Module 102 The Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Depleted uranium typically is cast into ingots or
billets, and then shipped to production facilities for
appropriat e reshaping.
Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is no longer
performed in this country. This information is
provided for the purpose of describing how the
process worked at applicable facilities.
Uranium was used in plutonium production
reactors. Uranium fuel and targets were coated
with aluminum or zirconium metal and placed in
the reactor. As they were irradiated with neutrons,
a small fraction of the uranium was converted to
plutonium. The irradiated fuel was then removed
from the reactor, but the plutonium and uranium
had to be separated from the fission products
created during irradiation.
PUREX, a chemical process for plutonium and
uranium extraction from irradiated nuclear fuel,
was developed to accomplish this separation. This
reprocessing was accomplished as follows:
Excess metal was mechanically removed to
expose the fuel material.