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Re: build a reactor in a day?
FYI, some additional detail from
One of the items required that students build a
breeder reactor, a nuclear energy source which
radiation from its reaction to create more fuel.
students from the Mathews team successfully built
and completed the item, inspired by the efforts
of a Michigan
high school student reported in a recent issue of
"I give Mathews House a tremendous amount of
the breeder reactor. This fell into the category
my expectations-- that was definitely one of the
me," Howe said.
Using the naturally radioactive element Thorium,
students in the College Fred Neill and Justin
contructed the device with scraps of discarded
and carbon sheets.
"We used Thorium... and turned it into weapons
uranium and plutonium. We used the powder from
tubes, and just scraped the Thorium powder off
As for materials for the reactor, we used
carbon sheets which came out of the garbage. We
did a little
polishing and black magic, and turned it into a
While the actual construction of the reactor took
Neill said that the most challenging aspect of
was proving that the device operated correctly.
"If someone looks at a pile of aluminum and
say you're full of it. You have to actually prove
it... So we
did some fairly intensive research on the nuclear
disintegration that goes on inside the reaction
-- it gives off a
specific energy of photon that's released which
we've created weapons grade uranium. But they're
to detect, so we borrowed a proportional counter,
like a Geiger counter, except much more
sensitive, from the
Physics department," Neill said.
To verify the authenticity of the breeder
Hunt judges brought in a nuclear physicist to
device and determine whether the students had
constructed the reactor.
"When the judges found out that there was a group
actually built one, they really flipped out... So
there making the reactor by my bed and a judge
says they're going to check this out and bring a
physicist to verify it. I don't think he [the
understood that we were serious until we started
him through it and talking about decay change --
just bugged out. He was really speechless,"
"He endorsed it for the judges. It was funny
judges were there taking notes just in case they
needed to be
able to judge another reactor."
Although some judges and fellow Mathews teammates
concerned over the safety of the reactor, Kasper
said that he
and Neill took serious precautions during its
"It was all very well-controlled. We packed the
built a shed, and assembled it there... We've
reaction. We only detected about several thousand
Uranium, so it's not like the source is
radioactive by any
means anymore. We might keep the reactor as a
as long as the components are far apart, it
should be okay,"
Although the equipment that the pair borrowed to
Uranium was worth thousands of dollars, the
to make the reactor cost the team nothing, making
an ideal Scavenger Hunt item because it relied on
rather than money, according to Kasper.
"I think it was a really great item because it
anything, which is important. I mean, the
cost one billion WWII dollars, and we were able
to do this
successfully without spending too much," Kasper
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