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Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Fuels and Wastes

natural background radiation, fission products, refraction of light, light ray, power reactor

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>  The Nuclear Fuel Cycle

>  Nuclear Safety

>  Fuel Reprocessing

The safety of the power reactor itself has received the greatest attention. In an operating reactor, the fuel elements contain by far the largest fraction of the total radioactive inventory. A number of barriers prevent fission products from leaking into the air during normal operation. The fuel is clad in corrosion-resistant tubing. The heavy steel walls of the primary coolant system of the PWR form a second barrier. The water coolant itself absorbs some of the biologically important radioactive isotopes such as iodine. The steel and concrete building is a third barrier.

During the operation of a power reactor, some radioactive compounds are unavoidably released. The total exposure to people living nearby is usually only a few percent of the natural background radiation. Major concerns arise, however, from radioactive releases caused by accidents in which fuel damage occurs and safety devices fail. The major danger to the integrity of the fuel is a loss-of-coolant accident in which the fuel is damaged or even melts. Fission products are released into the coolant, and if the coolant system is breached, fission products enter the reactor building.

Reactor systems rely on elaborate instrumentation to monitor their condition and to control the safety systems used to shut down the reactor under abnormal circumstances. Backup safety systems that inject boron into the coolant to absorb neutrons and stop the chain reaction to further assure shutdown are part of the PWR design. Light-water reactor plants operate at high coolant pressure. In the event of a large pipe break, much of the coolant would flash into steam and core cooling could be lost. To prevent a total loss of core cooling, reactors are provided with emergency core cooling systems that begin to operate automatically on the loss of primary coolant pressure. In the event of a steam leak into the containment building from a broken primary coolant line, spray coolers are actuated to condense the steam and prevent a hazardous pressure rise in the building.

Waste Management

This area of optical science concerns the application of laws of reflection and refraction of light in the design of lenses (see Lenses below) and other optical components of instruments. If a light ray that is traveling through one homogeneous medium is incident on the surface of a second homogeneous medium, part of the light is reflected and part may enter the second medium as the refracted ray and may or may not undergo absorption in the second medium.

Article key phrases:

natural background radiation, fission products, refraction of light, light ray, power reactor, total exposure, concrete building, neutrons, PWR, boron, iodine, chain reaction, safety devices, Waste Management, shutdown, reactors, absorption, melts, integrity, accidents, incident, surface, percent, condition, loss, operation, air, event, safety

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