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Additional info for Eval of Prompt Fission Gamma Rays for Simulating Nuclear Safeguard Measurements

Sample text

3). In the first half of the 20th century elements were known with up to 92 protons in the nucleus. This most complex of these ‘natural elements’ was uranium, and it is uranium that made possible the production of nuclear energy. A key discovery of pre-war nuclear physics was that not all the mass of the atomic nucleus was provided by protons. An electrically neutral particle of similar mass to the proton and known as the neutron also forms part of the nucleus. Neutrons allow for a new force known as the ‘strong nuclear force’ binding the nucleus together.

Graphite is composed of weakly bound sheets of carbon atoms. Most carbon atoms have a total of only twelve neutrons and protons in the nucleus. The sheet-like structure of the material allows it to absorb the kinetic energy of the fast neutrons from the fission process. Graphite moderators can, if operated at very low temperatures, hold this energy for quite some time in a form known as Wigner energy (see text box for a detailed description). If the operators were not careful, a graphite moderator in this state could release energy unexpectedly in the future.

Graphite and water are stable enough and sufficiently easily handled to be good engineering materials for nuclear reactor design. Several reactor designs use socalled light water as the moderator (that is water with conventional isotopic hydrogen) whereas others, such as the Canadian CANDU design (see chapter 5), use so-called heavy water. Heavy water is water manufactured using deuterium instead of normal isotopic hydrogen. These issues are discussed further in chapter 5, where various water-cooled reactor designs are discussed in depth.

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Eval of Prompt Fission Gamma Rays for Simulating Nuclear Safeguard Measurements


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