The Advanced Test Reactor

The Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) is a research reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory, located east of Arco, Idaho. This reactor is primarily designed and used to test materials to be used in other, larger-scale and prototype reactors.
Test reactors are very different in appearance and design from commercial, nuclear power reactors. Commercial reactors are large, operate at high temperature and pressure, and require a large amount of nuclear fuel. Because of their large size and stored energy, commercial reactors require a robust “containment structure" to prevent the release of radioactive material in the event of an emergency situation. A typical commercial reactor has a volume of 48 cubic meters with 5400 kg of uranium at 288 °C (550 °F) and 177 atm. By contrast, the ATR does not require a large containment structure—it has a volume of 1.4 cubic meters, contains 43 kg of uranium, and operates at 60 °C (140 °F) and 26.5 atm (conditions similar to a water heater).
The ATR core is designed to be as flexible as possible for research needs. It can be brought online and powered down safely as often as necessary to change experiments or perform maintenance. The reactor is also powered down automatically in the event of abnormal experimental conditions or power failure.
The reactor is a virtual “time machine.” Part of the uniqueness of the ATR rests with its capability to produce an extremely high neutron flux that duplicates years of exposure of materials experienced in a commercial nuclear reactor’s radiation environment in a matter of weeks or months. Its core design allows many experiments to be conducted simultaneously, with each experiment receiving a different and carefully controlled level of radiation.
The blue glow is the Cherenkov light that is emitted by the electrons from beta decay going on in the nuclear fuel. This characteristic blue glow is due to Cherenkov radiation. It is named after Russian scientist Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov, the 1958 Nobel Prize winner who was the first to detect it experimentally. A theory of this effect was later developed within the framework of Einstein's special relativity theory by Igor Tamm and Ilya Frank, who also shared the Nobel Prize.


Image credit: Idaho National Laboratory

The Advanced Test Reactor

The Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) is a research reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory, located east of Arco, Idaho. This reactor is primarily designed and used to test materials to be used in other, larger-scale and prototype reactors.

Test reactors are very different in appearance and design from commercial, nuclear power reactors. Commercial reactors are large, operate at high temperature and pressure, and require a large amount of nuclear fuel. Because of their large size and stored energy, commercial reactors require a robust “containment structure" to prevent the release of radioactive material in the event of an emergency situation. A typical commercial reactor has a volume of 48 cubic meters with 5400 kg of uranium at 288 °C (550 °F) and 177 atm. By contrast, the ATR does not require a large containment structure—it has a volume of 1.4 cubic meters, contains 43 kg of uranium, and operates at 60 °C (140 °F) and 26.5 atm (conditions similar to a water heater).

The ATR core is designed to be as flexible as possible for research needs. It can be brought online and powered down safely as often as necessary to change experiments or perform maintenance. The reactor is also powered down automatically in the event of abnormal experimental conditions or power failure.

The reactor is a virtual “time machine.” Part of the uniqueness of the ATR rests with its capability to produce an extremely high neutron flux that duplicates years of exposure of materials experienced in a commercial nuclear reactor’s radiation environment in a matter of weeks or months. Its core design allows many experiments to be conducted simultaneously, with each experiment receiving a different and carefully controlled level of radiation.

The blue glow is the Cherenkov light that is emitted by the electrons from beta decay going on in the nuclear fuel. This characteristic blue glow is due to Cherenkov radiation. It is named after Russian scientist Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov, the 1958 Nobel Prize winner who was the first to detect it experimentally. A theory of this effect was later developed within the framework of Einstein's special relativity theory by Igor Tamm and Ilya Frank, who also shared the Nobel Prize.

Image credit: Idaho National Laboratory


Posted 1 year ago with 323 notes
Tagged:Advanced Test Reactorsciencenuclear reactorradio activityphysicsnuclear physics

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