To calculate the power of a reactor, it is necessary to identify the individual components of this energy precisely. At first, it is important to distinguish between the total energy released and the energy that can be recovered in a reactor.
The total energy released in fission can be calculated from binding energies of the initial target nucleus to be fissioned and binding energies of fission products. But not all the total energy can be recovered in a reactor. For example, about 10 MeV is released in the form of neutrinos (in fact, antineutrinos). Since the neutrinos are weakly interacting (with an extremely low cross-section of any interaction), they do not contribute to the energy that can be recovered in a reactor.
To understand this issue, we must first investigate a typical fission reaction such as the one listed below.
Energy Release per Component
Using the above reaction, we can identify and describe almost all the individual components of the total energy released during the fission reaction.
Energy Release in a Reactor
The total energy released in a reactor is about 210 MeV per 235U fission, distributed as shown in the table. In a reactor, the average recoverable energy per fission is about 200 MeV, the total energy minus the energy of antineutrinos radiated away. This means that about 3.1⋅1010 fissions per second are required to produce a power of 1 W. Since 1 gram of any fissile material contains about 2.5 x 1021 nuclei, the fissioning of 1 gram of fissile material yields about 1 megawatt-day (MWd) of heat energy.
As can be seen from the description of the individual components of the total energy released during the fission reaction, there is a significant amount of energy generated outside the nuclear fuel (outside fuel rods). Especially the kinetic energy of prompt neutrons is largely generated in the coolant (moderator). This phenomenon needs to be included in the nuclear calculations.
For LWR, it is generally accepted that about 2.5% of total energy is recovered in the moderator. This fraction of energy depends on the materials, their arrangement within the reactor, and thus on the reactor type.