium from sea
water would last 60 million years, and a more complicated fusion process using only
deuterium from sea water would have fuel for 150 billion years.[64] Although this process
has yet to be realized, many experts and civilians alike believe fusion to be a promising
future energy source due to the short lived radioactivity of the produced waste, its low
carbon emissions, and its prospective power output.


Like all forms of power generation using steam turbines, nuclear power plants use large
amounts of water for cooling. At Sellafield, which is no longer producing electricity, a
maximum of 18,184.4 m³ a day (over 4 million gallons) and 6,637,306 m³ a year (figures from
the Environment Agency) of fresh water from Wast Water is still abstracted to use on site for
various processes. As with most power plants, two-thirds of the energy produced by a
nuclear power plant goes into waste heat (see Carnot cycle), and that heat is carried away
from the plant in the water (which remains uncontaminated by radioactivity). The emitted
water either is sent into cooling towers where it goes up and is emitted as water droplets
(literally a cloud) or is discharged into large bodies of water — cooling ponds, lakes, rivers, or
oceans. Droughts can pose a severe problem by causing the source of cooling water to run

The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station near Phoenix, AZ is the only nuclear generating
facility in the world that is not located adjacent to a large body of water. Instead, it uses
treated sewage from several nearby municipalities to meet its cooling water needs, recycling
20 billion US gallons (76,000,000 m³) of wastewater each year.

Like conventional power plants, nuclear power plants generate large quantities of waste
heat which is expelled in the condenser, following the turbine. Colocation of plants that can
take advantage of this thermal energy has been suggested by Oak Ridge National Laboratory
(ORNL) as a way to take advantage of process synergy for added energy efficiency. One
example would be to use the power plant steam to produce hydrogen from water.
(Separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen can use less energy if the water begins at a
high temperature.)

Solid waste

The safe storage and disposal of nuclear waste is a significant challenge and yet unresolved
problem. The most important waste stream from nuclear power plants is spent fuel. A large
nuclear reactor produces 3 cubic metres (25–30 tonnes) of spent fuel each year. It is
primarily composed of unconverted uranium as well as significant quantities of transuranic
actinides (plutonium and curium, mostly). In addition, about 3% of it is made of fission
products. The actinides (uranium, plutonium, and curium) are responsible for the bulk of the
long term radioactivity, whereas the fission products are responsible for the bulk of the
short term radioactivity.

High-level radioactive waste

Spent fuel is highly radioactive and needs to be handled with great care and forethought.
However, spent nuclear fuel becomes less radioactive over the course of thousands of years
of time. After about 5 percent of the rod has reacted the rod is no longer able to be used.
Today, scientists are experimenting on how to recycle these rods to reduce waste. In the
meantime, after 40 years, the radiation flux is 99.9% lower than it was the moment the
spent fuel was removed, although still dangerously radioactive.

Spent fuel rods are stored in shielded basins of water (spent fuel pools), usually located on-
site. The water provides both cooling for the still-decaying fission products, and shielding
from the continuing radioactivity. After a few decades some on-site storage involves moving
the now cooler, less radioactive fuel to a dry-storage facility or dry cask storage, where the
fuel is stored in steel and concrete containers until its radioactivity decreases naturally
("decays") to levels safe enough for other processing. This interim stage spans years or
decades or millennia, depending on the type of fuel. Most U.S. waste is currently stored in
temporary storage sites requiring oversight, while suitable permanent disposal methods are

As of 2007, the United States had accumulated more than 50,000 metric tons of spent
nuclear fuel from nuclear reactors. Underground storage at Yucca Mountain nuclear waste
repository in U.S. has been proposed as permanent storage. After 10,000 years of
radioactive decay, according to United States Environmental Protection Agency standards,
the spent nuclear fuel will no longer pose a threat to public health and safety.[citation
The amount of waste can be reduced in several ways, particularly reprocessing. Even so, the
remaining waste will be substantially radioactive for at least 300 years even if the actinides
are removed, and for up to thousands of years if the actinides are left in.[citation needed]
Even with separation of all actinides, and using fast breeder reactors to destroy by
transmutation some of the longer-lived non-actinides as well, the waste must be segregated
from the environment for one to a few hundred years, and therefore this is properly
categorized as a long-term problem. Subcritical reactors or fusion reactors could also reduce
the time the waste has to be stored.It has been argued[who?] that the best solution for the
nuclear waste is above ground temporary storage since technology is rapidly changing.
There is hope that current waste may well become a valuable resource in the future.

