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During criticality, the Plum Brook Reactor core emitted an eerie blue glow known as Cherenkov radiation. This is common to all swimming pool reactors. The Cherenkov Effect is caused by high-energy beta particles moving at velocities faster than the speed of light in water. Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov first observed the phenomenon in 1934.

During criticality, the Plum Brook Reactor core emitted an eerie blue glow known as Cherenkov radiation. This is common to all swimming pool reactors. The Cherenkov Effect is caused by high-energy beta particles moving at velocities faster than the speed of light in water. Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov first observed the phenomenon in 1934.

Workers are seen near an open reactor with fuel rods in a water pool inside the nuclear power plant Leibstadt during a yearly revision, near the northern Swiss town Leibstadt.

Workers are seen near an open reactor with fuel rods in a water pool inside the nuclear power plant Leibstadt during a yearly revision, near the northern Swiss town Leibstadt.

This is a photo of nuclear fuel bundle being lifted from the reactor core. The characteristic blue glow of nuclear reactors is due to Cherenkov radiation or charged particles exceeding the speed of light in a medium.

This is a photo of nuclear fuel bundle being lifted from the reactor core. The characteristic blue glow of nuclear reactors is due to Cherenkov radiation or charged particles exceeding the speed of light in a medium.

Fuel cooling pool

Fuel cooling pool

Startup companies are rebooting the quest for clean energy's holy grail: fusion. Nuclear fusion is the reverse of nuclear fission: instead of splitting atoms youre squashing small ones together to form bigger ones. This releases a huge burst of power too as a fraction of the mass of the particles involved gets converted into energy. In fact it produces three to four times as much power as nuclear fission and its fuel isnt toxic or fossil or even particularly rare. If something goes wrong…

Startup companies are rebooting the quest for clean energy's holy grail: fusion. Nuclear fusion is the reverse of nuclear fission: instead of splitting atoms youre squashing small ones together to form bigger ones. This releases a huge burst of power too as a fraction of the mass of the particles involved gets converted into energy. In fact it produces three to four times as much power as nuclear fission and its fuel isnt toxic or fossil or even particularly rare. If something goes wrong…

Blue glow of Cherenkov radiation at ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor where berkelium is made to create element 117 | Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Blue glow of Cherenkov radiation at ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor where berkelium is made to create element 117 | Oak Ridge National Laboratory

In order to turn nuclear fission into electrical energy, nuclear power plant operators have to control the energy given off by the enriched uranium and allow it to heat water into steam.  Enriched uranium typically is formed into inch-long (2.5-centimeter-long) pellets, each with approximately the same diameter as a dime. Next, the pellets are arranged into long rods, and the rods are collected together into bundles. The bundles are submerged in water inside a pressure vessel.

How Nuclear Power Works

In order to turn nuclear fission into electrical energy, nuclear power plant operators have to control the energy given off by the enriched uranium and allow it to heat water into steam. Enriched uranium typically is formed into inch-long (2.5-centimeter-long) pellets, each with approximately the same diameter as a dime. Next, the pellets are arranged into long rods, and the rods are collected together into bundles. The bundles are submerged in water inside a pressure vessel.

AGR core construction at Heysham 1.

AGR core construction at Heysham 1.

Cherenkov radiation - when heavy particles move through a medium faster than light can move through it.  Also, it's super blue!

Cherenkov radiation - when heavy particles move through a medium faster than light can move through it. Also, it's super blue!

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