Franklin, David Nuclear Systems and Materials, Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, California.
Machiels, Albert Nuclear Radiation Laboratory, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.
Last reviewed:January 2020
- Nuclear characteristics
- Physical characteristics
- Economic power production
- Breeder reactor fuels
- Gas-cooled reactor fuels
- Fuel designs for less common reactors
- Safety and licensing
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Materials whose ability to release energy derives from specific properties of the atom's nucleus. In general, energy can be released by combining two light nuclei to form a heavier one, a process called nuclear fusion; by splitting a heavy nucleus into two fragments of intermediate mass, a process called nuclear fission; or by spontaneous nuclear decay processes, which are generically referred to as radioactivity. Although the fusion process may significantly contribute to the world's energy production in future centuries and although the production of limited amounts of energy by radioactive decay is a well-established technology for specific applications, the only significant industrial use of nuclear fuel so far utilizes fission. Therefore, the term nuclear fuels generally designates nuclear fission fuels only. See also: Nuclear battery; Nuclear fission; Nuclear fusion; Radioactivity and radiation applications
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