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DOE-HDBK-1113-98
Module 102 The Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Lesson Plan
Instructor's Notes
Show OT-19
3.
Enrichment
The enrichment process is necessary to increase the
percentage of the  235U isotope in the uranium to
make it suitable for reactor fuel. Natural uranium
contains 0.7%  235U. Typically, enriched uranium
contains 2-4% 235U. Other uses may require much
higher concentrations up to, or even greater than,
90% 235U. Depleted uranium, which is left over
after the enrichment process, has an abundance of
about 0.2%  235U.
The methods used to enrich uranium include:
Gaseous Diffusion
a.
Gaseous diffusion is based on principles of
gas laws. The UF6 gas is forced t hrough
converters by large compressors. The
converters contain many tubes made of a
special barrier material that is porous. The
UF6 molecules are lighter than the  238UF6
235
molecules and bounce against the porous
barrier more frequently. The  235UF6 has a
greater chance of passing through the
barrier, resulting in a slightly richer  235U
content. It may take as many as a thousand
passes to obtain the desired degree of
enrichment.
25


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