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Radiation Damage Limits Energy Release

Does a typical nuclear reactor extract that much energy from its nuclear fuel?

No, the “burnup” of the fuel is limited by damage to the fuel itself.

Typically, the reactor will only be able to extract a portion of the energy from the fuel before radiation damage to the fuel itself becomes too extreme.

Radiation damage is caused by:

Noble gas (krypton, xenon) buildup

Disturbance to the fuel lattice caused by fission fragments and neutron flux

As the fuel swells and distorts, it can cause the cladding around the fuel to rupture and release fission products into the coolant.

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