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Contemporary Physics: Part 2

Lecture 14

Nuclear Physics
The mass number (A), also called atomic mass number
or nucleon number, is the total number of protons and
(together
known
as nucleons)
an atomic
Theneutrons
mass number
(A),
also called
atomicinmass
number or
nucleus
nucleon
number, is the total number of protons and
neutrons (together known as nucleons) in an atomic nucleus.
Because protons and neutrons both are baryons, the mass
number A is identical with the baryon number B as of the
nucleus as of the whole atom or ion. The mass number is
different for each different isotope of a chemical element. This
is not the same as the atomic number (Z) which denotes the
number of protons in a nucleus, and thus uniquely identifies
an element. Hence, the difference between the mass number
and the atomic number gives the number of neutrons (N) in a
given nucleus: N=AZ The experimental apparatus with
which Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discovered nuclear
fission in 1938

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Quantum Mechanics
Because protons and neutrons both are
baryons, the mass number A is identical with
the baryon number B as of the nucleus as of
the whole atom or ion. The mass number is
different for each different isotope of a
chemical element. This is not the same as the
atomic number (Z) which denotes the number
of protons in a nucleus, and thus uniquely
identifies an element. Hence, the difference
between the mass number and the atomic
number gives the number of neutrons (N) in a
given nucleus: N=AZ.

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Quantum Mechanics
The mass number is written either after the
element name or as a superscript to the left of an
element's symbol. For example, the most common
isotope of carbon is carbon-12, or, which has 6
protons and 6 neutrons. The full isotope symbol
would also have the atomic number (Z) as a
subscript to the left of the element symbol
directly below the mass number:

This is technically redundant, as each element is


defined by its atomic number, so it is often
omitted.

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear Physics
Radioactive decay is the process by
which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom
loses energy by emitting ionizing particles
( ionizing radiation). The emission is
spontaneous, in that the atom decays without
any interaction with another particle from
outside the atom (i.e., without a nuclear
reaction..

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 7

Radioactivity
Spontaneous emission of radiation,
either directly from unstable atomic
nuclei or as a consequence of a nuclear
reaction.
The radiation, including alpha
particles, nucleons, electrons, and
gamma rays, emitted by a radioactive
substance.

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 7

Quantum Mechanics

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear Physics

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

The radiactive decay


The decay of an unstable nucleus is entirely random and it is impossible to
predict when a particular atom will decay.[ However, it is equally likely to
decay at any time. Therefore, given a sample of a particular radioisotope, the
number of decay events dN expected to occur in a small interval of time dt
is proportional to the number of atoms present.

If N is the number of atoms, then the probability of decay


(dN/N) is proportional to dt:

Radiactive decay
Contemporary Physics: Part 2
Lecture 14

Particular radionuclides decay at different rates, each


having its own decay constant (). The negative sign
indicates that N decreases with each decay event. The
solution to this first-order differential equation is the
following function:

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear Physics
A sample of 14C, whose half-life is 5730 years, has a
decay rate of 14 disintegration per minute (dpm) per
gram of natural carbon. An artifact is found to have
radioactivity of 4 dpm per gram of its present C,
how old is the artifact?
Using the above equation, we have:
where:

years,
years.

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 8

Units of radioactivity measurements


The SI unit of radioactive activity is the becquerel (Bq), in honor of
the scientist Henri Becquerel. One Bq is defined as one
transformation (or decay or disintegration) per second. Since
sensible sizes of radioactive material contains many atoms, a Bq
is a tiny measure of activity; amounts giving activities on the
order of GBq (gigabecquerel, 1 x 109 decays per second) or TBq
(terabecquerel, 1 x 1012 decays per second) are commonly used.
Another unit of radioactivity is the curie, Ci, which was originally
defined as the amount of radium emanation (radon-222) in
equilibrium with one gram of pure radium, isotope Ra-226. At
present it is equal, by definition, to the activity of any radionuclide
decaying with a disintegration rate of 3.7 1010 Bq, so that 1
curie (Ci) = 3.71010 Bq. The use of Ci is currently discouraged
by the SI. Low activities are also measured in disintegrations
per minute (dpm).

