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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Nuclear power

Hungarian-born physicist Leo Szilard conceived of the idea of the nuclear chain reaction while waiting for a traffic light on Southampton Row in Bloomsbury, London on September 12, 1933.

German chemist Otto Hahn discovered the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy on December 17, 1938. The decisive experiment was named "radium-barium-mesothorium-fractionation."

Nuclear fission experimental setup By J Brew - originally posted to Flickr 

On December 2, 1942 a group of scientists achieved the first self-sustaining chain reaction and thereby initiated the controlled release of nuclear energy. Leo Szilard, who had emigrated to America was among the observers.

The nuclear reactor that achieved this was known as Chicago Pile-1. It was built by the Manhattan Project's Metallurgical Laboratory on a squash court at the University of Chicago. Many reactors were built in the U.S. during World War II for the Manhattan Project.

Drawing of the reactor
The Manhattan project was so secret, vice president Truman wasn't even debriefed on it until he assumed office after Roosevelt's death.

The first European artificial, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was initiated within Soviet nuclear reactor F-1 in 1946.

The EBR-1 at Argonne National Laboratory-West in Arco, Idaho was the first nuclear power plant to generate electricity. The electricity powered four light bulbs on December 20, 1951.

The first light bulbs ever lit by electricity generated by nuclear power at EBR-1

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his "Atoms for Peace" speech on December 8, 1953, which led to an American program to supply equipment and information on nuclear power to schools, hospitals, and research institutions around the world.

The world's first nuclear power station was opened at Obninsk near Moscow. It began producing electricity on June 27, 1954. The plant remained in operation between 1954 and 2002, although its production of electricity for the grid ceased in 1959; thereafter it functioned as a research and isotope production plant only.
Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant Museum. By RIA Novosti Wikipedia

Arco, Idaho became the first town powered entirely by nuclear power energy when a 3,500-watt experimental power plant went on line for an hour on July 17, 1955.

USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, put to sea for the first time in 1955. It travel led from Groton, Connecticut, with the message, "Underway on nuclear power."

The world's first commercial nuclear power plant opened at Calder Hall, near Sellafield in Cumbria, England in 1956. The first power station to generate electricity on an industrial scale (four 60 MWe reactors) from nuclear energy, it was first connected to the national power grid on August 27, 1956 and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on October 17, 1956.

In its early years, the main task of Calder Hall was to produce weapons-grade plutonium. Generating electricity was a secondary task.

Calder Hall was closed on March 31, 2003 after 47 years in use.

Calder Hall, United Kingdom - The world's first commercial nuclear power station. 

The Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Shippingport, Pennsylvania was the first commercial reactor in the USA and was opened in 1957.

The Windscale fire in Cumbria, England, the world's first major nuclear accident, took place on October 10, 1957.

The China Syndrome film about a nuclear reactor meltdown was released just 12 days before the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown on March 28, 1979, catapulting the movie into a blockbuster hit.

After visiting the Three Mile Island nuclear plant's accident in 1979, Jimmy Carter, who was trained in nuclear power from the US Navy, told his cabinet that the incident was minor. The president did not say so in public, however, to avoid offending fellow Democrats who opposed nuclear power.

An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine on April 26, 1986,  released large amounts of radioactive particles into the atmosphere in what was then the worst nuclear disaster in history.

The abandoned city of Pripyat with Chernobyl plant in the distance.

Manned by a staff of 40 undergraduate students, the Reed College Research Reactor in Oregon has more female reactor operators than all other nuclear reactors in the world combined.

11 per cent of the world’s energy requirements are now produced by nuclear power.

France is the country most reliant on nuclear power which supplies more than 78 per cent of its energy requirement. France produces so much nuclear energy that it actually exports energy and makes a profit.

Oklo in Gabon is the only known location in the world capable of experiencing self-sustaining nuclear fission reactions. A natural nuclear fission reactor is a uranium deposit where self-sustaining nuclear chain reactions have occurred.

Oklo is the only known location for this in the world and consists of 16 sites at which self-sustaining nuclear fission reactions took place approximately 1.7 billion years ago, and ran for a few hundred thousand years, averaging probably less than 100 kW of thermal power during that time.

There are "nuclear divers", people who dive into nuclear power plant cooling systems to perform maintenance on them.

Source Daily Express

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