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What is Used Nuclear Fuel (UNF)?

Used Nuclear Fuel, often referred to as “spent fuel,” is nuclear fuel that has been irradiated in a reactor and removed because it can no longer efficiently sustain a nuclear reaction. During its time in the reactor, the fuel undergoes various changes that make it both less effective for electricity generation and more radioactive.

Used Nuclear Fuel is a complex material that contains a mixture of elements, including unburnt uranium, various fission products, and heavier elements like plutonium. These elements are radioactive, and therefore, the spent fuel must be carefully managed to protect human health and the environment.

It’s important to note that although the term “spent” is commonly used, this fuel still contains a significant amount of material that could potentially be reprocessed and recycled, although this practice is subject to economic considerations and regulatory guidelines.

The safe management of Used Nuclear Fuel is a top priority for the nuclear industry, guided by stringent regulations and the latest scientific research. A multi-barrier approach, often culminating in secure storage within a Deep Geological Repository, is used to ensure the long-term isolation of this material from the biosphere.

The overarching goal in managing Used Nuclear Fuel is to protect human health and the environment, including both wildlife and marine life, for current and future generations.