Nuclear Reactors 101

A very brief explanation on how nuclear power works, reactor explosions, and melt downs.
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Here's how a reactor works.

13/03/2011 20:13:00 WIB
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The world is full of atoms that are unstable. There's something about their structure that makes them unhappy.

13/03/2011 20:13:26 WIB
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And if you have a material that is unstable, it is called radioactive.

13/03/2011 20:16:17 WIB
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To stabilize themselves, atoms usually have to eject some part of themselves which also gives off energy.

13/03/2011 20:13:59 WIB
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We call the process by which an atom stabilizes itself a reaction, or nuclear reaction.

13/03/2011 20:15:14 WIB
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The core principle behind how a nuclear reactor works is harnessing the energy that is released when an atom stabilizes itself.

13/03/2011 20:14:50 WIB
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All a reactor really is is a house that stores radioactive material, and introduces another material to harvest its energy.

13/03/2011 20:17:10 WIB
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The material used to harvest the energy is called a moderator, and in most modern reactors water is used as a moderator.

13/03/2011 20:17:41 WIB
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Here's what happens: We take a bunch of large unstable atoms, and they release neutrons at a high rate of speed.

13/03/2011 20:18:17 WIB
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These neutrons collide with the moderator, or water molecules, giving them energy in the form of heat.

13/03/2011 20:18:47 WIB
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We've now got hot water which can be used to heat other things, like steam which can turn turbines which makes power.

13/03/2011 20:19:19 WIB
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Meanwhile the fast neutron that we started out with, that goes on to instigate another reaction in the fuel, creating more neutrons.

13/03/2011 20:19:55 WIB
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And since neutrons create more neutrons the process becomes self sustaining.

13/03/2011 20:21:10 WIB
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In this way we create the neutron lifecycle. Neutrons are effectively the currency of nuclear power.

13/03/2011 20:20:29 WIB
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The more neutrons you have at work in a reactor, the hotter you can make your water, the more power you get.

13/03/2011 20:20:54 WIB
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our job is to control this self sustaining process so what we add is another material that absorbs neutrons.

13/03/2011 20:21:52 WIB
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If you've ever seen a Red October, or a Bond movie with a reactor, you'll be familiar with the term control rod.

13/03/2011 20:22:38 WIB
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A control rod is a poison rod, a rod made of something that absorbs neutrons. Think of it as a dimmer switch.

13/03/2011 20:23:25 WIB
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If you want to shut the reactor down, you fully insert control rods which put a halt to nuclear reactions.

13/03/2011 20:24:22 WIB
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The more you pull them out, the more reactions you can have, the more energy.

13/03/2011 20:24:42 WIB
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Explosions: I don't want people to get the wrong impression. When you hear reports of an explosion, don't think like a nuke bomb explosion

13/03/2011 20:28:19 WIB
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Power reactors don't have the right geometry and concentration to detonate like a bomb. These explosions are hydrogen gas igniting.

13/03/2011 20:29:34 WIB
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The other thing was a quick explanation of a meltdown.

13/03/2011 20:30:42 WIB
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That doesn't mean the explosions still aren't destructive, just not on the magnitude of an A-bomb.

13/03/2011 20:30:29 WIB
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Part of a reactor's job is to safely house and shield the highly radioactive fuel. But reactors are made out of steel.

13/03/2011 20:31:22 WIB
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