All nuclear fission power reactors run on fuel containing uranium and other isotopes, but fueling a nuclear reactor is a lot more complicated than driving up to them with a dump truck filled with uranium ore and filling ‘er up. Although nuclear fission is simple enough that it can occur without human intervention as happened for example at the Oklo natural fission reactors, within a commercial reactor the goal is to create a nuclear chain reaction that targets a high burn-up (fission rate), with an as constant as possible release of energy.
Each different fission reactor design makes a number of assumptions about the fuel rods that are inserted into it. These assumptions can be about the enrichment ratio of the fissile isotopes like U-235, the density of individual fuel pellets, the spacing between the fuel rods containing these pellets, the configuration of said fuel rods along with any control, moderator and other elements. and so on.
Today’s light water reactors, heavy water reactors, fast neutron reactors, high temperature reactors and kin all have their own fuel preferences as a result, with high-assay low-enriched (HALEU) fuel being the new hot thing for new reactor designs. Let’s take a look at what goes into these fuel recipes.
Continue reading “The Intricacies Of Creating Fuel For Nuclear Reactors”
Everyone loves a field trip. It’s always fun to visit a manufacturing plant to see how the big-boys make all the cool toys we love. But there are a few places you might not want to go exploring, like inside a nuclear reactor.
Well fear not, now you can spend as much time as you would like with these amazing cut-away of nuclear facilities from across the globe. You can thank University of New Mexico Libraries Exhibition for hosting these photos that have been published in “Nuclear Engineering International” magazine over the years. If you happen to have a pdf allergy, you can also browse most of them on flickr here.
And if you want to see more amazing cutaways, there is this photo pool full of some 1300 other cutaway images to look at. If you know of other amazing engineering photos sets, leave us a note in the comments.
“Wednesday, I was arrested and sent to jail,” is what your blog might say if you decide to try and duplicate this project. You may, however, be fortunate to be still writing your blog, as ATTEMPTING TO BUILD YOUR OWN REACTOR can be quite dangerous. That’s what [Richard] did using household items such as clock fingers for Radium, and smoke detectors for Americium. After the radioactive elements were separated from their household “containers” and melted down, they created a small explosion on his stove.
This attempted experiment is based on one that was done by [David Hahn], AKA, “The Nuclear Boyscout”, in order to obtain his nuclear energy badge. For what it’s worth, [David] did attain the rank of Eagle Scout, however, he turned his parent’s house into a Superfund EPA cleanup site in the process.
The video after the break describes the process of making a reactor from household materials. This video may be entertaining, but duplicating it is not recommended (and would be somewhat expensive). Continue reading “The DIY Nuclear Reactor”
[Will Jack] built a heavy water fusion reactor and then won district and regional science fair projects with it. Someone give this man a job!
We looked in on his fusion reactor about a year ago. At the time he had managed to build a magnetic containment field but didn’t have the voltages or the deuterium necessary to achieve fusion. We’ll that’s all changed. Using a boron-10 lined sensor tube he’s managed to detect the rise in neutron counts that would indicate fusion. Remarkable. He’s now working on a refined gas system that will allow him to increase the deuterium purity by cutting down on the leak rate. He mentions a few other hardware improvements such as a new containment unit and an ion source upgrade. Both of these concepts go beyond our knowledge so do make sure to put on your Nuclear Engineering hat while reading through his project update.
Do you ever wonder what projects your neighbors have going on in their basements? [Will Jack’s] neighbors might be surprised to find he’s building a fusion reactor. The first step toward completing a Farsworth-Hirsch Fusor is up and running. The picture above shows heated plasma contained in a magnetic field. Next he just needs to up the voltage and inject some deuterium.
Yeah right! Deuterium, aka heavy water, is extremely rare and very difficult to refine. If you’re not familiar with the substance, you should get your hands on the NOVA episode: Hitler’s Sunken Secrets.
We’re glad to see that [Will Jack] is donning a lead vest for protections. [Will O’Brien] cautioned us about the stray X-rays these things produce when he covered fusors back in 2007.