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RBMK nuclear reactor. Diagram of the workings of an RBMK nuclear reactor, the type used in the Chernobyl power station. In this reactor's core, fissile fuel rods (lower left) are surrounded by water, and encased in graphite. The reaction boils the water, producing steam (light grey). The steam passes through a moisture separator (upper centre) and then to a turbine, which drives the electricity generator (white). The steam is condensed back to water by a cooling circuit. This design's flaw is that power output increases with loss of cooling water. This was responsible for the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which caused radio- active contamination of much of northern Europe.
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