Anthropogenic Atom Splitting
On Dec. 2 seventy years ago, a truly remarkable demonstration was completed: a human controlled self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction as opposed to the natural one in Gabon. This set the stage for the use of the highest energy density controlled source to date for the betterment of society: nuclear energy generated electricity. Unknown at that time was that this energy would become the least polluting, most reliable, and lowest human mortality high density source of energy ever contemplated, rain or shine, wind or no wind. This utilitarian combination must be recognized for that as an abundant solution for improved quality of life across the planet.
Here is the commentary prepared by World Nuclear News:
Seventy years have passed since a team of 49 scientists, led by Italian-born Enrico Fermi, succeeded in creating the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.
Built upon a squash court in the University of Chicago, the Chicago Pile 1 reactor (CP-1) went critical on 2 December 1942. It consisted of a wooden frame housing graphite layers containing channels that were filled with sintered uranium powder. Control was achieved by hand; a man – George Wile – incrementally withdrawing the control rod as per Fermi’s orders until the neutron counters indicated that the reaction was self-sustaining. By demonstrating that the rate of fission could be controlled, the experiment ushered in the nuclear age. This led initially to the development of weapons and then peaceful applications were developed over the next decade. The Obninsk nuclear power plant in Russia became the world’s first civilian power reactor upon its connection to the grid in 1954.
The Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) published a video in July to commemorate the scientific landmark. Two of the scientists present at the experiment recalled how the discovery of a then entirely new energy source was celebrated with a bottle of Chianti wine, drunk in silence from paper cups.
Warren Nyer reflected “nobody said anything which I thought was a fairly remarkable thing. There was no big hullabaloo of doing something that was truly momentous – given what had taken place there and the implications of what might follow.
“There are presently 437 operating nuclear power reactors in the world today. These are located in over 31 countries and supply about 13.5% of world electricity.
And that was where the term SCRAM came from (Safety Control Rod Axe Man).