Uranium is a chemical element that is available in nature and its atomic number is 92. It looks like silvery grey metal. Uranium is made of 92 electrons, 92 protons of which 6 are valence electrons. German chemist Martin Klaproth invented uranium in 1789. Uranium’s name gave according to Uranu’s planet. However, it is using more different sectors and getting more privileges. Generating station is the most popular place to use it. Uranium is a nuclear fuel that is used more to generate electricity by fission reaction. But most of us don’t know how much uranium is required to generate electricity. We will try to figure out the answer. So, let’s start a beautiful journey.
How Much Uranium Is Required to Generate Electricity?
How much uranium is required to generate electricity? It depends on how much electricity you want to generate. However, 1 gm of uranium or plutonium can liberate about 1 MW of electricity per day. It is the energy equivalent of 3 tons of coal or about 600 gallons of HFO (heavy Furnish Oil) oil. But oil or coal can generate a high amount of carbon dioxide (1/4 tons). Therefore, uranium is a fuel for nuclear power over 50 more reactors are under construction and another 100 are second plan.
A typically 1000 MWe reactor can provide sufficient electricity for a modern specific area of close to 1 million people about 8 billion kWh per year. But how much fuel does a nuclear reactor use? A nuclear reactor requires about 27 tons of fresh nuclear fuel per year. But how much energy is in plutonium? In a conventional nuclear reactor, 1 kg (kilogram) of plutonium Pu-239 can produce enough heat to generate approximately 8 million kilowatts (KWh) of electricity per hour.
How to Made Uranium into Nuclear Fuel?
There are many activities involved with electricity generation from nuclear energy. First of all, we should know how uranium converts into nuclear fuel. Basically, the nuclear fuel cycle is an industrial series process that makes uranium efficient to use for electricity generation purposes.
We have given here some of the basic steps on how uranium is collected from nature, separate from the impurity, and used to generate electricity.
- Uranium is mined from the ground or collected from under the sea or rivers.
- Uranium is processed to extract the uranium 92U235 isotope.
- The uranium is enriched to increase its concentration by some chemical treatment.
- Enriched uranium is converted into uranium dioxide (UO2).
- The uranium dioxide (UO2) is pressed into small uranium pellets and sealed in metal tubes.
- The fuel rods are assembled into the fuel assemblies chamber.
- The fission of uranium atoms in the fuel assemblies generates heat and produces steam that hit the turbine to get mechanical energy.
Now let’s see some crucial explanations for collecting uranium from nature to using it in the nuclear power plant.
How to Mining Uranium?
The first step starts with the mining of uranium. It can be found in many areas, including rock, soil, river sea, and some other places. The mined uranium ore is crushed and disposed of by some special process and some chemicals (acid or alkali) are applied to separate the uranium. This process is called tailing. After tailing, the crushed uranium contains yellow color, which is called yellow cake.
Basically, this yellow cake is in the form of uranium oxide (U3O8) or other similar compounds. You should remember that this yellow color can be a different color like black, orange depending on the chemical composition. However, after chemical composition, the yellow cakes are perfectly concentrated and packed in the conversion facility or the next step.
How to Convert from Yellow Uranium Cake to Gas?
In this stage, the yellow cake is converted into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) by a special process. Uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas has a comparatively low temperature. The cylinders are loaded into a metal container and UF6 gas is fed into this large cylinder.
To ship to an enrichment plant, two isotopes make up the majority of natural uranium U238 makes up 99.3% of it and U235 makes up 0.7%. U235 is primarily used in the fission process, which releases heat energy in nuclear reactors.
How to Generate Electricity by Using Uranium?
From collecting uranium from nature and preparing it to use through a special process, now we are finally ready to generate electricity. In this case, uranium U235 is used to heat the water at high temperatures by the fission reaction. This high heat creates steam that rushes to the steam turbine.
The turbine is coupled to the alternator. When high-speed steam hit the turbine the turbine start rotating at 1800, or 3600 rpm. In this case, the alternator also rotates at the same speed. In this stage, mechanical energy is converted to electrical energy. And we get clean electrical energy. So, let’s see how much uranium and what type of reactor are required per year in nuclear plants for the electricity generation process.
|Uranium used per year (tons)
|Pressurized water reactor (PWR)
|Boiling water reactor (BWR)
|Heavy water reactor (HWR)
Do you know how much fuel rod is required for a 1000 MWe pressurized water reactor each year? May be not. Okay, in this requirement, you will require 27 tons of uranium around 18 million nuclear fuel pellets housing more than 50,000 fuel rods. Let’s see a chart that is showing the amount of uranium used by a 1000 MW nuclear power plant per year.
|Uranium used per year
|8.7 billion kWh
|18 million fuel pellets
|50,000 fuel rods
|3.5-5% U-235 enrichment
|43 million uranium-235 atoms per kWh
How Much Electricity Can 1 Kg of Uranium Produce?
