Monday: 06.September.2004

Florida, Frances & Control Rods

Looks like our friends in Florida are getting pounded. I think Florida's flatness is the thing that makes it so susceptible to hurricanes. I mean, there's not a hill in the whole state. Great for biking, tho.

I lived in Orlando for a year, back in the late 70's (think Jimmy Carter). That's where the Navy had its Nuclear Power school. The school itself was modeled after a (tri-blade-shaped) control rod. Every time I think of Florida, I see that school shaped like a giant control rod (where I spent so much time).

continued

Control rods control reactor power. Reactor power is dependent on fission rate, which is dependent upon neutron population. Control rods absorb neutrons (or "trons" as we called them). When control rods are inserted into the reactor core, they absorb more trons, which leaves less trons available to induce fission, lowering the fission rate, thereby lowering reactor power. Pulling rods (out of the core) has the opposite effect (Rx power increases).

Commercial nuclear plants use boron for their control rods. Boron (atomic number 5, a known neutron absorber) is relatively inexpensive (but not cheap). The military (with its virtually unlimited budget) uses Hafnium, a super-expensive semi-precious metal, in its control rods.

Each Boron atom can absorb only one neutron (Boron-10 > to > Boron-11), whereas each Hafnium atom can absorb *six* (generations of) neutrons, which means Hafnium control rods essentially never "wear out" (lose their ability to absorb more neutrons: not a good thing for nuclear submarines at sea, because you lose control of Rx power).

I don't think I shared anything here that Tom Clancy couldn't unearth in a library somewhere. But if I did, I'm sure someone will let me know. =) Learning Rx theory at that school was "like drinking water thru a fire-hose", but there's no better place to learn how to run a reactor plant. Not sure how I got off on that tangent. Oh yeah, Frances.

Anyway, I liked Florida. Things I remember most (beside that control rod-shaped school) are its flatness, the humidity (like clockwork, it rained every afternoon at exactly 3:30 for 5 minutes, then stopped, and the sun came back out), and of course the bugs. Florida has a *lot* of bugs. Cockroach heaven, and more than a enough mosquitos.





Posted by Rad at September 6, 2004 06:12 AM

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