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Nuclear power is produced by controlled (i.e., non-explosive) nuclear reactions. Commercial and utility plants currently use nuclear fission reactions to heat water to produce steam, which is then used to generate electricity     (Dell XPS M1210 Batteryhttp://www.hdd-shop.co.uk .

In 2009, 13–14% of the world's electricity came from nuclear power. Also, more than 150 naval vessels using nuclear propulsion have been built.

Use

As of 2005, nuclear power provided 6.3% 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  (Dell Studio XPS 1340 Battery)     .

In 2007, the IAEA reported there were 439 nuclear power reactors in operation in the world, operating in 31 countries. As of December 2009, the world had 436 reactors. Since commercial nuclear energy began in the mid 1950s, 2008 was the first year that no new nuclear power plant was connected to the grid, although two were connected in 2009   (Dell Studio XPS 1640 Battery)   .

Annual generation of nuclear power has been on a slight downward trend since 2007, decreasing 1.8% in 2009 to 2558 TWh with nuclear power meeting 13–14% of the world's electricity demand.One factor in the nuclear power percentage decrease since 2007 has been the prolonged shutdown of large reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Japan following the Niigata-Chuetsu-Oki earthquake   (Dell Vostro 1710 Battery)     .

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—80% as of 2006. In the European Union as a whole, nuclear energy provides 30% of the electricity    (Sony VGP-BPS13 battery)    .

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     (Sony VGP-BPS13/B battery)    .

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  (Sony VGP-BPS13/S battery)     .

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      (Sony VGP-BPS13A/B battery)       .

Nuclear fusion

Nuclear fusion reactions have the potential to be safer and generate less radioactive waste than fission.These reactions appear potentially viable, though technically quite difficult and have yet to be created on a scale that could be used in a functional power plant. Fusion power has been under intense theoretical and experimental investigation since the 1950s   (Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery)      .

Use in space

Both fission and fusion appear promising for space propulsion applications, generating higher mission velocities with less reaction mass. This is due to the much higher energy density of nuclear reactions: some 7 orders of magnitude (10,000,000 times) more energetic than the chemical reactions which power the current generation of rockets     (Sony VGP-BPL9 battery)      .

Radioactive decay has been used on a relatively small (few kW) scale, mostly to power space missions and experiments by using radioisotope thermoelectric generators such as those developed at Idaho National Laboratory   (Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery) .

History

Origins

The pursuit of nuclear energy for electricity generation began soon after the discovery in the early 20th century that radioactive elements, such as radium, released immense amounts of energy, according to the principle of mass–energy equivalence  (Sony VGP-BPL11 battery)       .

However, means of harnessing such energy was impractical, because intensely radioactive elements were, by their very nature, short-lived (high energy release is correlated with short half-lives). However, the dream of harnessing "atomic energy" was quite strong, even it was dismissed by such fathers of nuclear physics like Ernest Rutherfordas "moonshine    (Sony VGP-BPL15 battery) ."

This situation, however, changed in the late 1930s, with the discovery of nuclear fission.

In 1932, James Chadwick discovered the neutron, which was immediately recognized as a potential tool for nuclear experimentation because of its lack of an electric charge    (Dell Inspiron E1505 battery)    .

Experimentation with bombardment of materials with neutrons led Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie to discover induced radioactivity in 1934, which allowed the creation of radium-like elements at much less the price of natural radium. Further work by Enrico Fermi in the 1930s focused on using slow neutrons to increase the effectiveness of induced radioactivity      (Dell Latitude E6400 battery) .

Experiments bombarding uranium with neutrons led Fermi to believe he had created a new, transuranic element, which he dubbed hesperium.

But in 1938, German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann, along with Austrian physicist Lise Meitner and Meitner's nephew, Otto Robert Frisch    (HP Pavilion dv6000 Battery)   ,

conducted experiments with the products of neutron-bombarded uranium, as a means of further investigating Fermi's claims. They determined that the relatively tiny neutron split the nucleus of the massive uranium atoms into two roughly equal pieces, contradicting Fermi    (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31S battery)    .

This was an extremely surprising result: all other forms of nuclear decay involved only small changes to the mass of the nucleus, whereas this process—dubbed "fission" as a reference to biology—involved a complete rupture of the nucleus. Numerous scientists, including Leo Szilard     (Sony VGN-FZ31S battery)     ,

who was one of the first, recognized that if fission reactions released additional neutrons, a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction could result. Once this was experimentally confirmed and announced by Frédéric Joliot-Curie in 1939, scientists in many countries (including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Soviet Union) petitioned their governments for support of nuclear fission research, just on the cusp of World War II  (Hp pavilion dv6000 battery)     .

