Components of a nuclear power plant

Components of nuclear power plant

There are several components common to most types of reactor:


Uranium is the basic fuel. Usually pellets of uranium oxide (UO2) are arranged in tubes to form fuel rods. The rods are arranged into fuel assemblies in the reactor core.* In a 1000 MWe class PWR there might be 51,000 fuel rods with over 18 million pellets.


Material in the core which slows down the neutrons released from fission so that they cause more fission. It is usually water, but may be heavy water or graphite.

Control rods or blades

These are made with neutron-absorbing material such as cadmium, hafnium or boron, and are inserted or withdrawn from the core to control the rate of reaction, or to halt it.


A fluid circulating through the core so as to transfer the heat from it. In light water reactors the water moderator functions also as primary coolant

Pressure vessel or pressure tubes

Usually a robust steel vessel containing the reactor core and moderator/coolant, but it may be a series of tubes holding the fuel and conveying the coolant through the surrounding moderator.

Steam generator

Part of the cooling system of pressurised water reactors (PWR & PHWR) where the high-pressure primary coolant bringing heat from the reactor is used to make steam for the turbine, in a secondary circuit.