Decay heat (/m/05j1dd)

Decay heat is the heat released as a result of radioactive decay. This heat is produced as an effect of radiation on materials: the energy of the alpha, beta or gamma radiation is converted into the thermal movement of atoms. Decay heat occurs naturally from decay of long-lived radioisotopes that are primordially present from the Earth's formation. In nuclear reactor engineering, decay heat plays an important role in reactor heat generation during the relatively short time after the reactor has been shut down, and nuclear chain reactions have been suspended. The decay of the short-lived radioisotopes created in fission continues at high power, for a time after shut down. The major source of heat production in a newly shut down reactor is due to the beta decay of new radioactive elements recently produced from fission fragments in the fission process. Quantitatively, at the moment of reactor shutdown, decay heat from these radioactive sources is still 6.5% of the previous core power, if the reactor has had a long and steady power history. About 1 hour after shutdown, the decay heat will be about 1.5% of the previous core power.
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