Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

If you think that gold and platinum are the most valuable metals in the world, then you are wrong. Compared to some of the artificial production of metals, the price of gold can be compared with the cost of rust on an old piece of corrugated iron. You can imagine the price of 27 million US dollars per one gram of the substance? It is so much worth a radioactive element californium 252. Only more expensive antimatter, which is the most expensive substance in the world (about 60 trillion dollars per gram of antihydrogen).

To date, the world has accumulated a total of 8 grams of CA-252, and annual production of no more than 40 micrograms. And in the world there are only two places where it regularly: at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States and ... in Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk region.

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world


At 80 kilometers from Ulyanovsk to Cheremshan river is the town of Dimitrovgrad, with a population of about 100 000 people. Its main enterprise - the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (RIAR), which was established in 1956 initsitive Kurchatov. It was originally an experimental station for nuclear reactors tests, but at the moment range of activities has expanded considerably. Now RIAR test various materials to determine how they behave under conditions of prolonged radioactive radiation, creating radionuclide sources and preparations, which are used in medicine and research, solve technical issues of environmentally sound technologies and a leading scientific activity. The RIAR employs approximately 3,500 employees and 6 reactors.

light, but not heat

None of the six "niiarovskih" reactor is not used as an energy source and heats the city - then you will not see the giant installations at thousands of MW. The main task of these "little ones" - to create the maximum of the neutron flux density, which scientists of the Institute and bombarded different targets, creating what does not exist in nature. Atomic Reactors Reactors operate under the "10/10" - ten days of work and 10 days of rest, prevention and refueling. When this mode is simply impossible to use them for heating water. And the maximum flow temperature, the resulting output - only 98C, the water is cooled rapidly in small towers and let the circle.

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

The most powerful

6 reactors have one favorite scientists Atomic Reactors. He was also the very first. He was also the most powerful, and that gave him the name - see. In 1961, it was the SM-1, with a capacity of 50 MW, in 1965 after the upgrade, he became the CM-2, in 1992 - SM-3, which is designed to operate in 2017. This is a unique reactor, and it is the only one in the world. Its uniqueness - in a very high neutron flux density that it is capable of creating. Namely neutrons, and are the main products of Atomic Reactors. With the help of neutrons can solve a lot of problems in materials research and the creation of useful isotopes. And even to embody the dream of medieval alchemists - to turn lead into gold. Without going into details, the process is very simple - one substance and is taken under fire from all sides by fast neutrons, which split the nucleus into a bunch of others. Thus, for example, from uranium by neutron nuclei crushing it possible to obtain more light elements: iodine, strontium, molybdenum, Xenon, and others.

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

Entering reactor SM-1 in operation and its success caused a great stir in the scientific world, to encourage, in particular, the construction of the US high-flux reactor with a hard neutron spectrum - HFBR (1964) and HFIR (1967). The RIAR repeatedly came luminaries nuclear physics, nuclear chemistry, including his father Glenn Seaborg, and adopted the experience. Yet at the same elegance and simplicity of the reactor so no one else, and not created.

SM reactor ingeniously simple. His active zone - a cube 42 * 42 * 35 cm But the dissipated power of the cube -. 100 megawatts! Around the core is set in the special channels tubes with different substances to be bombard neutrons.

For example, recently pulled from the reactor flask with iridium, from which obtained the desired isotope. Now it hangs and cools. After that, a small container of radioactive iridium now immerse in a special protective lead container weighing several tons and sent a car to the customer.

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

The spent fuel (a few grams) then too cool, can the lead in the barrel and sent to the radioactive storage facility on campus for extended storage.

Blue Pool

In this room is not a single reactor. Next to the CM and the other is - RBT - pool-type reactor, which works in tandem with it. The fact that in the SM reactor fuel "burns" the whole half. Therefore, it is necessary to "be burnt" in the RBT.

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

In general, the RBT amazing Rector, within which you can even look (we were not given). It does not have the usual thick steel and concrete housing, and to protect against radiation it is simply placed in a huge pool of water (hence the name). Water column keeps the active particles, inhibiting them. Thus particles moving with a phase velocity greater than the velocity of light in the medium, causing many familiar on films bluish luminescence. This effect is called the scientists who describe it - the Vavilov - Cherenkov radiation.

