How do we start a nuclear chain reaction? For example, if we wanted to do it this weekend, what would we need, and what are the basic steps? I'm not looking for a text book response or highly detailed information. I'm only curious about the most basic components. For example, we need to take A and B and submerge it into C? That's all I'm asking. If you had a daughter, and she asked, "What happens in a nuclear power plant?", what would you tell her?

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Engineering. Your question is much too broad as whole text books have been written on the matter. Please focus your question to a specific issue or question that is answerable within the StackExchange Q&A format. $\endgroup$ – user16 Jun 17 '15 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ I simplified the question. Does that help? $\endgroup$ – Listen Apr 14 '16 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for the late react. I think you wanted to ask: "how does a nuclear reactor initiate the chain reaction"? The answer is in this case, that also this is spontaneous, because even a single neutron would be enough (but there is more due to the spontaneous reactions in the fuel). $\endgroup$ – peterh - Reinstate Monica Apr 4 '19 at 23:13

Nuclear fission is spontaneous. In fact, if you have a critical mass of fuel assembled, you need to take explicit steps to keep it from going into chain reaction, typically by adding neutron-absorbing material, AKA "control rods" to the assembly. When you remove the control rods, the reactor starts up by itself.

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    $\begingroup$ So, it sounds like it is a only matter of placing the right materials in the right place at the right time. $\endgroup$ – Listen Sep 4 '15 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ Uranium 235 decays alpha. I suppose it is the first alpha particles that start the reaction by splitting another uranium atom, right? $\endgroup$ – azmeuk Jun 25 '19 at 17:51

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