The nuclear technology portal


This symbol of radioactivity is internationally recognized.
Nuclear technology is technology that involves the nuclear reactions of atomic nuclei. Among the notable nuclear technologies are nuclear reactors, nuclear medicine and nuclear weapons. It is also used, among other things, in smoke detectors and gun sights.
A nuclear weapon (also called an atom bomb, nuke, atomic bomb, nuclear warhead, A-bomb, or nuclear bomb) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission (fission bomb) or from a combination of fission and fusion reactions (thermonuclear bomb). Both bomb types release large quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first test of a fission ("atomic") bomb released an amount of energy approximately equal to 20,000 tons of TNT (84 TJ). The first thermonuclear ("hydrogen") bomb test released energy approximately equal to 10 million tons of TNT (42 PJ). A thermonuclear weapon weighing little more than 2,400 pounds (1,100 kg) can release energy equal to more than 1.2 million tons of TNT (5.0 PJ). A nuclear device no larger than traditional bombs can devastate an entire city by blast, fire, and radiation. Since they are weapons of mass destruction, the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a focus of international relations policy.

Nuclear weapons have been used twice in war, both times by the United States against Japan near the end of World War II. On August 6, 1945, the U.S. Army Air Forces detonated a uranium gun-type fission bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" over the Japanese city of Hiroshima; three days later, on August 9, the U.S. Army Air Forces detonated a plutonium implosion-type fission bomb nicknamed "Fat Man" over the Japanese city of Nagasaki. These bombings caused injuries that resulted in the deaths of approximately 200,000 civilians and military personnel. The ethics of these bombings and their role in Japan's surrender are subjects of debate.



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K-25 (7609929206).jpg
K-25 was the codename given by the Manhattan Project to the program to produce enriched uranium for atomic bombs using the gaseous diffusion method. Originally the codename for the product, over time it came to refer to the project, the production facility located at the Clinton Engineer Works in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the main gaseous diffusion building, and ultimately the site. When it was built in 1944, the four-story K-25 gaseous diffusion plant was the world's largest building, comprising over 1,640,000 square feet (152,000 m2) of floor space and a volume of 97,500,000 cubic feet (2,760,000 m3).

Gaseous diffusion is based on Graham's law, which states that the rate of effusion of a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of its molecular mass. The highly corrosive uranium hexafluoride (UF
6
) was the only known compound of uranium sufficiently volatile to be used in this process. Before this could be done, the Special Alloyed Materials (SAM) Laboratories at Columbia University and the Kellex Corporation had to overcome formidable difficulties to develop a suitable barrier.

Construction of the K-25 facility was undertaken by J. A. Jones Construction. At the height of construction, over 25,000 workers were employed on the site. Gaseous diffusion was but one of three enrichment technologies used by the Manhattan Project. Slightly enriched product from the S-50 thermal diffusion plant was fed into the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant. Its product in turn was fed into the Y-12 electromagnetic plant. The enriched uranium was used in the Little Boy atomic bomb used in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In 1946, the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant became capable of producing highly enriched product.

After the war, four more gaseous diffusion plants named K-27, K-29, K-31 and K-33 were added to the site. The K-25 site was renamed the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant in 1955. Production of enriched uranium ended in 1964, and gaseous diffusion finally ceased on the site on 27 August 1985. The Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant was renamed the Oak Ridge K-25 Site in 1989, and the East Tennessee Technology Park in 1996. Demolition of all five gaseous diffusion plants was completed in February 2017.

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X10 Reactor Face.jpg
Credit: Ed Westcott / US Army / Manhattan Engineer District

Did you know?

  • ... that Vijay Kumar Kapahi elucidated the relativistic beaming in nuclear jets of quasars?
  • ... that Wu Dechang managed the emergency response to large-scale plutonium contamination caused by a failed Chinese nuclear test?
  • ... that the Canadian Underground Research Laboratory was built to test the concept of storing nuclear waste in rock that was billions of years old?
  • ... that organic nuclear reactors, widely researched in the 1950s and 1960s, replaced the water normally used to cool the reactor core with various organic fluids?
  • ... that Huang Xuhua, the "father of China's nuclear submarines", spent two years raising pigs?
  • ... that the United Kingdom conducted 24 nuclear weapons tests in the United States between 1962 and 1991, and has conducted subcritical tests not involving explosions since then?

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Niels Bohr.jpg
Niels Henrik David Bohr (Danish: [nels ˈpoɐ̯ˀ]; 7 October 1885 – 18 November 1962) was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr was also a philosopher and a promoter of scientific research.

Bohr developed the Bohr model of the atom, in which he proposed that energy levels of electrons are discrete and that the electrons revolve in stable orbits around the atomic nucleus but can jump from one energy level (or orbit) to another. Although the Bohr model has been supplanted by other models, its underlying principles remain valid. He conceived the principle of complementarity: that items could be separately analysed in terms of contradictory properties, like behaving as a wave or a stream of particles. The notion of complementarity dominated Bohr's thinking in both science and philosophy.

Bohr founded the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen, now known as the Niels Bohr Institute, which opened in 1920. Bohr mentored and collaborated with physicists including Hans Kramers, Oskar Klein, George de Hevesy, and Werner Heisenberg. He predicted the existence of a new zirconium-like element, which was named hafnium, after the Latin name for Copenhagen, where it was discovered. Later, the element bohrium was named after him.

During the 1930s, Bohr helped refugees from Nazism. After Denmark was occupied by the Germans, he had a famous meeting with Heisenberg, who had become the head of the German nuclear weapon project. In September 1943, word reached Bohr that he was about to be arrested by the Germans, and he fled to Sweden. From there, he was flown to Britain, where he joined the British Tube Alloys nuclear weapons project, and was part of the British mission to the Manhattan Project. After the war, Bohr called for international cooperation on nuclear energy. He was involved with the establishment of CERN and the Research Establishment Risø of the Danish Atomic Energy Commission and became the first chairman of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in 1957.

Nuclear technology news


1 October 2019 – North Korea–United States relations, North Korean missile tests, Japan–North Korea relations
North Korea says it will resume working-level nuclear talks with the United States, reviving a denuclearization process that has remained stalled since a February summit in Vietnam ended without a deal. (The Wall Street Journal)

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