Science Questions

How much juice is left in fuel rods?

Sun, 19th Oct 2008

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Question

John, Peterborough asked:

Nuclear power plants - how much energy remains in there once you've taken the rods out?

Answer

Steve - Nuclear power plants aren’t doing fusion, they’re doing fission which is splitting big nuclei up: uranium. In a nuclear power plant you only use a very small fraction of the uranium so there’s something like 50 times more energy left in there that we’re unable to tap except through what’s called fast breeder reactors which we don’t currently do.

Chris - How do they work?

Steve - This is a long question. They work by using the fast neutrons from nuclear reactions, from uranium, to attach to the inert part of uranium (uranium 238) to make plutonium. Plutonium can fission like uranium 235. That’s a complicated answer.

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