Glossary

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Plutonium

A transuranic element, formed in a nuclear reactor by neutron capture. It has several isotopes, some of which are fissile and some of which undergo spontaneous fission, releasing neutrons. Weapons-grade plutonium is produced in special reactors to give >90% Pu-239, reactor-grade plutonium contains about 30% non-fissile isotopes. About one third of the energy in a light water reactor comes from the fission of Pu-239, and this is the main isotope of value recovered from reprocessing used fuel.

Pressurised water reactor (PWR)

The most common type of light water reactor (LWR), it uses water at very high pressure in a primary circuit and steam is formed in a secondary circuit.

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