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August 09, 2010 | By:  Nature Education
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Episode 21: The Basics of Nuclear Reactors

In today's episode, Dr. Jacopo Buongiorno of MIT's Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering talks to Adam about nuclear fission. Using MIT's nuclear reactor, Buongiorno and his research group investigate methods for improving the output and safety of these highly productive energy generators. While controversy still surrounds the use of nuclear reactors as powerplants — due in large part to widely publicized accidents at Chernobyl (Ukraine) and Three Mile Island (US) — nuclear energy provides an answer to humankind's rapidly growing energy needs. As Buongiorno explains, nuclear fission has other applications outside of energy generation, such as microscopic scanning and understanding of small molecules. Join Adam as he learns how nuclear fission works, as well as the safety measures that allow nuclear accidents to be quickly contained. [05:42]

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