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture
14
An example
is the natural decay of chain of

which is as follows:
decays, through alpha-emission, with a half -life of 4.5 billion years to
thorium-234
which decays, through beta-emission, with a half-life of 24 days to
protactinium-234
which decays, through beta-emission, with a half-life of 1.2 minutes to
uranium-234
which decays, through alpha-emission, with a half-life of 240 thousand years
to thorium-230
which decays, through alpha-emission, with a half-life of 77 thousand years to
radium-226
which decays, through alpha-emission, with a half-life of 1.6 thousand years
to radon-222
which decays, through alpha-emission, with a half-life of 3.8 days to
polonium-218
which decays, through alpha-emission, with a half-life of 3.1 minutes to
lead-214
which decays, through beta-emission, with a half-life of 27 minutes to
bismuth-214
which decays, through beta-emission, with a half-life of 20 minutes to
polonium-214
which decays, through alpha-emission, with a half-life of 160 microseconds to
lead-210
which decays, through beta-emission, with a half-life of 22 years to
bismuth-210
which decays, through beta-emission, with a half-life of 5 days to

Decay chain of

Contemporary
Physics: Part 2
Lecture 13

Quantum Mechanics

The quark structure of the proton

Symbol
p,
p+,N+
Discovered
Ernest Rutherford (191
71919, named by him,
1920
)
Mass
1.672621777(74)10
27
kg938.272046(21)MeV/
c2
1.007276466812(90)u
Electriccharge+1e
1.61019C

The quark structure of the


neutron

Symbol
N0
Discovered
(1932)

n, n0,
James Chadwick[1]

Mass1.674927351(74)1027kg
939.565378(21)MeV/c2
1.00866491600(43)u
Electriccharge0e0C

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 13

Quantum Mechanics
The stable nucleus has approximately a constant density and therefore the nuclear radius R can be approximated by the
following formula,

where A = Atomic mass number (the number of protons, Z, plus the number of neutrons, N) ,
r0 = 1.25 fm = 1.25 1015 m.

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 7

Quantum Mechanics
Mass defect
The difference
between the mass of
an atom and the sum
of the masses of its
individual
components in the
free (unbound) state.

Mass change = (unbound


system calculated mass) - (measured mass of
system)
i.e., (sum of masses of protons and neutrons) - (measured mass of
nucleus)

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Mass Defect
Definition: The difference between the unbound system
calculated mass and experimentally measured mass of
nucleus is called mass defect. It is denoted by m. It can be
calculated as follows:

Mass defect = (unbound system


calculated mass) - (measured
mass of nucleus)
i.e, (sum of masses of protons and neutrons) (measured mass of nucleus)

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear binding Energy


A general and simple description of nuclear binding energy is the
energy required to break apart, split, or break down, the nucleus of the atom
into its component parts (nucleons), i. e. neutrons and protons. If the binding
energy for the products is higher when light nuclei fuse, or when heavy nuclei
split, either of these processes will result in a release of the "extra" binding
energy, and this energy is referred to as nuclear energy. It is also loosely
called nuclear power.
The mass of the atom's nucleus is always less than the sum of the individual
masses of the constituent protons and neutrons. This notable difference is a
measure of the nuclear binding energy, which is a result of forces that hold
the nucleus together. Because these forces result in the removal of energy
when the nucleus is formed, and this energy has mass, mass is removed and
is "missing" in the resulting nucleus. This missing mass is known as the

mass defect and represents the evolved energy when


the nucleus is bound. This energy may be removed as
photons (gamma rays) or as the mass or kinetic energy of
a number of different ejected particles. Total mass is
conserved throughout the process, but the "mass defect"

