You are on page 1of 20


When the rate of production of neutrons equals to

the rate of loss of neutrons ,the reaction is said to be
self supported or self sustained reaction.
The device designed to maintain self sustained and
self controlled chain reaction is called a nuclear
In nuclear reactor the nuclear chain reaction are
controlled either by controlling number of neutrons
or by moderating the energy of neutrons.


The fission cross section of U is very large for low

energy neutrons.
Much more effective use of this fissile isotope could
be made if fission neutrons are slowed down in a
moderating medium before they had a chance to
interact with other uranium nuclei.
Fermi and his co-workers suggested graphite should
be used as a moderator.
To reduce the absorption of neutrons Fermi
suggested the use of a heterogeneous assembly with
uranium rods distributed uniformly in a moderator

When these two innovations were incorporated

Fermi and his co-workers succeeded in achieving the
first self sustained chain reaction on December
2,1942 at university of Chicago, USA.

In a reactor ,neutrons are lost basically by 2 process-

they are either absorbed by nuclei of the medium or
they leak out of the system.

The proportion of neutrons that leak out will

decrease with an increase in the size of the reactor.

As the size of the assembly is gradually increased,one

will reach a size when the self sustained chain
reaction just become possible.
This volume of the reactor core is called the critical
size and the corresponding mass of the fuel is termed
as critical mass.

It is denoted by K.

It is defined as the ratio of the number of neutrons in

any one generation to the corresponding number in
the immediately preceding generation .
K=no. of neutrons in (n+1)th generation
no. of neutrons in nth generation.

If K is greater than one-the chain reaction will get

out of control.
If K is less than one-the chain reaction will cease.
If K is equal to one-the chain reaction will proceed in
a steady state,independent of time.
Depending upon the K values above the reactor is
said to be super critical,sub critical or critical
For this reason K is often refered to as the critical

All nuclear reactor consist of the following basic

1.Reactor core.
3.Reactor vessel.
4.Radiation shield.
5.Reactor building.
6.Coolant loops and heat exchangers.
The central region of the reactor where fission
takesplace,resulting in the release of energy is known
as core.
In fast reactors it contain-
A coolant
Control rods
Structural materials
A significant fraction of neutrons in the core leak out
of the system.

To reduce this leakage and to make proper use of

leaking neutrons core in these reactors is surrounded
by a fertile material.

This region is refered to as blanket.

A region of non-fissionable material put next to the
core to return back the neutron escaping from the
core is known as the reflector.

The material chosen is one of high mass number and

low absorption cross section.

Ni,Cu,and Mo are used as reflector.

The whole assembly is placed inside a vessel ,called
the pressure vessel.

Usually stainless steel is used to make the reactor

To protect scientists and other personal working
around as well as the equipment placed around it
from radiations the reactor vessel is encased in a
thick concrete walls.
In some cases alternate layers of heavy and light
elements are used.
This is referred to as the biological shield or the
radiation shell.
The entire structure when one is considering a high
power reactor is placed inside a reactor vessel.
It is air tight and the pressure is maintained slightly
lower than the atmospheric pressure.
In the event of an accident the building also help to
contain the radioactive material and prevent their
dispersal into the surrounding.
Usually the coolant is circulated in a closed loop
called primary loop.
The coolant carrying fission heat is more intensively
radioactive when it comes out of core.
To prevent this radioactivity from spreading a
secondary loop is introduced which may be closed or

In India nuclear reactors are situated at

Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu
Narora in U.P
Kotah in Rajastan
Tharapur in Maharastra

Nuclear reactors using naturally occuring uranium

will not be able to satisfy our future power needs.
So we need to introduce a secondary fuel which can
be compensated for the primary fuel.
The extend of compensation is measured by a factor
known as conversion factor.
It is defined as the ratio of number of secondary fuel
atoms produced to the number of primary fuel atoms
The conversion factor is generally .9 in the case of
uranium graphite moderated type of reaction.
However a reactor can be so defined that the
conversion factor is unity or even greater than unity.
A reactor with conversion factor above unity is called
Breeder Reactor.

Nuclear and Radiation chemistry-B.K Sharma-6th

edition-1997-krishna prakasahan media(P) Ltd.
Physics of Nuclear Reactor-Suresh Garg,Feroz
Ahned,L.S Kothari-Tata McGraw Hill Publishing
company Ltd.
Essentials of Nuclear chemistry-H.J Arnikar-4th
edition-1995-New age international(p) Ltd.
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry-S.K. Agarwala,
Keemti Lal-11th edition-2012-pragati prakashan
publishers limited.