Especially freaky was the containment pool, glowing blue with cerenkov radiation, with nothing but a lead window between you and and an ugly death.
They were many checkpoints to go through with detectors that check your shoes and hands for radioactive dust and I inadvertently set one off. I had not placed my hands on the sensors exactly right and the machine went off, scaring the sh*t out of me and everyone else.
The most interesting thing about CANDU reactors is the vacuum building that can suck all the air out of the reactor buildings in the event of a deuteurium steam leak. Dampening rods are also held up by electromagnets that will drop and kill the reaction in the event of an electrical failure.
Interesting. I used to be a Navy submarine officer, and qualified and ran our boats reactor. Not nearly the size of the plant he's talking about, but lets say that we needed to be able to handle bigger... transients. :)
I'm glad he brought out one of the big points in US/UK nuke plants; the professionalism. It's hard to understand until you've experienced it.
They are at least as likely to build a descendent of this reactor as a BWR or PWR, because High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactors are inherently safer than either of the water cooled types. The Pressurized Water Reactors became the dominant type because they were directly descended from Naval sub and ship reactors, not because they were actually better than other types. They were used on ships because they were more compact than other types, which is not a particular necessity on land.
"I can report that, standing on top of an operational 600 MW nuclear reactor weighing several thousand tons, all you can feel is a slight rumbling vibration like distant traffic felt through a road surface -- there's no indication that metres below your feet, hundreds of tons of gas compressed to conditions more normally associated with the surface of Venus are being blasted through the guts of a radioactive inferno."
I've never quite had such a clear visual picture of a nuclear reactor in operation.
Funny, I remember windowed ceramic parts as being quite a bit more expensive than epoxy plastic with no window, which would be a OTP (one time programmable) EPROM. Use the high dollar windowed devices during development or for unstable projects, then switch to plastic OTP once the code settles down for better production margins.
The good stickers we used were metallized polyster, I think. They were a bit more opaque than paper, as measured by the time it took to UV erase a device.
I'm sure things have changed, but the last time I made stuff with EPROMs was back in the 80s. When cleaning out a garage back in the late 90s, I threw out several old arcade video games (She Who Must Be Obeyed had commanded it), and the stickers had fallen off all the EPROMs.
A great tour of an operational nuclear power plant by Charlie Stross, one of my favorite science fiction authors. Charlie is one of us, a unix/web guru before he became a full time author and, I believe an HN regular. Take a look at Accelerando or The Atrocity Archives.
Read the article. The reason why nothing like these huge gas reactors will be built again is because the enormous capital costs of building one outweigh the better thermal efficiency. It's more economical to build other types of nuclear reactors.
That said, I was a bit disappointed by the proposed shutdown date of "thirty to forty years" mentioned in the article... that they would go through all the trouble and resources of making an ultra-efficient plant, then run it for less than a century.