Summer SAVY 2016 (Session 3, Day 2) – Fission and Fusion: Nuclear Engineering 101
We kicked off our session about fission with a bang! This morning, the students set off over 100 mousetraps loaded with ping pong balls in less than 20 seconds starting with just a single ping pong ball. We related this experiment to the fission process that occurs with neutrons and uranium atoms in a nuclear reactor. The students also had to calculate and graph the fission process assuming 2 or 3 neutrons are released from the fission reaction. Our data lines were off the charts after just 6 fission steps! We then learned how the fission process could be controlled through boron control rods inside nuclear reactors. We put our overhand throwing skills to the test by trying to pass our neutrons through the mock control rods set-up in our classroom.
Next, we discussed the different types of nuclear reactors and their advantages. Each student assembled their own diagram of a boiling water reactor and a pressurized water reactor. We wrapped things up by researching three different nuclear accidents that have occurred. Students had to identify the events leading up to the accident, the people responsible, the consequences and significance of the disaster, and the mitigation strategies that could have prevented the accident.
Tomorrow, we will use our new knowledge to assemble a nuclear accident fault tree for the Fukushima Daiichi, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl accidents. This will lead into our discussion about nuclear safety and how engineers design safety systems and devices to protect us from radiation exposure.
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