What is the difference between nuclear weapons and nuclear energy?

Answer:   The core of a nuclear fission explosive device is either plutonium metal

(preferably with a high proportion of Pu-239) or high-enriched uranium (typically with a percentage of the fissile isotope U-235 around 90% or more) also under metallic form. The plutonium route consists in irradiating uranium fuel in a nuclear reactor, preferably during a short period of time in order to produce rather pure Pu-239. Irradiated fuel unloaded from a reactor, if the fuel has some specific characteristics and was irradiated under certain conditions, can be processed in a radiochemical facility where the plutonium is separated from the used uranium.

The other proliferation route consists in producing high-enriched uranium.

It is important to efficiently control the export of dual use material and technology in order to prevent or minimize nuclear proliferation risks.

Peaceful development of nuclear energy is primarily dedicated to electricity production, heat production and not to produce plutonium resources. Research reactors are aimed at research and isotope production for medical and industrial applications.

 

Background

The first difference is obviously that nuclear weapons are made for military purposes while nuclear energy is made for civil uses. Both use the physical phenomenon of fission.

The core of a nuclear fission explosive device is either plutonium metal

(preferably with a high proportion of Pu-239) or high-enriched uranium

(typically with a percentage of the fissile isotope U-235 around 90% or more) also under metallic form. The plutonium route consists in irradiating uranium fuel in a nuclear reactor, preferably during a short period of time in order to produce rather pure Pu-239. Irradiated fuel unloaded from a reactor, if the fuel has some specific characteristics and was irradiated under certain conditions, can be processed in a radiochemical facility where the plutonium is separated from the used uranium.

The other proliferation route consists in producing high-enriched uranium.

It is important to efficiently control the export of dual use material and technology in order to prevent or minimize nuclear proliferation risks.

Peaceful development of nuclear energy is primarily dedicated to electricity production, heat production and not to produce plutonium resources. Research reactors are aimed at research and isotope production for medical and industrial applications.