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Nucleac Reactors

  • Date Submitted: 11/26/2010 11:44 PM
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A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. The most common use of nuclear reactors is for the generation of electrical power (see Nuclear power) and for the power in some ships (see Nuclear marine propulsion). This is usually accomplished by methods that involve using heat from the nuclear reaction to power steam turbines. There are also other less common uses as discussed below.
How it works
Main article: Nuclear reactor physics


An induced nuclear fission event. A neutron is absorbed by the nucleus of a uranium-235 atom, which in turn splits into fast-moving lighter elements (fission products) and free neutrons. Though both reactors and nuclear weapons rely on nuclear chain reactions, the rate of reactions in a reactor is much slower than in a bomb.
Just as conventional power stations generate electricity by harnessing the thermal energy released from burning fossil fuels, nuclear reactors convert the thermal energy released from nuclear fission.
[edit] Fission
When a large fissile atomic nucleus such as uranium-235 or plutonium-239 absorbs a neutron, it may undergo nuclear fission. The heavy nucleus splits into two or more lighter nuclei, releasing kinetic energy, gamma radiation and free neutrons; collectively known as fission products.[1] A portion of these neutrons may later be absorbed by other fissile atoms and trigger further fission events, which release more neutrons, and so on. This is known as a nuclear chain reaction.
The reaction can be controlled by using neutron poisons, which absorb excess neutrons, and neutron moderators which reduces the velocity of fast neutrons, thereby turning them into thermal neutrons, which are more likely to be absorbed by other nuclei. Increasing or decreasing the rate of fission has a corresponding effect on the energy output of the reactor.
Commonly used moderators include regular (light) water (75% of the world's reactors) solid graphite (20% of reactors) and...

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