Science: To Prevent Excursions

Early nuclear reactors were easy to slap down. If one of them made what physicists euphemistically call an "excursion" -i.e., started to react too fast -it could be slowed down by pushing into it a simple rod of neutron-absorbing material. Control rods are still used, but the operators of big modern reactors dare not depend on them alone. Under some conditions, the fierce nuclear fire in the reactor's core can make a disastrous excursion in a fraction of a second.

In Nucleonics, Dr. Norman Earl Huston and Norman Carl Miller of North American Aviation, Inc. tell about quick-acting safety devices to prevent...

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