AUTHORSettle, Frank
TITLEUranium to Electricity: The Chemistry of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle
PERIODICAL TITLEJournal of Chemical Education
DATE PUBLISHED2009
VOLUME NUMBER86
ISSUE NUMBER3
PAGE NUMBERS316-323
ISSN0021-9584
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Available online from Journal of Chemical Education


This paper seeks to advance the reader's understanding of the role of chemistry in each component of the nuclear fuel cycle, from the metallurgy of uranium to the disposition of spent reactor fuel. While the physics and engineering of controlled fission are central to the generation of nuclear power, chemistry dominates all other aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. The author, an expert in nuclear chemistry, explains that an understanding of that chemistry is necessary to address the economic, environmental, safety, and proliferation issues essential to any substantive evaluation of nuclear power’s contribution to the global energy portfolio. In the nuclear fuel cycle, chemistry is involved in a series of industrial processes that produce fuel for the production of electricity in nuclear reactors, use the fuel to generate electricity, and subsequently manage the spent reactor fuel. The article also addresses the economics of the components of the cycle and the costs of nuclear power relative to other sources of energy.


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