From its inception in the 1940's, nuclear power as conceived by the United States had a closed fuel cycle. Uranium would be mined and milled, enriched in its fissionable isotope U-235 from the 0.7% found in nature, manufactured into fuel and burned in reactors to generate electricity. As it burned, some of the uranium would be converted to plutonium. Then the spent fuel would be removed and shipped to a central plant where it would be dissolved and reprocessed chemically. The unburned uranium and plutonium would be separated and could be recycled in new fuel. The radioactive fission products would be buried as waste.
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