What can 1 kg of uranium do? Most people don’t have any idea how can 1 kg of uranium generate electricity. Just saying it has a massive production capacity. However, how much energy can generate by 1 kg of uranium? It relies on the type of nuclear reactor used in the nuclear power plant. However, if the power plants have a pressurized water reactor, then 1 kg of uranium can generate around 10 to 12 million KWh of electricity. On the other hand, a fast breeder reactor can generate up to 60 million KWh by 1 kg of uranium.
Do you know how much energy 1 kg of uranium U235 can release? 1 kg of uranium can release a massive amount of energy through a nuclear fission reaction that happens in the nuclear power plant. How much energy will you get by combustion of 200000 tons of coal, if you will get such energy from 1kg of uranium U235.
You may have another question how many pounds of uranium is needed to generate a MWh in a nuclear plant? Alright, we know that nuclear power plant requires a very low amount of fuel to generate power depending on the generation capacity. In this case, 0.007 pounds of uranium fuel can generate 1 MWh of electricity.
If you have 1 kg of fuel, then how long could you power a 100 Watt light bulb? Take a look at a glance which energy source can generate how much energy.
- 1 kg of wood is sufficient for 1.2 days of light
- 1 kg of ethanol is sufficient for 3.1 days of light
- 1 kg of coal is sufficient for 3.8 days of light
- 1 kg of crude oil is sufficient for 4.8 days of light
- 1 kg of natural uranium is sufficient for 182 years of light
- 1 kg of natural uranium in a breeder reactor is sufficient for 25,700 years of light
How Much Electricity Can 1 Gram of Uranium Produce?
We are so much excited to know about uranium energy and radioactive disposal. So, let’s know first how much electricity can 1 gram of uranium produce. Basically, it depends on the plant’s capacity and some other crucial factors. However, 1 gm of uranium U235 can liberate about 1 MW per day. Whereas you require 3 tons of high-grade coal, 6 gallons of oil per day.
On the other hand, 1 kg of uranium can produce 24000000 KWh electricity by the complete fission reaction. This happens depending on several factors (type of reactor and others) in the power plant.
Do you know how much electricity can one uranium pellet produce? One uranium pellet can produce enough electricity to power one Emirati household for up to 4 months, 24/7. Why do we compare Emirati households? Because most Emirati household contains luxurious components (AC, heavy lighting, durable refrigerator, electromagnetic microwave oven, or conventional oven, water pump, and other high-load electronic components). So, can you imagine how uranium is beneficial to generate electricity?
How Much Uranium Is Required to Produce 1 MW of Power
Producing 1 MW of electricity depends on the nuclear reactor’s efficiency and the enrichment of the uranium fuel. A nuclear reactor becomes 33% efficient and uranium fuel enriched to 5%. In this case, you will require about 1.1 kilograms of uranium U235 to generate 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity. It means that to produce 1 MW of electricity for one year, you will require almost 87 tons of uranium.
However, the amount of uranium required can vary significantly depending on the factors mentioned above. For example, a reactor with an efficiency of 40% would require about 0.8 kilograms of uranium per MWh, while a reactor with an enrichment of 20% would require about 1.5 kilograms of uranium per MWh.
How Much Energy Does 1 Ton of Uranium Produce?
One ton of uranium can produce about 44 million kWh of electricity. It is equivalent to the amount of energy produced by burning over 20,000 tons of high-grade coal or 8.5 million cubic meters of natural gas.
How much energy does uranium produce? It depends on the uranium enrichment level. Natural uranium is only about 0.7% uranium-235. So, it needs to be enriched to a higher level before it can be used in a nuclear reactor. The higher the enrichment level, the more energy the uranium can produce.
Suppose, 1 ton of uranium enriched to 3% uranium (U 235) can produce about 58 million kWh of electricity. This amount of energy can be produced by burning over 28,000 tons of coal or 10 million cubic meters of natural gas.
|Electricity Produced (kWh)
It should be remembered that the amount of electricity produced from 1 ton of uranium also depends on the efficiency of the nuclear reactor. More efficient reactors can produce more electricity from the same amount of uranium.
How Much Nuclear Fuel Generates 500MW of Electrical Energy?
Nuclear reactor efficiency is mainly responsible that how much nuclear fuel is required to generate how much electricity. However, a typical estimate is that about 1200 kilograms of nuclear fuel would be required to generate 500 MW uranium 92U235.
Let’s see an example to make it clear. Suppose a 500MW nuclear reactor is 33% efficient. It will require about 1200 kilograms of nuclear fuel to generate 500 MW of electricity for 30 days. It is because the efficiency of a nuclear reactor is the ratio of the amount of electrical energy generated to the amount of heat energy released from the nuclear fuel.
So, a reactor efficiency of 33% means that for every 1000 joules of heat energy released from the nuclear fuel and only 330 joules of electrical energy are generated. We have given a table that contains reactor efficiency and the amount of nuclear fuel required to generate electrical energy.
|Amount of Nuclear Fuel (kg)
Which Nuclear Fuel Is More Efficient Uranium U235 or Uranium U238?
