General Knowledge Trivia Quiz
Where in the world did the first controlled nuclear chain reaction occur?
Your answer was correct!
The first “atomic pile” (nuclear reactor) was constructed in an underground squash court at Stagg Field, a sports stadium at the University of Chicago, by a team led by celebrated Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. The apparatus was deceptively simple: literally a pile of machined graphite bricks arranged in a lattice with uranium pellets, supported by wooden framing. In radioactive elements like uranium, atoms occasionally “decay” by splitting into two smaller atoms and releasing high-energy neutrons. The graphite served as a “moderator” to slow down the neutrons, increasing the probability that they would collide with other uranium atoms and cause them to undergo fission in turn. If, on the average, each spontaneous fission event produced more than one secondary event, an ever-growing cascade would result — a “chain reaction”. The rate of the reaction was controlled by means of three retractable “control rods” made of the neutron-absorbing element cadmium. The reactor was successfully demonstrated on December 2, 1942, and thus began the Nuclear Age.