Guest essay by Roger Graves
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 .
However, after both types have been used in a reactor…
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