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Nuclear physics, nuclear engineering

  1. Mar 21, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone. this is my first post since i've joined the forums.
    Ever since i was younger (age 14ish) I've always been fascinated with sciences. especially nuclear sciences. I would sit for hours with encyclopedias reading about elements on the periodic table, chemistry of the elements. radiation, etc. I am starting classes this coming fall at a community college near me, and I am very interested in the way reactors work, interaction of radiation on matter, neutron activation of other elements. what causes a heavy nuclei to fission, why most fissile isotopes are odd numbered such as U-235 Pu239, the decay chains of isotopes. the types of radiation released. etc etc. So i was wondering if i could get the communitys input on what areas of study to look into, and the jobs i could go into with it.

    also i have a question about the neutron capture of U238.(bear with me if it sounds stupid, again I have no PHD and I have barely started college)

    In reactor grade uranium theres an enriched mix of U238 and U235. and during the reactors operation theres alot of neutrons released by the fissioning of the U235 to sustain a chain reaction, and U238 captures the slowed thermal neutrons from the chain reaction creating u239 which beta decays to Np239 then to Pu239. so the fertile u238 is turned into fissile Pu239 which can then be processed into more fuel for a reactor or purified lessening the spontaneous fission isotope Pu240 for weapons grade plutonium.

    I was wondering if a optimally mixed alloy of U238 and a neutron reflector such as beryllium or tungsten carbide, in an optimum arrangement for higher neutron capture by the u238.

    -the resulting mixture would produce a quantity of pu239 in low amounts?
    -since the u238 has a long half-life and thus is decaying and releasing less alpha particles and thus less neutrons are being produced. it would take millions of years for any measurable mass of Pu239 to be created correct?
  2. jcsd
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