Fuel Cycle Management

The nuclear fuel cycle covers the whole process of Uranium mining and treatment, use of nuclear fuel for power generation, and the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel or its disposal as waste.

The cycle starts with Uranium mining and milling. Mining is carried out either by traditional open-cast/underground excavation of typically 0.1%-2% ore or by "in-situ leaching" (ISL), which allows minimum surface disturbance through drilling deep down to the ore layer for extraction of dissolved Uranium. Milling involves a series of processes including dissolving of Uranium and recovery, precipitation and dry off.

The milled Uranium will then go through a conversion process, in which the Uranium Oxide is converted into a gaseous Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) to make it ready for enrichment.

U235, the usable Uranium in the reactor occurs naturally in a low concentration (0.7%), and most of the nuclear reactors used for power generation require a slightly enriched Uranium of between 3% and 5% U235 concentration. Therefore, the Uranium fuel has to go through an enrichment process to raise the concentration of usable Uranium. The enriched Uranium will then be fabricated into fuel pellets which will be inserted into metal tubes to form fuel rods/assemblies for use in the reactor.