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Hey, Kids! It's Phun with Phission!
6.11.2001 by Professor Particle

Hello, Boys and Girls. If you think that science projects are usually lame, then you are absolutely correct. Most adults think kids will be amazed if you stick zinc and copper in a potato and make a battery. Big deal. How's the voltage coming out a spud going to help you during rolling blackouts? Kids of today demand REAL power. That's why I now present a helpful instalment for inquisitive children:

You will need several simple items before you begin: Uranium (enriched or not), a suitable moderator (heavy water, graphite, etc...), zircaloy rods, cadmium rods, 1 pressuriser, 1 steam generator, 1 turbine, 1 electrical generator, 1 condenser, 1 cooling tower, 1 lake or river, 1 co-operative political climate, competent humans, scissors, and some glue.

First, you will need to get some Uranium. The cheapest place to get enriched Uranium is from any any country that ends in "stan". You will probably have to dismantle a warhead, so get your parents to help you with the scissors. The easiest way to get natural Uranium is to enter into a trade agreement with Canada. I know some kids out there are worried about how their human rights record will affect their ability to get the Uranium. Don't worry. It won't.

Handy Tip: to determine if you have enriched or natural Uranium, look on the carton. Enriched Uranium in reactors is about 3% Uranium 235, and Natural uranium is about 0.7%. Enriched Uranium in bombs is about 50%, so be careful. When in doubt, you can always pick up Homogenised Uranium, or water it down.

Pack your Uranium into your zircaloy rods. Use plenty of glue because Uranium isn't very sticky. Now arrange your rods in a pretty pattern (maybe in the shape of a flower or your mom) and immerse them in your moderator inside a reactor vessel. For enriched Uranium, you can use water as the moderator, otherwise graphite or heavy water will do the trick.

Be careful not to let the Uranium go critical! If it does, the radioactivity from the fission fragments can quickly melt the core and the concrete below it (Fun fact: this is called the "China Syndrome"), and you'll have to start all over again. This is why you'll need the Cadmium control rods. I probably should have mentioned that before. Oops. Use your common sense in putting all the other components together. Trial and error makes learning fun! Remember Three Mile Island and Chernobyl? Even grownups make mistakes, so don't feel bad if you contaminate your neighbourhood. It's all a part of the learning process.

Congratulations! You now have you own nuclear fission reactor. You can get some of your friends to help you run it, but make sure they are all at least 12 years old. Remember that your new reactor isn't just a toy, it is also a responsibility. In the same way that you have to change the kitty litter every so often, you are going to have to dispose of the radioactive waste from your reactor. Dump it somewhere that nobody cares about, like Kingston, Ontario. They probably won't even notice the difference.

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