Nuclear Energy

Iran has enriched over 210 kg of Uranium to 20%

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Uranium enrichment

Mains level : Not Much

Iran’s atomic agency has said that its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has reached over 210 kilograms, the latest defiant move ahead of upcoming nuclear talks with the West.

What is Uranium Enrichment?

  • It is a process that is necessary to create an effective nuclear fuel out of mined uranium.
  • It involves increasing the percentage of uranium-235 which undergoes fission with thermal neutrons.
  • Nuclear fuel is mined from naturally occurring uranium ore deposits and then isolated through chemical reactions and separation processes.
  • These chemical processes used to separate the uranium from the ore are not to be confused with the physical and chemical processes used to enrich the uranium.

Why is enrichment carried out?

  • Uranium found in nature consists largely of two isotopes, U-235 and U-238.
  • Natural uranium contains 0.7% of the U-235 isotope.
  • The remaining 99.3% is mostly the U-238 isotope which does not contribute directly to the fission process (though it does so indirectly by the formation of fissile isotopes of plutonium).
  • The production of energy in nuclear reactors is from the ‘fission’ or splitting of the U-235 atoms since it is the main fissile isotope of uranium.
  • Naturally occurring uranium does not have a high enough concentration of Uranium-235 at only about 0.72% with the remainder being Uranium-238.

 

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