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear Physics

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

NuclearPhysics

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear Physics
The immediate energy release per atom is 180
million electron volts (MeV), i.e. 74 TJ/kg, of which 90% is
kinetic energy (or motion) of the fission fragments, flying
away from each other mutually repelled by the positive
charge of their protons (38 for strontium, 54 for xenon).
Thus their initial kinetic energy is 67 TJ/kg, hence their
initial speed is 12,000 kilometers per second, but their
high electric charge causes many inelastic collisions with
nearby nuclei. The fragments remain trapped inside the
bomb's uranium pit until their motion is converted into xray heat, a process which takes about a millionth of a
second (a microsecond).
This x-ray energy produces the blast and fire which are
normally the purpose of a nuclear explosion.

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear Physics
.

Fusion is unlikely to be selfsustaining because it does


not produce the heat and
pressure necessary for more
fusion. It produces neutrons
which run away with the
energy.[ In weapons, the most
important fusion reaction is
called the D-T reaction. Using
the heat and pressure of
fission, hydrogen-2, or
deuterium ( 2D), fuses with
hydrogen-3, or tritium ( 3T), to
form helium-4 ( 4He) plus one
neutron (n) and energy

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Sun-nuclear reactor

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear fission
A schematic nuclear fission chain
reaction. 1.A uranium-235 atom
absorbs a neutron and fissions into
two new atoms (fission fragments),
releasing three new neutrons and
some binding energy. 2.One of those
neutrons is absorbed by an atom of
uranium-238 and does not continue
the reaction. Another neutron is
simply lost and does not collide with
anything, also not continuing the
reaction. However one neutron does
collide with an atom of uranium-235,
which then fissions and releases two
neutrons and some binding energy.
3.Both of those neutrons collide with
uranium-235 atoms, each of which
fissions and releases between one
and three neutrons, which can then

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear Physics

When a free neutron hits the nucleus of a fissionable atom like


uranium-235 ( 235U), the uranium splits into two smaller atoms
called fission fragments, plus more neutrons. Fission can be
self-sustaining because it produces more neutrons of the
speed required to cause new fissions.
The uranium atom can split any one of dozens of different
ways, as long as the atomic weights add up to 236 (uranium
plus the extra neutron). The following equation shows one
possible split, namely into strontium-95 ( 95Sr), xenon-139
(139Xe), and two neutrons (n), plus energy:

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 13

Prompt neutrons
Neutron emitted immediately during nuclear
fission (within about 10-14 s); in contrast to
delayed neutrons which are sent out seconds to
minutes after the fission of fission products. Prompt
neutrons make up more than 99% of the neutrons.

Delayed neutrons
In nuclear engineering, a delayed neutron is a neutron emitted
after a nuclear fission event, by one of the fission products (or
actually, a fission product daughter after beta decay), anytime
from a few milliseconds to a few minutes after the fission event.

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Critical mass
Top:A sphere of fissile material
is too small to allow the chain
reaction to become selfsustaining as neutrons generated
by fissions can too easily escape.
Middle: By increasing the mass
of the sphere to a critical mass,
the reaction can become selfsustaining.
Bottom: Surrounding the original
sphere with a neutron reflector
increases the efficiency of the
reactions and also allows the reaction
to become self-sustaining.

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

The nuclear reactor

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear Physics

A numerical measure of a critical mass is


dependent on the effective neutron multiplication
factor K the average number of neutrons released
per fission event that go on to cause another
fission event rather than being absorbed or leaving
the material. When K = 1, the mass is critical, and
the chain reaction is barely self-sustaining.
A critical mass is the smallest amount of fissile material
needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction

The critical mass for lower-grade


uranium depends strongly on the
grade: with 20% U-235 it is over
400kg; with 15% U-235, it is well
over 600kg.

