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Gas centrifuge

  The gas centrifuge is a hyper-centrifuge used to separate gases. Its most common use is to produce enriched uranium. For uranium enrichment it requires far less energy to achieve the same separation than the older gaseous diffusion process that it has mostly replaced.

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Uranium Enrichment

Enrichment process

The gas centrifuge uranium enrichment process uses a large number of rotating cylinders in series and parallel formations. Centrifuges are interconnected to form trains and cascades. In this process, uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas is placed in a cylinder and rotated at a high speed. This rotation creates a strong centrifugal force so that the heavier gas molecules, containing uranium-238 (U-238), move toward the outside of the cylinder and the lighter gas molecules, containing uranium-235 (U-235), collect closer to the center. The stream that is slightly enriched in U-235 is withdrawn and fed into the next higher stage, while the slightly depleted stream is recycled back into the next lower stage. Significantly more U-235 enrichment can be obtained from a single unit gas centrifuge than from a single unit gaseous diffusion stage.

Countries operating large cascades

  Large cascades of gas centrifuges are operated by France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and China to produce enriched uranium both for domestic use and for export, and by Japan for domestic use. A demonstration gas centrifuge plant is being built at Piketon, Ohio in the United States by USEC Inc. for operation in 2007, and a full-size plant is planned for operation in 2012.

Pakistan's nuclear program developed the P1 and P2 centrifuges -- the first two centrifuges that Pakistan deployed in large numbers. The P1 centrifuge uses an aluminium rotor, and the P2 centrifuge uses a maraging steel rotor, which is stronger, spins faster, and therefore enriches more uranium per machine than the P1 centrifuge's aluminium rotor.

Recently the President of Pakistan allegedly revealed an account of how the country's top nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan, had stolen diagrams of centrifuges while working at URENCO in Netherlands.

Iran has constructed a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant near Natanz, which is said to be used for Iran's civilian nuclear energy program. [1] In April 2007, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that the plant had started enrichment operations.

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Gas_centrifuge". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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