How does the nuclear material get put into a nuclear reactor?


That’s probably a very poor wording of the question, but after having watched the HBO series Chernobyl I was left with the question of how the nuclear fission material actually gets surrounded by graphite and such that it can be used to create energy. The explanation the show gives states that machines and microchips break down due to the gamma radiation, and their is too much radioactivity for that to be someone’s day job. My question is really how 1) is the material mined, and 2) how does the material get put into the graphite/whatever compound is used, or how did it (as times have changed and so has technology)? If there is a link you could provide that might be helpful, by all means, but not being a nuclear engineer I can promise you I probably won’t understand it.

In: Technology

In this case, uranium isn’t that radioactive.

First of all, its not highly enriched uranium. So most of it is the less radioactive kind.

Secondly, even the more radioactive uranium isn’t that radioactive. The fuel rods are safe to handle with some protective equipment.

As for mining, uranium ore isn’t that much more radioactive than regular dirt. Or even a Banana.

Uranium becomes very radioactive by artificially bombarding them with neutrons, causing chain reactions where uranium being bombarded will bombard nearby uranium with its own neutrons.

As a general rule, very radioactice material usually is gone pretty fast. And therefore not easily found in nature

To reach dangerous levels you either need to collect small traces of highly radioactive material (enrichment in centrifuges) or manipulate material to become more radioactive (through neutron capture, or as results of nuclear reactions)

The uranium used in the reactors as in Chernobyl (RMBK) rely on slightly process natural uranium, (U238) which makes up about 80+% of uranium ore found in nature. It is processed from ore into a fuel pellet along with other metals that make them more stable and easier to handle. These pellets are loaded into metal tubes to create a fuel rod. Multiple rods are loaded into the graphite moderators and ultimately these are all loaded into the core of the reactor. Here is a good series on YouTube for a more in depth, yet easy to understand history of nuclear weapons and their eventual growth into nuclear power

The fuel rods are safe until they start reacting. So it’s not putting them there that is dangerous, it’s getting waste out.