SCRAM

It's not popular to talk about nuclear power these days and even less popular to discuss nuclear malfunctions, but I did see an interesting tidbit in Ken Silverstein's The Radioactive Boy Scout that I'd like to pass on.

In 1942, Enrico Fermi achieved the first sustainable nuclear chain reaction using a primitive reactor constructed in a makeshift laboratory under the stands of the football field at the University of Chicago.

Silverstein describes the origin of the term "scram", which refers to the emergency shutdown of a nuclear reactor:

The chain reaction took place in a small reactor, which Fermi called an atomic pile. One of the control rods made of cadmium--which blocks neutrons, which are used to split the uranium atom and initiate the chain reaction--was attached to a rope over a pulley and suspended above the reactor. Should something have gone wrong, a scientist named Norman Hilberry was to cut the rope with an axe, thereby dropping the cadmium rod into the reactor and, it was hoped, halting the chain reaction before a meltdown occurred. Hilberry's job title was Safety Control Rod Axe Man; hence, ever since then, an emergency nuclear-plant shutdown has been called a scram.


Comments:

Yep, that's a SCRAM all right. If you'd like to read mounds of nuclear tidbits like that (including a repeat of the SCRAM one) while at the same time learning how an American nuclear plant is operated, you should check out my book "Rad Decision", which is avaiable at no cost to readers at RadDecision.blogspot.com. While I’m a longtime nuclear energy worker myself, I can’t say that I’m sure what the future of nuclear energy should be (really). But I am sure we will make better decisions if we understand what nuclear energy is right now. However, I’ve come to realize that the real world of nuclear power is unknown to the general public, which has had far more access to the workings of the Starship Enterprise than to the nuke plant down the street. So I've written a techno-thriller novel about the American nuclear industry. There's plenty for both sides of the debate to like or to ponder within Rad Decision. While the British, Canadian and other western nuclear industry's are somewhat different, there are many more simularities. "I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand, founder, The Whole Earth Catalog. I hope you'll take the opportunity to check out Rad Decision. There are reviews by a number of people I don't know in the Comments section of the front page (Table of Contents). They seem to like it. If you like it, please pass the word. http://RadDecision.blogspot.com Incidentally, we passed a condensed version of "The Radioactive Boy Scout" around the office and found it to be an amazing story.

Posted by James Aach on December 12, 2005 at 01:47 PM EST #

Post a Comment:
  • HTML Syntax: NOT allowed
About

Josh Simons

Search

Archives
« July 2014
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
  
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
  
       
Today