Science: Fire in the Uranium

Late in the afternoon, scientists at Britain's Windscale plant, the main British source of plutonium, saw danger signals on a temperature control instrument. A hurried second glance told them what had happened. One of the two nuclear reactors had been closed down all day; deep in the massive structure of graphite blocks, one or more canisters of uranium had grown red hot and burst open. Apparently the uranium, heated by its fierce radioactivity, was burning in an oldfashioned, chemical way by combining with oxygen in the air that is blown past to cool...

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