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Uranium is by far the most concentrated available energy source, but with the downside that the physical process of fission generates a surplus of neutrons and radioactive fission products. Objectives exist to ensure the control of reactivity, confinement of radioactive substances and decay heat removal as well as long-term waste management, which are supported by mature methods and stringent safety requirements. Operators and regulators claim that the risk of well-designed and operated power plants with light-water reactors, which dominate the current worldwide fleet of 449 units, is justifiably small. The operating experience has accumulated to more than fifteen thousand years, with typical capacity factor now around 80%. Another 60 facilities are under construction in 15 countries; at the same time, some countries are phasing out nuclear while promoting renewables. New and future generation designs aim at further—in some cases radical—reduction of the risk of core melt accidents and minimize proliferation risks. New designs may also use advanced fuel cycles including thorium that extend and use fuel resources more efficiently and reduce reliance on husbandry of long-lived waste from millennia to centuries.
Most current fuel cycles end with long term storage, relying on the deep geological repository concept, subject to a range of geo-scientific and social uncertainties. Human doses due to potential long-term releases from a repository are calculated to be extremely small, much below natural radioactivity. Although no operating civil disposal facility exists yet, plans are advanced in some countries, especially Finland, where construction has begun in 2016.
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- Basics of Civilian Nuclear Fission
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