23 Jan, 2015 by Vishnu Aravind
Nuclear power! Anything with the word Nuclear in it suddenly becomes something else. Nuclear missile, Nuclear submarine, Nuclear families, Nuclear force, Nuclear power (, Nuclear sandwiches?).

If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one.
Oppenheimer had recalled the above verse from the Bhagavad Gita (Link) when he witnessed the explosion of the first nuclear bomb test, earlier in July of 1945.

8:15 a.m., August 6th, 1945, saw the arrival of the Nuclear Age along with the horrendous power that it bestowed upon us. The United States used the first of only 2 nuclear weapons ever to be used in war (and dropped the second 3 days later).

These bombs were fission-based, which means the explosive power of the atomic bombs came from the uncontrolled chain reaction of fission of a highly fissile material such as Uranium or Plutonium. Soon enough, fusion weapons were designed with even higher yields. Total world annihilation was imminent.

Ironically, nuclear weapons which were much touted as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD's), became the best deterrent for all out war and prevented the world's super powers from going head-to-head in World War III.

Then came the nuclear power plants. A very efficient way of generating power. In fact, the Voyager I spacecraft has a nuclear power plant that's been driving its electronics since 1977. It's expected to be productive until 2025. Wow, indeed!

To get a feel of how power plants work, you can take a look at the following link. It is a simple game that lets you play the part of a nuclear power plant Technician (think Homer Simpson).

The objective of the game is to extract as much power from the plant as possible with the fixed amount of nuclear fuel. You can control the rate of primary coolant flow in to the core, the secondary coolant in to the heat exchanger, the control rod position, etc. You can even cause a meltdown!

Head to this link to try your hand at optimum power generation -http://esa21.kennesaw.edu/activities/nukeenergy/nuke.htm (This requires Flash Player though)

"Homer Simpson 2006" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Homer_Simpson_2006.png

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