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Nuclear fuel cycle

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The nuclear fuel cycle

A system of nuclear installations and activities interconnected by streams of nuclear material. The characteristics of the fuel cycle may vary widely from State to State, from a single reactor supplied from abroad with fuel, to a fully developed system. Such a system may consist of:

  • uranium mines and concentration (ore processing) plants
  • thorium concentration plants
  • conversion plants
  • enrichment (isotope separation) plants
  • fuel fabrication plants
  • reactors
  • spent fuel reprocessing plants
  • associated storage installations

The fuel cycle can be 'closed' in various ways, for example by the recycling of enriched uranium and plutonium through thermal reactors (thermal recycle), by the reenrichment of the uranium recovered as a result of spent fuel reprocessing or by the use of plutonium in a fast breeder reactor.


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