Nuclear Fuel Supply

  • Günther Kessler
Part of the Topics in Energy book series (TENE)


The exploitation of nuclear power in power plants begins with the only fissile isotope occurring naturally, U-235. This isotope is contained in natural uranium in an abundance of 0.72%, the balance being 99.28% of U-238. Natural uranium can be found in uranium ores in varying concentrations ranging from fractions of a percent up to several percent. It must be extracted as uranium oxide by open pit mining or underground mining and subsequent ore dressing (Fig. 3–1). Since most reactor types require U-235 fuel with a low enrichment, uranium oxide is converted into gaseous uranium hexafluoride (UF6) and raised to the desired enrichment level in isotope enrichment plants. This produces depleted uranium with a U-235 content of approx. 0.2%, which is first stored and can later be used as a fuel, e.g., in fast breeder reactors. Enriched UF6 is reconverted into UO2 in a chemical conversion process, fabricated into cyhndrical pellets, which are stacked in zircaloy or steel tubes and then assembled into fuel elements. These fuel elements are loaded in the core of the reactor plant, where they generate nuclear power through fission processes. In this process, the enrichment in the U-235 isotope is reduced continuously, while radioactive fission products and transuranium isotopes are produced. After having generated energy in the core, the fuel elements are unloaded and, after short interim storage in the reactor plant, shipped to an intermediate storage facility for spent fuel.


Fuel Element Uranium Oxide Natural Uranium Cost Category Uranium Enrichment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Selected Literature

Uranium resources and requirement

  1. Best, F.R., Driscoll, M.J.: The Prospects for Uranium Recovery from Seawater. In: 1980 Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, Nev., June 9–12, 1980. American Nuclear Society Transactions 34, 380–381 (1980).Google Scholar
  2. Connolly, T.J., et al.: World Nuclear Energy Paths. New York-London: The Rockefeller Foundation/The Royal Institute of International Affairs. 1979.Google Scholar
  3. Evaluation of Uranium Resources. Proceedings of an Advisory Group Meeting. Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency. 1979.Google Scholar
  4. International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation, Fuel and Heavy Water Availability. Report of INFCE Working Group 1. Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency. 1980.Google Scholar
  5. International Uranium Resources Evaluation Project (IUREP), Report on Phase 1. San Francisco, Cal.: Miller Freeman. 1980.Google Scholar
  6. Problems of US Uranium Resources and Supply to the Year 2010, National Research Council, Supporting Paper No. 1. Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems (CONAES), Uranium Resource Group. Washington: National Academy of Science. 1978.Google Scholar
  7. Uranium: Resources, Production and Demand. A Joint Report by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. 1979 and 1982.Google Scholar

Uranium enrichment

  1. Becker, E.W., et al.: Uranium Enrichment by the Separation Nozzle Method Within the Framework of German/Brazilian Cooperation. Nuclear Technology 52, 105–114 (1981).Google Scholar
  2. Cohen, K.: The Theory of Isotope Separation as Applied to the Large-Scale Production of U-235. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1951.Google Scholar
  3. Ehrfeld, W., Ehrfeld, U.: Anreicherung von U-235. In: Gmelin Handbuch der Anorganischen Chemie, Uran, Ergänzungsband 2A, Isotope. Berlin-Heidelberg-New York: Springer. 1980.Google Scholar
  4. International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation, Enrichment Availability. Report of INFCE Working Group 2. Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency. 1980.Google Scholar
  5. Uranium Enrichment (Villani, S., ed.). Topics in Applied Physics, Vol. 35. Berlin-Heidelberg-New York: Springer. 1979.Google Scholar

Technology of uranium fuel

  1. Benedict, M., et al.: Nuclear Chemical Engineering. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1981.Google Scholar
  2. Brandberg, S.G.: The Conversion of Uranium Hexafluoride to Uranium Dioxide. Nuclear Technology 18, 177–184 (1973).Google Scholar
  3. Hackstein, K.G., Plöger, F.: Neue Anlage zur Erzeugung von UO2-Pulver aus UFg. Atomwirtschaft/Atomtechnik 12, 524–526 (1967).Google Scholar
  4. Hardy, C.J.: The Chemistry of Uranium Milling. Radiochimica Acta 25, 121–134 (1978).Google Scholar
  5. Kernbrennstoffkreislauf, Band I (Keller, C., Möllinger, H., eds.). Heidelberg: Dr. Alfred Hüthig. 1978.Google Scholar
  6. Schneider, V.W., Plöger, F.: Herstellung von Brennelementen. In: Chemie der nuklearen Entsorgung, Teil I (Baumgärtner, F., ed.), pp. 115–138. München: Karl Thiemig. 1978.Google Scholar
  7. Seidel, D.C.: Extracting Uranium from Its Ores. International Atomic Energy Agency Bulletin 23 (2), 24–28 (1981).MathSciNetGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Günther Kessler
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Neutronenphysik und ReaktortechnikKernforschungszentrum KarlsruheFederal Republic of Germany

Personalised recommendations