Where and how do the most expensive metal in the world

If you think that gold and platinum are the valuable metals on the planet, you are wrong. Compared to some of the artificially produced metals, the price of gold can be compared with the cost of rust on an old piece of roofing iron.

Can you imagine the price of 27 000 000 US dollars for one gram of the substance? So it is a radioactive element California-252. Expensive only antimatter, which is the most expensive substance in the world (about 60 trillion per gram of antihydrogen).

Today the world sits just 8 grams of californium-252, and annually produces no more than 40 milligrams. And on the planet there are only 2 places where it is regularly produced in oak ridge national laboratory in the United States and... in Dimitrovgrad, in the Ulyanovsk region.

Want to know how is born the most precious material in the world and what is it for?


80 kilometers from the city of Ulyanovsk on the river Cheremshan, is the city of Dimitrovgrad with a population of about 100,000 people. His main enterprise — Scientific research Institute of atomic reactors (NIIAR), which was established in 1956 on the initiative of Kurchatov.

It was originally the experiment station for the testing of nuclear reactors, but currently the range of activities has expanded considerably. Now RIAR experience in a variety of materials to determine how they behave in conditions of prolonged radioactive radiation, creating radionuclide sources and preparations, which are used in medicine and research to solve technical issues of environmentally sound technologies and just conduct scientific activity. In RIAR has about 3500 employees and 6 reactors.

Shining, but not warm

None of the six "yarovsky" reactor not used as a source of energy and is not heated city — here you see the giant installations to thousands of MW. The main task of these "kids" to create the maximum density of the neutron flux, which the scientists of the Institute and bombard various targets, creating what is not in nature.

Reactors RIAR work on a "10/10" ten day work and 10 rest day, prevention and handling of fuel. In this mode it is simply impossible to use them for heating water. And the maximum temperature of the coolant obtained at the output of only 98, the water is rapidly cooled in small cooling towers, and allowed in a circle.

The Most Powerful

Of the 6 reactors is one of the most beloved scientists from RIAR. He is also the first. He is the Most Powerful thing and gave it a name — SEE. In 1961 it was CM-1, with a capacity of 50 MW, in 1965, after modernization, it has become CM-2, in 1992 — CM-3, the operation of which will last until 2017.

This is a unique reactor in the world and he is the only one. Its uniqueness — in a very high density of neutron flux that it is able to create. It is the neutrons and are the main products of RIAR. With neutrons it is possible to solve a lot of problems for materials research and the creation of useful isotopes. And even to realize the dream of medieval alchemists to turn lead into gold (theoretically).

If you do not go into the details, the process is simple — takes one substance and shelled from all sides by a neutron. So, for example, of uranium by crushing its nuclei with neutrons it is possible to obtain more light elements: iodine, strontium, molybdenum, xenon, and others.

The input of the reactor CM-1 into operation and its success caused a great resonance in the scientific world, stimulating, in particular, the construction of U.S. high-flux reactors with a hard neutron spectrum — HFBR (1964) and HFIR (1967). In RIAR repeatedly came luminaries of nuclear physics, including the father of nuclear chemistry, Glenn Seaborg, and learned from the experience. But still the same elegance and simplicity of the reactor like no one else and is not created.

The SM reactor is simple to genius. Its active area is nearly a cube 42 x 42 x 35 cm, But the allocated power of this cube — 100 megawatts! Around the active zone in a special TV set tubes with various substances that need to bombard with neutrons.

For example, most recently, the reactor pulled out a flask of iridium, from which we get the desired isotope. Now it hangs and cools.

After that, a small capacity with the now radioactive iridium-deep in a special protective lead container, weighing several tons and will send the car to the customer.

Spent fuel (a few grams) then, too, will cool, will preserve in a lead barrel and send in a radioactive repository in the Institute for long-term storage.

Blue pool

In this hall is a reactor. Next to SM is and other — RBT — pool-type reactor that works to pair up with him. The fact that in the SM reactor fuel to "burn out" is only half. Therefore, it must be "douche" in RBT.

In General, RBT is an amazing rector in which it is possible even to look (we were not given). It does not have the usual thick steel and concrete casing, and for radiation protection it is simply placed in a huge pool of water (hence the name). The water column holds the active particles, slowing them. While particles moving faster than the phase velocity of light in the environment cause are familiar to many films of the bluish glow. This effect is called scientists, who describe it — the Vavilov — Cherenkov radiation.

