Environmental Impact of Atmospheric Carbon-14 Emissions Resulting from the Nuclear Energy Cycle

  • R. L. Otlet
  • M. J. Fulker
  • A. J. Walker


The Nuclear Energy Cycle comprises all the stages involved in the generation of power from fission (and possibly fusion in the future), and presently includes mining and milling, fuel fabrication, its utilization during reactor running, post-reactor handling (including reprocessing) and the subsequent disposal or storage of waste. During reactor running, 14C is produced in the fuel, moderator, coolant and structural materials. A small amount (estimated at only a few percent of the total) may be produced during the fission process itself by ternary fission, but the major fraction is produced by the neutron activation reactions given in Table 32.1. The target nuclei exist in the basic components of the reactor, such as the coolant and moderator, or in impurities in the fuel and reactor materials generally. The most important contribution to the total 14C produced comes from nitrogen impurities in these materials via the familiar 14N(n,p)14C reaction. Consequently, although the activation cross-sections are well known for the neutron spectra of the different reactor types, estimation of the quantities of 14C actually produced is often complicated by difficulty in assessing precise levels of nitrogen impurity present in the various target materials (Bush, Smith & White 1984).


Tree Ring Nuclear Fuel Cycle Ternary Fission Nitrogen Impurity Collective Dose 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. L. Otlet
  • M. J. Fulker
  • A. J. Walker

There are no affiliations available

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