In the past few years many new energy sources have been discovered and are being used, apart from fossil fuels, such as solar, wind, and geothermal. One such source of energy is nuclear power. Nuclear technology utilizes the energy emitted by splitting atoms of specific metals. This technology was first developed in the 1940’s for creating bombs; however, in the 1950’s the world diverted its attention to the peaceful uses of this technology. Many countries have even built nuclear reactors for scientific research purposes to serve as a source of neutron beams. These nuclear reactors are powered by nuclear fuels containing fissile material. The nuclear fission process releases great amount of energy. Therefore, the fissioning material needs to be in a robust physical shape in order to endure extreme neutron radiation and operate at high temperatures.
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Nuclear fuel fabrication is the last stage in the process of converting uranium into usable nuclear fuel rods. Fabrication of nuclear fuel for a reactor consist of three main stages. Firstly, production of pure uranium oxide, either from uranium hexafluoride or uranium trioxide, is carried out at the fuel manufacturing plant. Secondly, producing high density and highly accurately shaped ceramic uranium oxide pellets. And lastly, production of the rigid metal framework mostly from zirconium alloy for fuel assembly, and loading of the uranium oxide pellets into the fuel rods and also sealing and assembling these rods into the fuel assembly structure.
Based on conversion process, the nuclear fuel fabrication market can be segmented into wet and dry process. In the dry process, uranium hexafluoride is heated into a vapor state and is divided into a two stage reaction vessels for the production of uranium oxide. The wet process consists of injecting uranium hexafluoride into water to produce a particulate slurry. Then ammonia or ammonium carbonate is added to the slurry. The slurry is then filtered, dehydrate, and heated to produce pure uranium oxide in a reducing atmosphere for further processing.
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Based on type of nuclear reactor, the nuclear fuel fabrication market can be divided into pressurized water reactors (PWRs), boiling water reactors (BWRs), pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs), and others. Pressurized water reactors are extensively used nuclear reactors in the world. They account to nearly two-third of the currently installed nuclear power generation capacity. Boiling water reactors are the second most commonly used nuclear reactors around the globe. They account for almost one-fourth of the currently installed nuclear power generation capacity globally. Pressurized heavy water reactors are based on a Canadian design that utilizes pressure tubes containing heavy water that moderates and cools the nuclear fuel. The others segment consist of advanced gas-cooled reactors, RBMK (Reaktor Bolshoy Moshchnosti Kanalnyy) reactors, and fast neutron reactors.
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