According to a 2007 story broadcast on 60 Minutes, nuclear power gives France the cleanest
air of any industrialized country, and the cheapest electricity in all of Europe.[73] France
reprocesses its nuclear waste to reduce its mass and make more energy.[74] However, the
article continues, "Today we stock containers of waste because currently scientists don't
know how to reduce or eliminate the toxicity, but maybe in 100 years perhaps scientists
will... Nuclear waste is an enormously difficult political problem which to date no country
has solved. It is, in a sense, the Achilles heel of the nuclear industry... If France is unable to
solve this issue, says Mandil, then 'I do not see how we can continue our nuclear program.'"
Further, reprocessing itself has its critics, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Low-level radioactive waste

The nuclear industry also produces a huge volume of low-level radioactive waste in the form
of contaminated items like clothing, hand tools, water purifier resins, and (upon
decommissioning) the materials of which the reactor itself is built. In the United States, the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission has repeatedly attempted to allow low-level materials to be
handled as normal waste: landfilled, recycled into consumer items, et cetera.[citation
needed] Most low-level waste releases very low levels of radioactivity and is only considered
radioactive waste because of its history.

Comparing radioactive waste to industrial toxic waste

In countries with nuclear power, radioactive wastes comprise less than 1% of total industrial
toxic wastes, which remain hazardous indefinitely unless they decompose or are treated so
that they are less toxic or, ideally, completely non-toxic. Overall, nuclear power produces far
less waste material than fossil-fuel based power plants. Coal-burning plants are particularly
noted for producing large amounts of toxic and mildly radioactive ash due to concentrating
naturally occurring metals and radioactive material from the coal.

Recent reports claim that coal power actually results in more radioactive waste being
released into the environment than nuclear power, and that the population effective dose
equivalent from radiation from coal plants is 100 times as much as nuclear plants. However,
reputable journals point out that coal ash is not more radioactive than nuclear waste, and
the differences in exposure lie in the fact that nuclear plants use heavy shielding to protect
the environment from the heavily irradiated reactor vessel, fuel rods, and any radioactive
waste on site.


Reprocessing can potentially recover up to 95% of the remaining uranium and plutonium in
spent nuclear fuel, putting it into new mixed oxide fuel. This produces a reduction in long
term radioactivity within the remaining waste, since this is largely short-lived fission
products, and reduces its volume by over 90%. Reprocessing of civilian fuel from power
reactors is currently done on large scale in Britain, France and (formerly) Russia, soon will be
done in China and perhaps India, and is being done on an expanding scale in Japan. The full
potential of reprocessing has not been achieved because it requires breeder reactors, which
are not yet commercially available. France is generally cited as the most successful
reprocessor, but it presently only recycles 28% (by mass) of the yearly fuel use, 7% within
France and another 21% in Russia.

Unlike other countries, the US stopped civilian reprocessing from 1976 to 1981 as one part
of US non-proliferation policy, since reprocessed material such as plutonium could be used
in nuclear weapons: however, reprocessing is now allowed in the U.S. Even so, in the U.S.
spent nuclear fuel is currently all treated as waste.

In February, 2006, a new U.S. initiative, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership was
announced. It would be an international effort to reprocess fuel in a manner making nuclear
proliferation unfeasible, while making nuclear power available to developing countries.

Depleted uranium

Uranium enrichment produces many tons of depleted uranium (DU) which consists of U-238
with most of the easily fissile U-235 isotope removed. U-238 is a tough metal with several
commercial uses for example, aircraft production, radiation shielding, and armor as it has a
higher density than lead. Depleted uranium is also useful in munitions as DU penetrators
(bullets or APFSDS tips) "self sharpen", due to uranium's tendency to fracture along shear

There are concerns that U-238 may lead to health problems in groups exposed to this
material excessively, such as tank crews and civilians living in areas where large quantities of
DU ammunition have been used in shielding, bombs, missile warheads, and bullets. In
January 2003 the World Health Organization released a report finding that contamination
from DU munitions were localized to a few tens of meters from the impact sites and
contamination of local vegetation and water was 'extremely low'. The report also states that
approximately 70% of ingested DU will leave the body after twenty four hours and 90% after
a few days.
Debate on nuclear power

Proponents of nuclear energy contend that nuclear power is a sustainable energy source
that does not create air pollution, reduces carbon emissions and increases energy security
by decreasing dependence on foreign oil. The operational safety record of nuclear plants in
the Western world is far better when compared to the other major types of power plants.
With the exception of Chernobyl, no radiation-related fatalities ever occurred at any
commercial nuclear power plant. Optimists point out that the volume of radioactive waste is
very small, and claim it can be stored safely deep underground. Future designs of reactors
are promised to eliminate almost all waste.

Critics believe that nuclear power is a potentially dangerous energy source, with decreasing
proportion of nuclear energy in production. They claim that radioactive waste cannot be
stored safely for long periods of time, that there is a continuing possibility of radioactive
contamination by accident or sabotage, and that exporting nuclear technology to other
countries might lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The recent slow rate of growth
of installed nuclear capacity is said to indicate that nuclear reactors cannot be built fast
enough to slow down climate change. Nuclear power plants are also criticized due to their
centralized generation of electricity.

Arguments of economics and safety are used by both sides of the debate.

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