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Reactor, nuclear

The heart of a nuclear power plant or nonpower reactor, in which nuclear fission may be initiated and controlled in a self-sustaining chain reaction to generate energy or produce useful radiation. Although there are many types of nuclear reactors, they all incorporate certain essential features, including the use of fissionable material as fuel, a moderator (such as water) to increase the likelihood of fission (unless reactor operation relies on fast neutrons), a reflector to conserve escaping neutrons, coolant provisions for heat removal, instruments for monitoring and controlling reactor operation, and protective devices (such as control rods and shielding). For additional detail, see Nuclear Reactors.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, November 30, 2015