60 Years of Controlled Nuclear Fission

Berlin, 01.12.2002

60 years ago, on 2 December 1942, Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi managed for the first time to set off a controlled self-sustaining chain reaction. This laid the foundation for the use of nuclear power as we know it today. The decisive experiment was carried out on the former squash court of the athletics stadium of the university of Chicago in the USA. The reactor, known since under the name of "Chicago-Pile 1" (CP-1), consisted of graphite blocks which were used as moderator, uranium oxide fuel rods, and the necessary instrumentation and control equipment.

While CP-1 could only produce a thermal output of a few watts, a modern German nuclear power plant today generates an average of more than a billion watts in electrical output alone. The uranium fuel is a highly concentrated energy source. With one kilogram of uranium of the type used in light water reactors it is nowadays possible to generate about 350,000 kWh of electricity - without any emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2. For comparison: one kilogram of oil will only be enough for about 12 kWh of electricity. Its energy density, supply safety, profitability and climate-friendliness make nuclear power an important pillar of a modern energy supply. There are currently 441 nuclear power plants in operation in 31 different countries. In 2001, their share in the world`s electricity production was 16 %. 33 plants are under construction and are the tangible proof that nuclear power is seen as an important future energy by many countries.


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