In the United States, where Fermi and Szilard had both emigrated, this led to the creation of the first man-made reactor, known as Chicago Pile-1, which achieved criticality on December 2, 1942. This work became part of the Manhattan Project, which built large reactors at the Hanford Site    (SONY VGN-FZ38M Battery)

(formerly the town ofHanford, Washington) to breed plutonium for use in the first nuclear weapons, which were used on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A parallel uraniumenrichment effort also was pursued.

After World War II, the prospects of using "atomic energy" for good, rather than simply for war, were greatly advocated as a reason not to keep all nuclear research controlled by military organizations       (SONY VGN-FZ31z Battery)     .

However, most scientists agreed that civilian nuclear power would take at least a decade to master, and the fact that nuclear reactors also produced weapons-usable plutonium created a situation in which most national governments (such as those in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the USSR) attempted to keep reactor research under strict government control and classification (Sony VGN-FZ31Z Battery)     .

In the United States, reactor research was conducted by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, primarily at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Hanford Site, and Argonne National Laboratory.

Work in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and USSR proceeded over the course of the late 1940s and early 1950s  (SONY VGN-FZ31E Battery)   .

Electricity was generated for the first time by a nuclear reactor on December 20, 1951, at the EBR-Iexperimental station near Arco, Idaho, which initially produced about 100 kW. Work was also strongly researched in the US on nuclear marine propulsion, with a test reactor being developed by 1953      (SONY  VGN-FZ31J Battery)      .

(Eventually, the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, would launch in 1955.) In 1953, US President Dwight Eisenhower gave his "Atoms for Peace" speech at the United Nations, emphasizing the need to develop "peaceful" uses of nuclear power quickly(SONY VGN-FZ31M Battery)  .

This was followed by the 1954 Amendments to the Atomic Energy Act which allowed rapid declassification of U.S. reactor technology and encouraged development by the private sector.

Early years

On June 27, 1954, the USSR's Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant became the world's first nuclear power plant to generate electricity for a power grid, and produced around 5 megawatts of electric power    (SONY VGN-FZ31B Battery)     .

Later in 1954, Lewis Strauss, then chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission (U.S. AEC, forerunner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the United States Department of Energy) spoke of electricity in the future being "too cheap to meter"   (SONY VGP-BPS13 Battery)      .

Strauss was referring to hydrogen fusion- which was secretly being developed as part of Project Sherwood at the time - but Strauss's statement was interpreted as a promise of very cheap energy from nuclear fission. The U.S. AEC itself had issued far more conservative testimony regarding nuclear fission to the U.S     (Dell Inspiron 1320 Battery)   .

Congress only months before, projecting that "costs can be brought down... [to]... about the same as the cost of electricity from conventional sources..." Significant disappointment would develop later on, when the new nuclear plants did not provide energy "too cheap to meter    (Dell Inspiron 1320n Battery)      ."

In 1955 the United Nations' "First Geneva Conference", then the world's largest gathering of scientists and engineers, met to explore the technology. In 1957EURATOM was launched alongside the European Economic Community (the latter is now the European Union)     (Dell Inspiron 1464 Battery)      .

The same year also saw the launch of theInternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The world's first commercial nuclear power station, Calder Hall in Sellafield, England was opened in 1956 with an initial capacity of 50 MW (later 200 MW)       (Dell Inspiron 1564 Battery)    .

The first commercial nuclear generator to become operational in the United States was the Shippingport Reactor (Pennsylvania, December 1957).

One of the first organizations to develop nuclear power was the U.S. Navy, for the purpose of propelling submarines and aircraft carriers     (Dell Inspiron 1764 Battery)   .

It has an unblemished record in nuclear safety,perhaps because of the stringent demands of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, who was the driving force behind nuclear marine propulsion as well as the Shippingport Reactor (Alvin Radkowsky was chief scientist at the U.S. Navy nuclear propulsion division, and was involved with the latter)     (Dell Studio 1450 Battery)      .

