Uranium is composed mainly of two isotopes – U-235 and U-238. Uranium-235 powers nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs, but it is less than 1 percent of natural uranium. For most nuclear applications, the concentration of the fissile isotope must be increased in a process called enrichment. Typical methods for enrichment include: gaseous diffusion, electromagnetic separation, aerodynamic processes, laser enrichment and centrifuge separation.
Detailed discussion on types of enrichment techniques, production of feedstock for enrichment plants and enrichment activity detection.
The most efficient current enrichment method is the gas centrifuge. This section considers the fundamental physical principles and the main engineering challenges of centrifuges and describes how they work and are built. It covers the theory of isotope separation, both by individual machines and in cascades of many machines. The section includes some example calculations and interactive calculators of centrifuge and cascade performance. Finally, the connection between commercial uranium enrichment and nuclear proliferation is described.