Eng
 
The nuclear fuel cycle is a chain of repeated work processes, spanning from uranium mining to the final disposal (conditioning) of radioactive waste. Rosatom incorporates enterprises that represent every stage of the technological chain. At the front end of the fuel cycle are ore mining ventures, i.e. mines operated to extract uranium ore. Extracted uranium ore contains ore minerals and mining waste. It is subjected to a process of crushing, milling and leaching in order to obtain uranium concentrate. The next stage of the nuclear fuel cycle is the refining, which is undertaken to remove contaminants and finalise the purification of uranium compounds. The resulting natural uranium concentrate (called ‘yellow cake’), produced within uranium mining facilities, is then sent to conversion and enrichment plants. Conversion is the stage where yellow cake is transformed into uranium hexafluoride gas. Next comes enrichment – the separation of uranium-235 and uranium-238 isotopes. Enriched uranium hexafluoride goes to fabrication facilities to produce uranium dioxide powder. In turn, UO2 powder serves as feed for fabricating fuel pellets that are then configured into fuel assemblies, with zirconium alloy serving as the principal structural material. The fuel is loaded into a reactor and will stay there for several years, depending on the core lifetime. Finally, the fuel is retrieved from the reactor, cooled in customized pools and then sent either for final disposal or reprocessing.
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