Water Use in the Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Report Date: 

July 2013




Nearly all nuclear power reactors in the world use uranium as their fuel. This report reviews the water consumption in the nuclear fuel cycle, and covers the entire front-end from uranium extraction to fuel manufacturing. It is focused on the needs of power plants of the light water reactors (LWRs), which constitute about 90% of the world nuclear plant capacity. The fuel needs of a Pressurized Water Reactor, which is the predominant type of LWRs representing 70% of all LWRs, is taken to represent the fuel cycle. The fuel preparation steps of mining, milling, conversion, enrichment, and manufacturing are addressed. The impact of recycling of fissile materials in LWRs in the form of MOX fuel on water use is also addressed through the experience of existing fuel reprocessing and MOX manufacturing plants. It is found that the amount of water consumed varies from one facility to the other, even when using the same technique. The report gives values for the best and worst performance as well as the average quantities of water used at each step. The front-end water consumption is dominated by the needs of mining/milling, which average about 1.5 liter/GJth. The water consumption in the front end is only a small fraction of the average of 140 L/GJth consumed at the nuclear power plant. Fuel reprocessing improves the out of core water consumption per unit energy by about 11%.


  • NES

    Nuclear Energy and Sustainability


  • TR

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