History of nuclear reactor

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History of nuclear reactor

Post by sunnyhouselife »

The first artificial nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, was constructed at the University of Chicago by a team led by Enrico Fermi in 1942. (Fermi and Leo Szilard have patented the nuclear reactor.) It achieved criticality on December 2, 1942at 3:25 PM. The reactor support structure was made of wood, which supported a pile of graphite blocks, embedded in which was natural Uranium-oxide 'pseudospheres' or 'briquettes'. Inspiration for such a reactor was provided by the discovery of Lise Meitner, Fritz Strassman and Otto Hahn in 1938 that bombardment of Uranium with neutrons provided by an Alpha-on-Beryllium fusion reaction (a neutron howitzer) produced a Barium residue, which they reasoned was created by the fissioning of the Uranium nuclei. Subsequent studies revealed that several neutrons were also released during the fissioning, making available the opportunity for a chain reaction. Shortly after the discovery of fission, Hitler's Germany invaded Poland in 1939, starting World War II in Europe, and all such research became militarily classified. On August 2, 1939 Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggesting that the discovery of Uranium's fission could lead to the development of "extremely powerful bombs of a new type", giving impetus to the study of reactors and fission.
Soon after the Chicago Pile, the U.S. military developed nuclear reactors for the Manhattan Project starting in 1943. The primary purpose for these reactors was the mass production of plutonium (primarily at the Hanford Site) for nuclear weapons. After World War II, the U.S. military sought other uses for nuclear reactor technology. Research by the Army and the Air Force never came to fruition; however, the U.S. Navy succeeded when they steamed the USS Nautilus (SSN-571) on nuclear power January 17, 1955.
Besides the military uses of nuclear reactors, there were political reasons to pursue civilian use of atomic energy. U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower made his famous Atoms for Peace speech to the UN General Assembly on December 8, 1953. This diplomacy led to the dissemination of reactor technology to U.S. institutions and worldwide.
"World's first nuclear power plant" is the claim made by signs at the site of the EBR-I, which is now a museum near Arco, Idaho. This experimental LMFBR operated by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission produced 0.8 kW in a test on December 20, 1951 and 100 kW (electrical) the following day, having a design output of 200 kW (electrical). The first nuclear power plant built for civil purposes was the AM-1 Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant, launched on June 27, 1954 in the Soviet Union. It produced around 5 MW (electrical).
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