The smell of thunderstorms

The smell of the reactor hall not be confused with anything. Here, a strong smell of ozone as after a thunderstorm. The air is ionized when overloaded when the exhaust assembly is moved to pull out and to cool the pool. O2 oxygen molecule is converted to O3. By the way, the ozone smell was not fresh, but more like a chlorine and a caustic. At high concentrations of ozone you sneeze and cough, and then die. He referenced to the first, the highest hazard class of hazardous substances.

The radiation background in the room at this point is increased, but there are no people here - everything is automated and the operator observes the process through a special window. However, even after that, the railing in the room is not necessary to touch without gloves - you can pick up radioactive dirt.

Wash your hands before and back

But go home with it you will not be - at the exit of the "dirty zone" all the necessary check detector of beta radiation in the event of you are together with your clothes go into the reactor as fuel. Joke.

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

But his hands in any case need to be washed with soap and water after going to any of these areas.

Change the floor

Corridors and stairs in the reactor vessel carpeted with a thick special linoleum, the edges of which are folded onto the walls. This is to ensure that you can not dispose of the entire building as a whole, but just roll up and lay new linoleum in the case of radioactive contamination. The purity here almost like in the operating room, because the biggest danger is the dust and dirt that can get on the clothes, the skin and inside the body - alpha and beta particles are very heavy and can not fly away, but near the impact they like huge cannon balls, living cells is not exactly big trouble.

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

panel with the red button

Reactor control room.

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

The very remote impresses deeply outdated, but why change something that is designed for many years of work? The most important thing is that for the shields, and then everything is new. Yet many of the sensors have been transferred to the recorder on the electronic scoreboard, and even software systems, which, incidentally, in the Atomic Reactors and developed.

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

Each reactor has multiple independent levels of protection, so the "Fukushima" there can not be in principle. As for the "Chernobyl" - not the power, then work "pocket" reactors. The greatest danger is posed by emissions of some light isotopes in the atmosphere, but it will not allow to happen as we are assured.

Nuclear physicists

Institute of Physics - fans of their business and can spend hours wondering about his work and reactors. Allotted to questions an hour was not enough and the conversation lasted for two hours Jolly. In my opinion, there is no such person who would not be interesting :) nuclear physics and the director of department of "Research Reactor Complex" Petelin Alexei Leonidovich with the chief engineer just right to carry out scientific-popular programs on Nuclear reactor :) If outside RIAR you will fill the pants into socks, then most likely, you have someone take a picture and put it in the net to laugh. However, there is a need. Try it for yourself to see why.

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

Welcome to the hotel Californium

Now for the California-252 and why you need it. I've already talked about the high-flux neutron reactor SM and its benefits. Now, imagine the energy that produces a reactor SM, can give just one gram (!) California.

Californium-252 - a powerful source of neutrons that can be used for the treatment of malignant tumors, radiation therapy where another vain. Unique metal enables shine of the reactors, aircraft parts, and to detect lesions that are usually carefully hidden from the X-rays. With its help it is possible to find reserves of gold, silver and oil deposits in the earth. The need for it in the world, is very high, and customers sometimes have to stand in line for years vozhdelonnym microgram California! And all because the production of this metal .... takes years. For the production of one gram of CA-252, plutonium or curium subjected to prolonged neutron irradiation in a nuclear reactor for 8 and 1.5 years, respectively, consecutive transformations line passing substantially all of transuranic elements in the periodic table. In this process does not end - the irradiation of the resulting product by chemical many months itself isolated californium. It's very, very hard work, which does not forgive haste. metal micrograms collect literally atoms. This explains why such a high price.

Where and how to make the most expensive metal in the world

By the way, a critical mass of metal CA-252 is only 5 kg, and in the form of aqueous solutions of salt - 10 grams, which allows its use in miniature nuclear bombs (!). However, as I mentioned earlier, in the world as long as there are only 8 grams and use it as a bomb would be very wasteful :) And the trouble is that after 2 years from the existing California remains exactly half, and 4 years later he does turns into dust from other more stable substances.