X-10 Graphite Reactor

X-10 Graphite Reactor

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X-10 Graphite Reactor

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The X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, formerly known as the Clinton Pile and X-10 Pile, was the world's second artificial nuclear reactor (after Enrico Fermi's Chicago Pile) and was the first reactor designed and built for continuous operation.

When President Roosevelt in December 1942 authorized the Manhattan Project, the Oak Ridge site in eastern Tennessee had already been obtained for the Clinton Engineer Works and plans had been laid for establishing an air-cooled experimental pile, a pilot chemical separation plant, and support facilities. The X-10 Graphite Reactor, designed and built in ten months, went into operation on November 4, 1943. The reactor used neutrons emitted in the fission of uranium-235 to convert uranium-238 into a new element, plutonium-239.

The reactor consists of a huge block of graphite, measuring on each side, surrounded by several feet of high-density concrete as a radiation shield. The block is pierced by 1,248 horizontal diamond-shaped channels in which rows of cylindrical uranium slugs formed long rods. Cooling air circulated through the channels on all sides of the slugs. After a period of operation, operators pushed fresh slugs into the channels from the face of the pile and the irradiated slugs would fall from the back wall through a chute into an underwater bucket. Following weeks of underwater storage to allow...
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