Nuclear fuels reprocessing
Laidler, James J. Chemical Technology Division, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois.
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The treatment of materials used as fuel elements in nuclear reactors to recover and purify the residual fissionable and fertile materials for further use. Nuclear fuels are reprocessed for military or civilian purposes. In military applications, reprocessing is applied to extract fissile plutonium from fuels that are designed and operated to optimize production of this element. In civilian applications, reprocessing is used to recover valuable uranium and transuranic elements that remain in fuels discharged from electricity-generating nuclear power plants, for subsequent recycle in freshly constituted nuclear fuel. This military-civilian duality has made the development and application of reprocessing technology a sensitive issue worldwide and necessitates stringent international controls on reprocessing operations. It has also stimulated development of alternative processes that do not produce a separated stream of pure plutoniums so that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is held in check. See also: Nuclear power; Plutonium; Transuranium elements; Uranium
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