Glowing fuel rods… Do they actually glow?

Yes, apparently they do: clicky! I’d never seen that before, and had wondered if it was a cultural myth. Apparently not! It’s rather pretty, isn’t it?

The blue glow is created by the Cherenkov effect, which describes the electromagnetic radiation emitted when a charged particle, giving off energy, moves faster than light through a transparent medium.

Huh? Faster than light? How does that work? There goes Einstein…

Anyway, the image is from a series of photos by Taryn Simon published in the New York Times this weekend. You can see a short article about them here.

2 thoughts on “Glowing fuel rods… Do they actually glow?”

  1. Ack! Scary. We were discussing this at work last week.

    They go faster than light by cheating!

    Light travels at different speeds in different materials, the one that’s always quoted is the speed of light in a vacuum.

    Fuel rods are generally surrounded by water. The radiation is travelling through the water faster than the speed of light in water, producing the glowing effect.

  2. Well you see, it because the speed of light in water… darn.. beaten to it. I would have succeeded if it weren’t for those pesky kids.

    On a useful, contributive note, I was shown the figures for uranium concentration in tree bark in a lecture the other day. It’s all relatively normal around Sellafield and so forth, but near Preston, where they process the rods, it’s around 4 times the national average. I’m going to go out on a limb and say “That’s not good.”

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