How does a nuclear reactor work?

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Offline glovesforfoxes

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How does a nuclear reactor work?
« on: 04/12/2009 03:56:12 »
?

Is it based on the principle that converting matter to energy will release lots of energy? Why is Uranium required for the reactors, and why are other materials not used? How many nuclear reactors could we build? Is the material for nuclear reactors finite, and how long does it continue to provide energy?
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Offline Soul Surfer

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How does a nuclear reactor work?
« Reply #1 on: 07/12/2009 00:10:42 »
Today's nuclear reactors depend on the fact that certain heavy radioactive nucleii can split and release energy when they are hit by a neutron of the correct energy.  The most common one is Uranium 235 although some reactors use plutonium 239.  The normal decay of thematerial releases a small amount of neutrons so when the correct quantity of material is assembled a self surstaining chain reaction can be developed and controoled usin neutron absoebing rods.   Other atoms do not have these properties.
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Offline LeeE

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How does a nuclear reactor work?
« Reply #2 on: 07/12/2009 02:03:54 »
Todays fission reactors depend upon the fact that when a heavy element atom fissions into two less heavy element atoms, the sum of the masses of the two resulting atoms is less than the mass of the original atom; the energy is gained from that loss of mass.

In a fusion reaction, two light element atoms are fused to create a single heavier atom, but in this case the mass of the two lighter atoms is greater than the mass of the resulting single heavier atom; once again though, the energy comes from the loss of mass.
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