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Nuclear Safeguards Education Portal

Introduction to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle (Cont.)

There are a number of possible variations to the general nuclear fuel cycle. These variations are chosen based on a number of factors including economics, resource management, political interests, and proliferation concerns. The following figure illustrates a variation of the generic commercial nuclear fuel cycle that is considered an "open fuel cycle":

open fuel cycle

This is the fuel cycle that currently exists in the US. In this case, the front end of the fuel cycle consists of uranium mining and milling, conversion of the material to UF6, enrichment of the uranium, and fabrication of nuclear fuel. The back end consists only of storage of spent fuel.

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