Quantum Mechanics
Contemporary Physics: Part 2
Lecture 13

nrc-pwr-opt.gif

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 10

Quantum Mechanics

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 10

Quantum Mechanics

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear Physics
The mass number (A), also called atomic mass number
or nucleon number, is the total number of protons and
neutrons (together known as nucleons) in an atomic
nucleus
The temporarily high level of 135Xe with its high neutron
absorption cross-section makes it difficult to restart the
reactor for several hours. The neutron absorbing 135Xe acts like
a control rod reducing reactivity. The inability of a reactor to
be started due to the effects of 135Xe is sometimes referred to
as xenon precluded start-up. The period of time where the
reactor is unable to override the effects of 135Xe is called the
xenon dead time.

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 10

Quantum Mechanics

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 10

Quantum Mechanics

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 10

Quantum Mechanics

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 8

Quantum Mechanics

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 10

Particle in a box

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

The nuclear reactor

Nuclear reactor

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

1. The operation of the reactor at the low


power level and high poisoning level,
was accompanied by unstable core
temperature and coolant flow, and
possibly by instability of neutron flux
which call reactor poisoning.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan
The Three Final Defenses
A great deal of work goes into the prevention of a serious core event. If such an event was to occur, three
different physical processes are expected to increase the time between the start of the accident and the
time when a large release of radioactivity could occur. These three factors would provide additional time
to the plant operators in order to mitigate the result of the event:
1.The time required for the water to boil away (coolant, moderator). Assuming that at the moment
that the accident occurs the reactor will be SCRAMed (immediate and full insertion of all control rods), so
reducing the thermal power input and further delaying the boiling.
2.The time required for the fuel to melt. After the water has boiled, then the time required for the fuel to
reach its melting point will be dictated by the heat input due to decay of fission products, the heat
capacity of the fuel and the melting point of the fuel.
3.The time required for the molten fuel to breach the primary pressure boundary. The time required
for the molten metal of the core to breach the primary pressure boundary (in light water reactors this is
the pressure vessel; in CANDU and RBMK reactors this is the array of pressurized fuel channels; in
PHWR reactors like Atucha I, it will be a double barrier of channels and the pressure vessel) will depend
on temperatures and boundary materials. Whether or not the fuel remains critical in the conditions inside
the damaged core or beyond will play a significant role.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

A loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA) is a mode of failure for a nuclear reactor; if not managed
effectively, the results of a LOCA could result in reactor core damage. Each nuclear plant's
emergency core cooling system (ECCS) exists specifically to deal with a LOCA.
Nuclear reactors generate heat internally; to remove this heat and convert it into useful electrical
power, a coolant system is used. If this coolant flow is reduced, or lost altogether, the nuclear
reactor's emergency shutdown system is designed to stop the fission chain reaction. However, due to
radioactive decay the nuclear fuel will continue to generate a significant amount of heat. The
decay heat produced by a reactor shutdown from full power is initially equivalent to about 5 to 6% of
the thermal rating of the reactor.[1] If all of the independent cooling trains of the ECCS fail to operate
as designed, this heat can increase the fuel temperature to the point of damaging the reactor.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan
If water is present, it may boil, bursting out of
its pipes. (For this reason, nuclear power plants
are equipped with pressure-operated
relief valves and backup supplies of cooling
water.)
If graphite and air are present, the graphite may
catch fire, spreading radioactive contamination.
This situation exists only in AGRs, RBMKs,
Magnox and weapons-production reactors,
which use graphite as a neutron moderator. (see
Chernobyl disaster.)

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan
The fuel and reactor internals may melt; if the melted
configuration remains critical, the molten mass will continue
to generate heat, possibly melting its way down through the
bottom of the reactor. Such an event is called a
nuclear meltdown and can have severe consequences. The
so-called "China syndrome" would be this process taken to
an extreme: the molten mass working its way down through
the soil to the water table (and below) - however, current
understanding and experience of nuclear fission reactions
suggests that the molten mass would become too disrupted
to carry on heat generation before descending very far; for
example, in the Chernobyl accident the reactor core melted
and core material was found in the basement, too widely
dispersed to carry on a chain reaction (but still dangerously
radioactive).

