Taking a look around a ‘top-secret’ factory

A tour around a company of which the technology is a state secret? It’s possible at URENCO! After a comprehensive introduction about the company, the products, people and future plans, a tour follows through certain areas of the factory. You get to take a look in the ‘operations room’ where all processes are closely watched and you see some of the centrifuges from up close. The enthusiastic ‘tourguide’ takes all the time in the world to answer all questions and paints a complete picture of the company. Striking is also the enthusiasm from all other employees that you encounter; it figures that URENCO was named Best Employer in the Netherlands.

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Enriching uranium; how does it work exactly?

Since the ‘70’s fuel for nuclear power plants has been made from uranium at URENCO in Almelo: fissile materials. But what does the process actually look like?

 

Uranium is a mineral resource taken from the earth. Even though uranium already glows from itself, it is not enough to produce heat, for example, and boil water. What you need is the little bit of uranium-235, which is instable and falls apart. To be able to separate this instable uranium from the ‘normal’ uranium, uranium-238, a special technology was developed by URENCO. Ten thousands of centrifuges are revolve around their axis more than a thousand times each second. That is faster than a F16 jet on full speed. What happens next? The process is similar to that of a common juicer. Just like to tasty juice is separated from the dispensable pulp, the fissionable uranium is separated from the uranium that is difficult to fissile. The result is a fissile material that can be used to generate electricity in a nuclear plant.

 

In commercial enrichment plant like URENCO, (low)enriched uranium is produced with around four to five percent fissionable uranium-235. In the past, highly enriched uranium was also made in special enrichment installation, which was mostly applied in the military sector, for example for weapons and submarines with nuclear propulsion. Because of the international disarmament treaties there was a surplus of a lot of highly enriched uranium and the production of it was halted.

Stabile isotopes

In addition, URENCO also produces stabile – non-radioactive – isotopes for industrial, medical and scientific appliances. They are used, for example, to decrease the amount of radiation in nuclear reactors or to inspect welds and trace construction faults in metal. Hospitals use stabile isotopes to diagnose patients, treat tumours and to relief pain.

Date: 18 October 2016
Source of tekst: URENCO
Author: Twente.com

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