The U.S. Navy has operated more nuclear reactors than any other entity, including the Soviet Navy, with no publicly known major incidents. The first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), was put to sea in December 1954. Two U.S. nuclear submarines, USS Scorpion and USS Thresher, have been lost at sea       (Dell Studio 1457 Battery)    .

These vessels were both lost due to malfunctions in systems not related to the reactor plants. The sites are monitored and no known leakage has occurred from the onboard reactors. The United States Army also had a nuclear power program, beginning in 1954. The SM-1 Nuclear Power Plant    (Dell Latitude D610 Battery)   ,

at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, was the first power reactor in the US to supply electrical energy to a commercial grid (VEPCO), in April 1957, before Shippingport.

Development

Installed nuclear capacity initially rose relatively quickly, rising from less than 1 gigawatt (GW) in 1960 to 100 GW in the late 1970s, and 300 GW in the late 1980s  (Toshiba NB100 Battery)    .

Since the late 1980s worldwide capacity has risen much more slowly, reaching 366 GW in 2005. Between around 1970 and 1990, more than 50 GW of capacity was under construction (peaking at over 150 GW in the late 70s and early 80s) — in 2005, around 25 GW of new capacity was planned      (Toshiba Satellite M65 battery)   .

More than two-thirds of all nuclear plants ordered after January 1970 were eventually cancelled. A total of 63 nuclear units were canceled in the USA between 1975 and 1980.

During the 1970s and 1980s rising economic costs (related to extended construction times largely due to regulatory changes and pressure-group litigation) and falling fossil fuel prices made nuclear power plants then under construction less attractive   (Toshiba Satellite M60 battery)     .

In the 1980s (U.S.) and 1990s (Europe), flat load growth and electricity liberalization also made the addition of large new baseload capacity unattractive.

The 1973 oil crisis had a significant effect on countries, such as France and Japan, which had relied more heavily on oil for electric generation (39% and 73% respectively) to invest in nuclear power      (Dell Latitude D830 Battery)    .

Today, nuclear power supplies about 80% and 30% of the electricity in those countries, respectively.

A general movement against nuclear power arose during the last third of the 20th century, based on the fear of a possible nuclear accident as well as the history of accidents     (Dell Latitude D620 Battery)     ,

fears of radiation as well as the history of radiation of the public, nuclear proliferation, and on the opposition to nuclear waste production, transport and lack of any final storage plans. Protest movements against nuclear power first emerged in the USA in the late 1970s and spread quickly to Europe and the rest of the world      (Dell Studio 1735 Battery)   .

Anti-nuclear power groups emerged in every country that has had a nuclear power programme. Some of these anti-nuclear power organisations are reported to have developed considerable expertise on nuclear power and energy issues       (Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Battery)     .

In 1992, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that "his agency had been pushed in the right direction on safety issues because of the pleas and protests of nuclear watchdog groups".

Health and safety concerns, the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster played a part in stopping new plant construction in many countries  (Sony VGN-FW11S Battery)   ,

although the public policy organization Brookings Institution suggests that new nuclear units have not been ordered in the U.S. because of soft demand for electricity, and cost overruns on nuclear plants due to regulatory issues and construction delays.

Unlike the Three Mile Island accident       (Sony VGN-FW11M Battery)     ,

the much more serious Chernobyl accident did not increase regulations affecting Western reactors since the Chernobyl reactors were of the problematic RBMKdesign only used in the Soviet Union, for example lacking "robust" containment buildings. Many of these reactors are still in use today  (Sony VGN-FW139E/H battery)     .

However, changes were made in both the reactors themselves (use of low enriched uranium) and in the control system (prevention of disabling safety systems) to reduce the possibility of a duplicate accident.

An international organization to promote safety awareness and professional development on operators in nuclear facilities was created: WANO; World Association of Nuclear Operators     (Dell Latitude E5400 Battery)    .

Opposition in Ireland and Poland prevented nuclear programs there, while Austria (1978), Sweden (1980) and Italy (1987) (influenced by Chernobyl) voted in referendums to oppose or phase out nuclear power. In July 2009, the Italian Parliament passed a law that canceled the results of an earlier referendum and allowed the immediate start of the Italian nuclear program     (Dell Latitude E4200 Battery)      .

One Italian minister even called the nuclear phase-out a "terrible mistake".

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     (Dell Vostro A840 Battery)      .

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     (Dell Inspiron 300M Battery)        .

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     (Dell Studio 1737 battery)      .

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     (Dell Inspiron E1505 battery)     .

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 generators.

