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[Portal] Nuclear technology

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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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The Metallurgical Laboratory (or Met Lab) was a scientific laboratory at the University of Chicago that was established in February 1942 to study and use the newly discovered chemical element plutonium. It researched plutonium's chemistry and metallurgy, designed the world's first nuclear reactors to produce it, and developed chemical processes to separate it from other elements. In August 1942 the lab's chemical section was the first to chemically separate a weighable sample of plutonium, and on 2 December 1942, the Met Lab produced the first controlled nuclear chain reaction, in the reactor Chicago Pile-1, which was constructed under the stands of the university's old football stadium, Stagg Field.

The Metallurgical Laboratory was established as part of the Metallurgical Project, also known as the "Pile" or "X-10" Project, headed by Chicago professor Arthur H. Compton, a Nobel Prize laureate. In turn, this was part of the Manhattan Project – the Allied effort to develop the atomic bomb during World War II. The Metallurgical Laboratory was successively led by Richard L. Doan, Samuel K. Allison, Joyce C. Stearns and Farrington Daniels. Scientists who worked there included Enrico Fermi, James Franck, Eugene Wigner and Glenn Seaborg. At its peak on 1 July 1944, it had 2,008 staff.

Chicago Pile-1 was soon moved by the lab to a more remote site in the Argonne Forest, where its original materials were used to build an improved Chicago Pile-2 to be employed in new research into the products of nuclear fission. Another reactor, Chicago Pile-3, was built at the Argonne site in early 1944. This was the world's first reactor to use heavy water as a neutron moderator. It went critical in May 1944, and was first operated at full power in July 1944. The Metallurgical Laboratory also designed the X-10 Graphite Reactor at the Clinton Engineer Works in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the B Reactor at the Hanford Engineer Works in the state of Washington.

As well as the work on reactor development, the Metallurgical Laboratory studied the chemistry and metallurgy of plutonium, and worked with DuPont to develop the bismuth phosphate process used to separate plutonium from uranium. When it became certain that nuclear reactors would involve radioactive materials on a gigantic scale, there was considerable concern about the health and safety aspects, and the study of the biological effects of radiation assumed greater importance. It was discovered that plutonium, like radium, was a bone seeker, making it especially hazardous. The Metallurgical Laboratory became the first of the national laboratories, the Argonne National Laboratory, on 1 July 1946. The work of the Met Lab also led to the creation of the Enrico Fermi Institute and the James Franck Institute at the university.

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Ames Process pressure vessel lower.jpg
Credit: Unknown (see OTRS)

A pressure vessel being lowered into a furnace during the Manhattan Project for reduction to uranium metal. Uranium halide and sacrificial metal are in the vessel. This is part of the Ames process.
Attribution: The Ames Laboratory, USDOE (http://www.ameslab.gov/)

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John von Neumann (/vɒnˈnɔɪmən/; Hungarian: Neumann János Lajos, pronounced [ˈnɒjmɒn ˈjaːnoʃ ˈlɒjoʃ]; December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, and polymath. Von Neumann was generally regarded as the foremost mathematician of his time and said to be "the last representative of the great mathematicians"; who integrated both pure and applied sciences.

He made major contributions to a number of fields, including mathematics (foundations of mathematics, functional analysis, ergodic theory, representation theory, operator algebras, geometry, topology, and numerical analysis), physics (quantum mechanics, hydrodynamics, and quantum statistical mechanics), economics (game theory), computing (Von Neumann architecture, linear programming, self-replicating machines, stochastic computing), and statistics.

He was a pioneer of the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics in the development of functional analysis, and a key figure in the development of game theory and the concepts of cellular automata, the universal constructor and the digital computer.

He published over 150 papers in his life: about 60 in pure mathematics, 60 in applied mathematics, 20 in physics, and the remainder on special mathematical subjects or non-mathematical ones. His last work, an unfinished manuscript written while he was in hospital, was later published in book form as The Computer and the Brain.

His analysis of the structure of self-replication preceded the discovery of the structure of DNA. In a short list of facts about his life he submitted to the National Academy of Sciences, he stated, "The part of my work I consider most essential is that on quantum mechanics, which developed in Göttingen in 1926, and subsequently in Berlin in 1927–1929. Also, my work on various forms of operator theory, Berlin 1930 and Princeton 1935–1939; on the ergodic theorem, Princeton, 1931–1932."

During World War II, von Neumann worked on the Manhattan Project with theoretical physicist Edward Teller, mathematician Stanisław Ulam and others, problem solving key steps in the nuclear physics involved in thermonuclear reactions and the hydrogen bomb. He developed the mathematical models behind the explosive lenses used in the implosion-type nuclear weapon, and coined the term "kiloton" (of TNT), as a measure of the explosive force generated.

After the war, he served on the General Advisory Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, and consulted for a number of organizations, including the United States Air Force, the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory, the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. As a Hungarian émigré, concerned that the Soviets would achieve nuclear superiority, he designed and promoted the policy of mutually assured destruction to limit the arms race.

Nuclear technology news


3 March 2020 –
A court in Kazakhstan orders the early release of Mukhtar Dzhakishev, the former CEO of state nuclear firm Kazatomprom, who had been sentenced to 14-years in prison for corruption in 2010. Upon his release he will have served more than 11 years in prison. (Reuters)
22 February 2020 –
France shuts down its first nuclear power reactor, at the Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant. (Deutsche Welle)

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