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan
Some reactor designs have passive safety features that
prevent meltdowns from occurring in these extreme
circumstances. The Pebble Bed Reactor, for instance, can
withstand extreme temperature transients in its fuel. Another
example is the CANDU reactor, which has two large masses
of relatively cool, low-pressure water (first is the heavywater moderator; second is the light-water-filled shield tank)
that act as heat sinks. Another example is the
Hydrogen Moderated Self-regulating Nuclear Power Module,
in which the chemical decomposition of the uranium hydride
fuel halts the fission reaction by removing the hydrogen
moderator.[2] The same principle is used in TRIGA research
reactors.

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Nuclear Reactor

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

1. Due to its complexity, nuclear reactor instrument


automation is a challenge to engineers. High
investment and running costs of a nuclear research
reactor imply the use of advanced equipment and
concepts for instrument automation when striving for
high performance, reliability, and operational
convenience under budgetary pressure. The article
describes a successfully operating instrument
automation system stressing the important underlying
concepts trying to avoid too much details on specific
hardware which is dependent on the time when one
must order things.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

1. The operation of the reactor at the low


power level and high poisoning level,
was accompanied by unstable core
temperature and coolant flow, and
possibly by instability of neutron flux
which call reactor poisoning. When
reactor power is decreased or shut down by
inserting neutron absorbing control rods, the
reactor neutron flux is reduced and the
equilibrium shifts initially towards higher 135Xe
concentration. The 135Xe concentration peaks
about 11.1 hours after reactor power is
decreased. Since 135Xe has a 9.2 hour half life,
the 135Xe concentration gradually decays back
to low levels over 72 hours.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

The temporarily high level of 135Xe with its high neutron


absorption cross-section makes it difficult to restart the
reactor for several hours. The neutron absorbing 135Xe
acts like a control rod reducing reactivity. The inability of a
reactor to be started due to the effects of 135Xe is
sometimes referred to as xenon precluded start-up. The
period of time where the reactor is unable to override the
effects of 135Xe is called the xenon dead time.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

On 26 April 1986, at 01:23 (UTC+3), reactor four


suffered a catastrophic power increase, leading
to explosions in its core. This dispersed large
quantities of radioactive fuel and core materials
into the atmosphere[15]:73 and ignited the
combustible graphite moderator. The burning
graphite moderator increased the emission of
radioactive particles, carried by the smoke, as
the reactor had not been encased by any kind of
hard containment vessel. The accident occurred
during an experiment scheduled to test a
potential safety emergency core cooling feature,
which took place during the normal shutdown
procedure.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

The attempted experiment


Even when not actively generating power, nuclear power reactors
require cooling, typically provided by coolant flow, to remove
decay heat.[16] Pressurized water reactors use water flow at high
pressure to remove waste heat. After an emergency shutdown (
SCRAM), the core still generates a significant amount of residual
heat, which is initially about seven percent of the total thermal
output of the plant. If not removed by coolant systems, the heat
could lead to core damage.[17][18] The reactor that exploded in
Chernobyl consisted of about 1,600 individual fuel channels, and
each operational channel required a flow of 28 metric tons
(28,000liters (7,400USgal)) of water per hour.[15]:7 There had
been concerns that in the event of a power grid failure, external
power would not have been immediately available to run the
plant's cooling water pumps. Chernobyl's reactors had three
backup diesel generators. Each generator required 15 seconds to
start up but took 6075 seconds[15]:15 to attain full speed and
reach the capacity of 5.5MW required to run one main cooling
water pump.[15]:30

