Fear of Nuclear – Part 3

Watts Up With That?

Guest essay by Roger Graves

This post deals with the disposal of spent fuel from nuclear power stations, and whether our fears concerning it are justified. You can also read Part 1 and Part 2.

image Technician handling an unused CANDU reactor natural uranium fuel bundle. Note the absence of any radiation protection.

Nuclear fuel typically consists of either uranium dioxide (UO2) or a mixture of UO2 and plutonium dioxide (PuO2), commonly known as MOX (mixed oxide). The uranium can be natural uranium, containing only 0.7% of the fissile uranium-235 isotope, or it can be enriched uranium containing up to 5% of uranium-235. Uranium oxide fuel is only mildly radioactive and can be handled without any special precautions, as the accompanying illustration shows. MOX fuel is somewhat more radioactive, but not dangerously so [1].

However, after both types have been used in a reactor…

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