There are many different reactor designs, utilizing different fuels and coolants and incorporating different control schemes      (Dell Latitude E6400 battery)      .

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    (Dell RM791 battery)      .

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     (Dell XPS M1530 battery)    .

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      (Dell XPS M2010 battery)   .

Flexibility of nuclear power plants

It is often claimed that nuclear stations are inflexible in their output, implying that other forms of energy would be required to meet peak demand. While that is true for certain reactors, this is no longer true of at least some modern designs.

Nuclear plants are routinely used in load following mode on a large scale in France     (Dell Vostro 1000 battery)      .

Boiling water reactors normally have load-following capability, implemented by varying the recirculation water flow.

The nuclear fuel cycle begins when uranium is mined, enriched, and manufactured into nuclear fuel, (1) which is delivered to a nuclear power plant       (Acer Aspire One battery)     .

After usage in the power plant, the spent fuel is delivered to a reprocessing plant (2) or to a final repository (3) for geological disposition. In reprocessing 95% of spent fuel can be recycled to be returned to usage in a power plant (4).

Main article: Nuclear fuel cycle

A nuclear reactor is only part of the life-cycle for nuclear power. The process starts with mining (see Uranium mining) (Toshiba Satellite P10 Battery)    .

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   (SONY VGN-FZ210CE Battery)    .

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      (Dell Precision M70 Battery)     ,

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       (Toshiba Satellite L305 Battery)      .

Conventional fuel resources

Main articles: Uranium market and Energy development - Nuclear energy

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 40 times more common than silver   (Toshiba Satellite T4900 Battery)    .

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     (Toshiba PA3399U-2BRS battery)    .

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     (Toshiba Satellite A200 Battery)      .

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       (Toshiba Satellite 1200 Battery)       .

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       (Toshiba Satellite M300 Battery)      .

At high enough prices, eventually extraction from sources such as granite and seawater become economically feasible.

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     (WD passport essential (500GB/640GB) .

Breeding

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 plants    (WD passport essential (250GB/320GB) .

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       (WD  passport essential SE (750GB/1TB)   .

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     (WD  passport elite(250GB/320GB) .

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%     (WD passport elite(500GB/640GB) .

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      (WD  passport studio for Mac(320GB/500GB) .

Fusion

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     (WD  passport studio for Mac(500GB/640GB) ,

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. Although this process has yet to be realized        (WD  Elements series(250GB/320GB) ,

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      (WD  Elements SE(500GB/640GB) .

Solid waste

The most important waste stream from nuclear power plants is spent nuclear fuel. It is primarily composed of unconverted uranium as well as significant quantities of transuranic actinides (plutonium and curium, mostly)       (WD Elements SE(750GB/1TB) .

In addition, about 3% of it is fission products from nuclear reactions. 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       (WD  Elements desktop(500GB/640GB) .

High-level radioactive waste

After about 5 percent of a nuclear fuel rod has reacted inside a nuclear reactor that rod is no longer able to be used as fuel (due to the build-up of fission products). Today, scientists are experimenting on how to recycle these rods so as to reduce waste and use the remaining actinides as fuel (large-scale reprocessing is being used in a number of countries)     (WD  Elements desktop(750GB/1TB) .

A typical 1000-MWe nuclear reactor produces approximately 20 cubic meters (about 27 tonnes) of spent nuclear fuel each year (but only 3 cubic meters of vitrified volume if reprocessed). All the spent fuel produced to date by all commercial nuclear power plants in the US would cover a football field to the depth of about one meter       (WD  Elements desktop(1.5 TB/2TB) .

Spent nuclear fuel is initially very highly radioactive and so must be handled with great care and forethought. However, it becomes significantly less radioactive over the course of thousands of years of time. After 40 years, the radiation flux is 99.9% lower than it was the moment the spent fuel was removed from operation       (WD  passport essential SE (750GB/1TB)--USB 3.0)    ,

although the spent fuel is still dangerously radioactive at that time. 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.

When first extracted, spent fuel rods are stored in shielded basins of water (spent fuel pools), usually located on-site        (WD  passport essential (500GB/640GB) .

The water provides both cooling for the still-decaying fission products, and shielding from the continuing radioactivity. After a period of time (generally five years for US plants), the now cooler, less radioactive fuel is typically moved to a dry-storage facility or dry cask storage, where the fuel is stored in steel and concrete containers       (WD  passport for Mac(320GB/500GB) .