(photo is unrelated to the reactor or NIIAR RBT and demonstrates the Vavilov-Cherenkov effect)

The smell of a thunderstorm

The smell of the reactor hall, not to be confused with anything else. The heavy smell of ozone like after a lightning storm. Ionizes the air in case of overload, when the exhaust Assembly and get moved to a pool for cooling off. A molecule of oxygen O2 becomes O3.

By the way, ozone does not smell fresh, but more like chlorine and a caustic. At high ozone concentration you will sneeze and cough, then die. It is related to the first, the highest hazard class of harmful substances.

The radiation background in the hall at this point increases, but there are no people here — everything is automated and the operator observes the process through a special window. However, even after that, the railing in the hall without gloves to touch not worth it — you can pick up the radioactive dirt.

Wash your hands front and back

But to go home with her you will not give, at the exit from the "dirty zone" be sure to check all detector beta radiation and in case of detection you and your clothing will go into the reactor as fuel. Joke.

But in any case you need to wash with soap after visiting any such area.

Sex change

Corridors and staircases in the reactor body is fitted with special thick linoleum, the edges of which are bent on the wall. This is to ensure that in the event of radioactive contamination could not dispose of the whole building, but just roll up the linoleum and lay the new.

Clean here, almost as in the operating room, because the greatest danger is here, the dust and dirt that may get on clothes, skin and into the body's alpha and beta particles can't fly far, but the middle exposure they are like cannonballs, and living cells definitely not be good.

Remote with a red button

The control room of the reactor.

The remote gives the impression of a deeply outdated but why change something that is designed for many years of work? Most importantly, behind the shields, and everything is new. Still, many of the sensors were transferred from the recorders on the electronic scoreboard, and even software systems which are, by the way, and developed in RIAR.

Each reactor has multiple independent levels of protection, so the "Fukushima" there cannot be in principle. As for the "Chernobyl" — not the power, then work the "pocket" reactors. The most dangerous are the emissions of certain light isotopes in the atmosphere, but this will not happen, as we are told.

Nuclear physicists

Physics Institute — masters of their craft and can spend hours interested in talking about their work and the reactors. Allotted to questions hours is not enough, and the conversation lasted for two fun-filled hours.

In my opinion, there is no such person who would not have been interesting nuclear physics. And the Director of the Department "Reactor research facility" Petelino Alexey Leonidovich with the chief engineer it is time to of popular scientific programs on the subject structure of nuclear reactors.

If outside RIAR you can tuck pants in socks, it's likely that someone will take a picture and post it on the Internet to laugh. Here, however, it is a necessity. Try to guess why.

Welcome to the hotel Californium

Now, California-252 and why you need it. I already told you about neutron high-flux reactor SM and its benefits. Now imagine that the energy that produces a SM reactor, can give only one gram (!) CA.

California-252 is a powerful source of neutrons, allowing it to be used for the treatment of malignant tumors, where other radiation therapy is ineffective. Unique metal allows the scanning of parts of reactors, parts of aircraft, and to detect damage, which is usually carefully hidden from x-rays.

With it is possible to find deposits of gold, silver and oil field in the bowels of the earth. The need for it in the world is very large, and customers are sometimes forced to wait for years in line for a coveted microgramma California!

And all because the production of this metal is... years. For the production of one gram of californium-252, plutonium or curium subjected to prolonged neutron irradiation in a nuclear reactor, for 8 and 1.5 years, respectively, by successive transformations, passing almost the entire range of actinide elements of the periodic table.

This process does not end - products resulting from the chemical exposure by long months isolated himself California. This is a very laborious work that does not forgive haste. Micrograms of metal collected by each atoms. This explains such a high price.

By the way, a critical mass of metal californium-252 is only 5 kg (for metal bowl), and in aqueous solutions of salt — 10 grams (!), that allows him to use miniature nuclear bombs.

However, as I already wrote, in the world until there is only 8 grams and use it as a bomb would be very wasteful. And here's the problem, after 2 years from an existing California remains exactly half, and after 4 years it is turning into a dust of the other more stable substances. published

Author: Alexey Marakhovets


P. S. And remember, only by changing their consumption — together we change the world! ©

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Source: alexio-marziano.livejournal.com/147207.html


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