The Importance of Nuclear Shielding

The process that happens within a nuclear reactor produces large amounts of heat, as a result of the fission process. But other, more harmful by-products are also produced during the splitting of a nucleus, which is how nuclear fuel is created: alpha rays, beta rays, gamma rays, and fast-moving neutrons are all results of the combustion process taking place inside a nuclear reactor. Alpha, beta, and gamma rays are all forms of radiation that would enter the air and damage surrounding plants and animals, not to mention the workers inside the plant and all of the people in surrounding towns. If not contained properly, these invisible rays could leak out and cause massive, long-lasting damage to any materials and men it came in contact with. This is why nuclear shielding, which is the process of containing radiation and preventing it from entering the atmosphere, is so important.

Concrete and Steel

Many different materials can be used to create a nuclear shield, but concrete and steel are as effective as they are strong, so they are used most often in the formation of nuclear shields. The thickness of the steel and concrete is of the utmost importance when it comes to a nuclear shield: a typical reactor core requires an inner lining of steel almost half a meter thick. Even this thick steel shield is not enough to contain seemingly innocent, invisible rays of radiation. Outside of that layer of steel, the barrier is reinforced by several meters of concrete.

Further Protection Measures

S1Because radiation is so harmful to humans, many types of instruments are installed at different points in in the radiation hazard areas. These devices monitor levels of radiation at positions in the nuclear facility such as personnel exit zones. They measure the amount of ambient radiation (usually x-ray, gamma rays, or neutrons) in the facility. These types of radiation are the types that have the widest range. Airborne contamination monitors are used to measure the ambient radiation and will typically give an alarm to a safety system that informs personnel to evacuate the affected area, and prevents more people from entering the area. Essentially, this tool forces a nuclear plant lock-down when necessary.

Personnel exit monitors (PEM) are also used to monitor workers who are leaving sites of high radioactivity. These monitors check the body and clothing of personnel for alpha, beta, and gamma rays.

Nuclear shielding is top-priority at a nuclear power plant, for the safety of everyone in the plant as well as in the surrounding area. Because protecting citizens from these damaging rays is so important, even the thick layers of shielding are not relied on entirely, but are closely and constantly monitored


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