Most U.S. waste is currently stored at the nuclear site where it is generated, while suitable permanent disposal methods are discussed.

As of 2007, the United States had accumulated more than 50,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear reactors    (WD  passport for Mac(640GB/1TB) .

Permanent storage underground in U.S. had been proposed at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, but that project has now been effectively cancelled - the permanent disposal of the U.S.'s high-level waste is an as-yet unresolved political problem.

The amount of high-level waste can be reduced in several ways, particularly nuclear reprocessing        My book essential 4 generation  (640GB/1TB) .

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. Even with separation of all actinides, and using fast breeder reactors to destroy by transmutation some of the longer-lived non-actinides as well       (WD  My book essential 4 generation( 1.5TB/2TB) ,

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 arguedWD  My book elite( 1TB/1.5TB)

that the best solution for the nuclear waste is above ground temporary storage since technology is rapidly changing. Some people believe that current waste might 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        WD  My book studio(1TB/2TB) .

France reprocesses its nuclear waste to reduce its mass and make more energy. 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...    WD  My book essential 4 generation( 1.5TB/2TB)

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     WD  My book elite(640GB/2TB) .

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    Seagate  expansion portable (750GB/1TB) :

landfilled, recycled into consumer items, et cetera. 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 Seagate  expansion portable (320GB/500GB) ,

much of which remains hazardous indefinitely. Overall, nuclear power produces far less waste material by volume 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 mildly radioactive material from the coal    Seagate  expansion (1.5TB/2TB) .

A recent report from Oak Ridge National Laboratory concludes that coal power actually results in more radioactivity being released into the environment than nuclear power operation, and that the population effective dose equivalent from radiation from coal plants is 100 times as much as from ideal operation of nuclear plants        Seagate  Freeagent Desktop (500GB/1TB) .

Indeed, coal ash is much less radioactive than nuclear waste, but ash is released directly into the environment, whereas nuclear plants use shielding to protect the environment from the irradiated reactor vessel, fuel rods, and any radioactive waste on site.

Reprocessing

For more details on this topic, see Nuclear reprocessing Seagate  Freeagent Go(250GB/320GB) .

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%      Seagate  Freeagent Go(500GB/640GB) .

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     Seagate  Freeagent Go(750GB/1TB) .

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 not allowed in the U.S  Seagate  Freeagent Goflex(250GB/320GB) .

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 is an international effort aimed to reprocess fuel in a manner making nuclear proliferation unfeasible, while making nuclear power available to developing countriesSeagate Freeagent Goflex(500GB/640GB) .

Depleted uranium

Main article: 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      Seagate  Freeagent Goflex(750GB/1TB) .

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 controversially used in munitions; DU penetrators (bullets or APFSDStips) "self sharpen", due to uranium's tendency to fracture along shear bands      Seagate  Freeagent Goflex Pro(500GB/750GB) .

Economics

The economics of nuclear power plants are primarily influenced by the high initial investment necessary to construct a plant. In 2009, estimates for the cost of a new plant in the U.S. ranged from $6 to $10 billion. It is therefore usually more economical to run them as long as possible, or construct additional reactor blocks in existing facilities    Seagate  Freeagent Goflex desktop(1TB/2TB) .

In 2008, new nuclear power plant construction costs were rising faster than the costs of other types of power plants. A prestigious panel assembled for a 2003 MIT study of the industry found the following:

In deregulated markets, nuclear power is not now cost competitive with coal and natural gas     Seagate  Freeagent go for Mac(320GB/640GB) .

However, plausible reductions by industry in capital cost, operation and maintenance costs, and construction time could reduce the gap. Carbon emission credits, if enacted by government, can give nuclear power a cost advantage.

—The Future of Nuclear Power  Samsung  G2 protable (250gb/320GB)

Life-extending nuclear power plants beyond their original design lives, by replacing major components and other equipment modernisation, is often economic. Generation II reactors built in the 1960s to 1980s generally had an original design life of 30 to 40 years, and many are being life-extended to 50 or 60 years    Samsung  G2 protable (500GB/640GB) .

In the U.S. every operating nuclear power plant has had a life extension, or is intending to have or apply for an extension, as of 2010. A second life-extension to 80 years may also be economic in many cases.

Comparative economics with other power sources are also discussed in the Main article above and in nuclear power debate    Samsung  S2 protable (320GB/500GB) .

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