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Nuclear Reactors. Health Physics Society - Power Reactor Section Radiation Science Education. Location of Operating Nuclear Reactors.

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nuclear reactors

Nuclear Reactors

Health Physics Society - Power Reactor Section

Radiation Science Education


Think of a Tea KettleThe fission process creates heat which produces steam in a secondary water system. The steam turns a turbine - generator which produces electricity.

defense in depth
Defense In Depth
  • 48” concrete containment building
  • 35” concrete shield
  • 8” steel reactor vessel
  • solid nuclear fuel inside steel tubes
what happens to used fuel
What Happens to Used Fuel?
  • Nuclear reactors split atoms of uranium which creates heat. This process is called fission.
  • Uranium in a nuclear reactor comes in the form of ceramic pellets.
  • Only one of the uranium isotopes fission, U-235. New fuel contains about 5% U-235, the rest is U-238.
  • When most of the U-235 has split, the used-up or “spent fuel” is stored in a large concrete pool lined with stainless steel to cool off.
dry cask storage
Dry Cask Storage
  • At some plants, the pools have filled up.
  • Some of the fuel that has cooled off, is moved into big concrete casks.
  • Eventually, the fuel will be sent to a federal government facility for permanent disposal deep under ground.
  • Spent fuel from San Onofre Unit 1 will soon be stored in this way.
transportation safey
Transportation Safey
  • A 120-ton locomotive, speeding at 80 miles an hour, crashed broadside into a container on a flatbed.
  • This photo was taken immediately after impact.
  • The impact demolished the train, but hardly dented the container.
yucca mountain
Yucca Mountain
  • Volcanic eruptions created Yucca Mountain about 10 million years ago.
  • Over the ages, layers of volcanic ash compressed and consolidated into a hard rock called tuff.
  • There is very little rainfall, most of which quickly runs off the surface or evaporates.
  • The water table under Yucca Mountain is extremely deep. This makes it possible to put a repository 1,000 feet underground and still be 800 feet above the water table.
permanent disposal
Permanent Disposal
  • Yucca Mountain is federally owned land that borders the Nevada Test Site.
  • More than 900 atomic weapon blasts have been conducted at the Nevada Test Site, mostly underground.
  • The arid mountain ridge is 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert.
  • $2 billion dollars have been spent on scientific investigation of the geology and hydrology of the site.
  • Spent fuel will be stored 1000 feet below under ground, protected by corrosion-resistant containers.