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan
This one-minute power gap was considered unacceptable, and it had been
suggested that the rotational energy (or angular momentum) of the
steam turbine and residual steam pressure (with turbine valves closed)
could be used to generate electricity to run the main cooling water pumps
while the emergency diesel generators were reaching the correct
rotational speed (RPM) and voltage. In theory, analyses indicated that this
residual momentum and steam pressure had the potential to provide power
for 45 seconds,[15]:16 which would bridge the power gap between the onset
of the external power failure and the full availability of electric power from
the emergency generators. This capability still needed to be confirmed
experimentally, and previous tests had ended unsuccessfully. An initial test
carried out in 1982 showed that the excitation voltage of the turbinegenerator was insufficient; it did not maintain the desired magnetic field
after the turbine trip. The system was modified, and the test was repeated
in 1984 but again proved unsuccessful. In 1985, the tests were attempted
a third time but also yielded negative results. The test procedure was to be
repeated again in 1986, and it was scheduled to take place during the
maintenance shutdown of Reactor Four.[19]

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan
The Chernobyl power plant had been in operation for two years without
the capability to ride through the first 6075 seconds of a total loss of
electric power, and thus lacked an important safety feature. The station
managers presumably wished to correct this at the first opportunity, which
may explain why they continued the test even when serious problems
arose, and why the requisite approval for the test had not been sought
from the Soviet nuclear oversight regulator (even though there was a
representative at the complex of 4 reactors).[notes 2]:1820
The experimental procedure was intended to run as follows:
The reactor was to be running at a low power level, between 700 MW and
800 MW.
The steam-turbine generator was to be run up to full speed.
When these conditions were achieved, the steam supply for the turbine
generator was to be closed off.
Turbine generator performance was to be recorded to determine whether it
could provide the bridging power for coolant pumps until the emergency
diesel generators were sequenced to start and provide power to the
cooling pumps automatically.
After the emergency generators reached normal operating speed and

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

A few seconds after the start of the SCRAM, a massive power spike occurred,
the core overheated, and seconds later this overheating resulted in the initial
explosion. Some of the fuel rods fractured, blocking the control rod columns an
causing the control rods to become stuck at one-third insertion. Within three
seconds the reactor output rose above 530MW.[15]:31 The subsequent course of
events was not registered by instruments: it is known only as a result of
mathematical simulation. Apparently, a great rise in power first caused an
increase in fuel temperature and massive steam buildup, leading to a rapid
increase in steam pressure. This destroyed fuel elements and ruptured the
channels in which these elements were located.[31] Then, according to some
estimations[who?], the reactor jumped to around 30GW thermal, ten times the
normal operational output. The last reading on the control panel was 33 GW. It
was not possible to reconstruct the precise sequence of the processes that led
to the destruction of the reactor and the power unit building, but a
steam explosion, like the explosion of a steam boiler from excess vapor
pressure, appears to have been the next event. There is a general
understanding that it was steam from the wrecked channels entering the
reactor's inner structure that caused the destruction of the reactor casing,
tearing off and lifting the 2,000-ton upper plate, to which the entire reactor
[who?]

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan
A second, more powerful explosion occurred about two or three seconds
after the first; evidence indicates that the second explosion resulted from
a nuclear excursion.[33] The nuclear excursion dispersed the core and
effectively terminated the nuclear chain reaction. However, a graphite
fire was burning by now, greatly contributing to the spread of
radioactive material and the contamination of outlying areas[where?].[34]
There were initially several hypotheses about the nature of the second
explosion. One view was that "the second explosion was caused by the
hydrogen which had been produced either by the overheated steamzirconium reaction or by the reaction of red-hot graphite with steam that
produced hydrogen and carbon monoxide." Another hypothesis was that
the second explosion was a thermal explosion of the reactor as a result
of the uncontrollable escape of fast neutrons caused by the complete
water loss in the reactor core.[35] A third hypothesis was that the
explosion was caused by steam. According to this version, the flow of
steam and the steam pressure caused all the destruction that followed
the ejection from the shaft of a substantial part of the graphite and fuel.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan
In case of the Fukushima plant (Figure 1), the primary
source of energy to operate the cooling water pumps was
electricity from the grid. Following the tsunami the following
sequence of events followed:
The primary source of electricity was lost because the grid
was damaged by the earthquake.
Backup power should have come from diesel generators,
but they were at ground level and therefore stopped when
they got flooded by the tsunami.
The secondary sources of backup power were batteries.
These batteries were undersized and quickly depleted.
Tertiary backup was not provided and the design did not
provide convenient means of introducing water by water
cannons or dropping water from helicopters.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

1.But if old nuclear reactors are


not renovated or replaced,
what will fill the energy gaps
left behind? The UK gets
nearly one half of its energy
from nuclear power, Germany
over one quarter, the United
States one fifth. How will
these countries keep the
lights on?

