How different is the process to make nuclear fuel for power plants vs. weapons grade nuclear material?

Does having a nuclear power plant automatically mean you have a nuclear weapon capability? If not why, and what must happen before said material becomes ‘weapons grade’?

I’d like to see literature on the subject to if possible. Thanks!

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2 Responses to “How different is the process to make nuclear fuel for power plants vs. weapons grade nuclear material?”

  1. OldPilot said:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enriched_uranium

    A reactor can be designed as a Breeder Reactor.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor

    A Breeder is what you want if yo want to build bombs. It turns out material that can farther be enriched to make “Weapons Grade” usually Plutonium. ===> You start with a little and get back a lot.

    The easy “low tech” way is cascading gas centrifuges that takes vaporized material and spins it very fast. Most of the heavy atoms go to the outside, lighter atoms to the inside. You pull-off the fraction of gas (U235 or Plutonium) that you want and send it to the next centrifuge to be spun again. Each step you get more and more of what you want (U235 or Plutonium)

    http://www.exportcontrols.org/cascades.html

  2. Nukemann said:

    Naturally occurring Uranium is mostly (99%) U-238 which is not fissile, less than 1% is U-235, which will fission with thermal neutrons. Most commercial reactors use enriched Uranium which is up to 5% U-235. To enrich the Uranium it is dissolved and spun in a centrifuge, the heavier U-238 is spun out and the lighter U-235 is kept, this process is difficult and takes some time to increase the % of U-235, the left over Uranium is known as Depleted Uranium. The enriched Uranuim is formed into ceramic pellets to be used in fuel assemblies.
    Weapons grade Uranium is over 90% U-235 which takes much more processing. Another way is to make a Plutonium weapon, when U-238 is bombarded by neutrons some will become Pu-239 which will fission. Using a similar process the heavier Pu-239 can be seperated out for use in weapons.
    See the links for more detail




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