RBMK nuclear reactor

RBMK nuclear reactor

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Credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: RBMK nuclear reactor. Diagram of the workings of an RBMK nuclear reactor, the type used in the Chernobyl power station. In this reactor, the core comprises fissile fuel rods (yellow) surrounded by water, encased in graphite. The water is heated by the reactions, producing steam (red). The steam passes through a moisture separator (upper centre) and then to a turbine, which drives the electricity generator. The steam is condensed back to water by a cooling circuit. The flaw in this design is that power output increases with loss of cooling water. This was responsible for the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which caused radioactive contamination of much of northern Europe.

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