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

The longer term moral of this


accident is that the dependence
on nuclear power, which
provides only about 7% of the
global energy consumption
(Table 1) should be phased out
over a couple of decades and a
gradual conversion to
inexhaustible energy sources,
such as solar, geothermal,
hydraulic, etc. should be

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

1. The operation of the reactor at the low


power level and high poisoning level,
was accompanied by unstable core
temperature and coolant flow, and
possibly by instability of neutron flux
which call reactor poisoning. When
reactor power is decreased or shut down by
inserting neutron absorbing control rods, the
reactor neutron flux is reduced and the
equilibrium shifts initially towards higher 135Xe
concentration. The 135Xe concentration peaks
about 11.1 hours after reactor power is
decreased. Since 135Xe has a 9.2 hour half life,
the 135Xe concentration gradually decays back
to low levels over 72 hours.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

1. The operation of the reactor at the low


power level and high poisoning level,
was accompanied by unstable core
temperature and coolant flow, and
possibly by instability of neutron flux
which call reactor poisoning. When
reactor power is decreased or shut down by
inserting neutron absorbing control rods, the
reactor neutron flux is reduced and the
equilibrium shifts initially towards higher 135Xe
concentration. The 135Xe concentration peaks
about 11.1 hours after reactor power is
decreased. Since 135Xe has a 9.2 hour half life,
the 135Xe concentration gradually decays back
to low levels over 72 hours.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan
Listed below are specific design and control errors, which if corrected,
could have prevented the Fukushima accident:
1. As to automation errors, the lack reliable sensors were obvious. It is
hard to believe that level sensors were not provided in the reactors,
suppression chambers, storage ponds and therefore the operators did
not know if fuel rods were uncovered and to what extent. It is also
inconsistent with present automation practices that means were not
provided for wireless remote monitoring of plant conditions.
2. Another major error was the lack of automation. In future designs all
safety shutdown systems should be fully automated and their
triggering should not dependent on the judgment of hesitant or
panicked operators. In order for this to happen, operators must have
full confidence in the reliability of these systems. Therefore they must
be well maintained and completely reliable, which requires multiple
backup sensors.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan
1.

In order to make sure that cooling can not be lost, a last resort
backup system should have been provided, which does not depend
on the availability of any interruptible energy source (electricity,
steam, etc.) and does not contain any moving parts. Such
uninterruptible energy source is gravity. Therefore, cooling water
tanks should be placed on top of the reactor buildings. These tanks
should be sized to remove all the heat that is released during a
normal reactor shut down. If faster heat removal is needed, the
cooling rate can be increased by air pressurization of the water tanks
and if increased cooling capacity is needed, the tanks can be so
designed that they can be conveniently refilled by water cannons,
fire engines or helicopters.

Automation Could Have Prevented the


Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl and Japan

1. Prior to activating the above described last resort backup


system, first a diesel generators should be automatically
started and if they fail, the system should be automatically
switched to battery backup that is sized large enough to
supply all electricity needed during the shut down.
2. In case of pressure buildup, neither hydrogen, nor steam
should be allowed to be released into the atmosphere.
Therefore, fully enclosed external condensers should be
provided outside the reactor building. If regular power is
unavailable, the coolant for these external condensers
should come from the gravity flow system on the roof.

Nuclear reactor

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Contemporary Physics: Part 2


Lecture 14

Creativity

The
experim
ental
apparat
us with
which
Otto Ha
hn
and
Fritz
Strassm
ann
discove
red

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