Uranium is not a renewable energy source but sometimes it is considered as renewable. But is it more efficient fuel? Let’s see a straightforward answer. The uranium U235 is a more efficient fuel than the uranium U238. It is because uranium U235 is more easily fissionable. It means uranium U235 is more easily split and releases energy when it is bombarded with neutrons.
What Is the Fission Reaction of Uranium U235 Equation?
Electricity is generated by the nuclear fission reaction. It is very dangerous and difficult due to its vulnerability. The fission reaction of uranium (U235) is represented by the following equation.
92U235 + n → 92Kr92 + 141Ba141 + 3n + energy
- 92U235 contains an isotope of uranium with 92 protons and 235 neutrons
- n is a neutron
- 92Kr92 contains an isotope of krypton with 36 protons and 92 neutrons
- 141Ba141 contains an isotope of barium with 56 protons and 141 neutrons
- 3n are three neutrons
- energy is the energy released in the reaction
The fission reaction of 92U235 releases a large amount of energy about 200 million electronvolts (MeV). This energy is released in the form of the kinetic energy of the fission fragments, gamma rays, and neutrons. The kinetic energy heats up the fuel in a nuclear reactor. The gamma rays and neutrons can also be used to generate electricity in a nuclear reactor.
It is noted that the fission reaction of 92U235 is started by a neutron. However, it can also be started by other particles, such as photons or alpha particles.
How Much Uranium Is Used in A Nuclear Power Plant Per Day
How much uranium is required per day depends on reactor efficiency and the size of the power plant. Suppose, a nuclear power plant has a 1000 MW generation capacity and pressurized water reactor (PWR) efficiency is 33%. In this case, a 1,000-megawatt (MW) nuclear power plant uses about 30 kg (66 pounds) of uranium per day. It is noted that a nuclear power plant uses 3% enriched uranium (U235).
For example, daily used uranium = Output power of the plant (MW) * Efficiency of the plant (%) * Specific energy of uranium (kWh/kg) / 24 hours. a 1,000 MW nuclear power plant with an efficiency of 33% and a specific energy of uranium of 45,000 kWh/kg now find how much uranium is required per day.
Uranium used per day = 1,000 MW * 33% * 45,000 kWh/kg / 24 hours = 30 kg
How Is Uranium Used in The Nuclear Power Plant?
Impurity-free Uranium fuel is used in nuclear power plants. It is processed into small ceramic pellets. These are stacked together into sealed metal tubes which is called a fuel rod. The fuel rods are then assembled into bundles and placed in the reactor core.
When a neutron collides with a uranium (U235) atom. In this case, neutrons can completely split the atom and release a large amount of energy in the form of radiation and heat. It happens by the nuclear fission reaction. Now water is boiled at 600 to 10000C which turns to massive steam. The steam then drives a turbine to get mechanical energy. This mechanical energy receives a generator or alternator and converts it into electricity.
How Much Energy Released in the Fission of U235?
A massive amount of energy is released by the fission reaction (U235). The average energy released is about 200 MeV (Mega electron Volts). It is equal to 3.2 x 10-11 joule. Due to the nuclear fission reaction a single U235 atom can release two or three neutrons. These neutrons can go on to make a fission reaction of other U235 atoms, which is called a chain reaction. This chain reaction is necessary to generate power in nuclear reactors.
Where Is Uranium Found?
Uranium is found in small amounts in most rocks, rivers, lakes, seawater, and other locations. However, uranium is found in only a few places in the world. We have given the top 10 countries with percentages, they have uranium reserves. So, take a look at a glance.
- Kazakhstan (19.3%)
- Canada (12.6%)
- Australia (12.1%)
- Niger (7.5%)
- Russia (6.6%)
- Namibia (6.5%)
- Uzbekistan (4.3%)
- United States (4.2%)
- South Africa (3.3%)
- Brazil (2.9%)
- China (2.7%)
These countries have over 96% of the world’s uranium reserves. But there are some countries that have small amounts of uranium. For this reason, we have never counted them in this list.
How Much Uranium Is On Earth?
Uranium is a natural energy source but it is difficult to estimate its quantity. Because uranium is collected continuously and used more. But we can show you an appropriate assumption. There are around 40 trillion tons of uranium in the Earth’s crust. The amount of uranium recoverable is much smaller. The World Nuclear Association estimates that the world’s identified uranium resources total 5.5 million metric tons. But another 10.5 million metric tons remain undiscovered from where we can get a roughly 230 years supply.
Uranium is important to generate electricity. This energy can be used to heat water, create steam, and turn a turbine to generate electricity. But from where do we collect uranium and how much uranium is required to generate electricity? Basically, we have shown the average amount of uranium that is used in the power plant. In this case, a few steps must be crossed to get pure electricity. We have referred to these things in our crucial arrangement. So, get in touch with open read and get innovative things.