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published by the WGBH Educational Foundation
This interactive resource gives a glimpse of the inside of a working nuclear power plant in New England. It features an exact replica of the plant's control room -- down to the control panel, lights, labels, and audio signals. Users can zoom in on particular locations and view background information in a pop-up.

Editor's Note: It's interesting to note that this particular power plant (Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station), uses the same nuclear reactor design as the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, which was seriously damaged in the 2011 Pacific Ocean tsunami. See Related Materials for a National Public Radio story that discusses the need for changes to U.S. nuclear reactors to ensure that similar accidents do not recur.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Foundations
- Societal Issues
Modern Physics
- Nuclear Physics
= Nuclear Reactions
Other Sciences
- Engineering
- Environmental Science
- High School
- Middle School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Tutorial
- Audio/Visual
= Illustration
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 2010 WGBH
control rods, meltdown, nuclear fuel, nuclear plant, nuclear plant illustration, nuclear power plant, nuclear reactor, power plant, reactor
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created July 24, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 5, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 19, 2010

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

3. The Nature of Technology

3A. Technology and Science
  • 9-12: 3A/H3a. Technology usually affects society more directly than science does because technology solves practical problems and serves human needs (and also creates new problems and needs).
3B. Design and Systems
  • 6-8: 3B/M3a. Almost all control systems have inputs, outputs, and feedback.
  • 6-8: 3B/M3bc. The essence of control is comparing information about what is happening to what people want to happen and then making appropriate adjustments. This procedure requires sensing information, processing it, and making changes.
  • 6-8: 3B/M3d. In almost all modern machines, microprocessors serve as centers of performance control.
  • 6-8: 3B/M4b. The most common ways to prevent failure are pretesting of parts and procedures, overdesign, and redundancy.
  • 9-12: 3B/H3. Complex systems have layers of controls. Some controls operate particular parts of the system and some control other controls. Even fully automatic systems require human control at some point.
  • 9-12: 3B/H5. The more parts and connections a system has, the more ways it can go wrong. Complex systems usually have components to detect, back up, bypass, or compensate for minor failures.

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 9-12: 4D/H4. The nucleus of radioactive isotopes is unstable and spontaneously decays, emitting particles and/or wavelike radiation. It cannot be predicted exactly when, if ever, an unstable nucleus will decay, but a large group of identical nuclei decay at a predictable rate. This predictability of decay rate allows radioactivity to be used for estimating the age of materials that contain radioactive substances.
4G. Forces of Nature
  • 9-12: 4G/H6. The nuclear forces that hold the protons and neutrons in the nucleus of an atom together are much stronger than the electric forces between the protons and electrons of the atom. That is why much greater amounts of energy are released from nuclear reactions than from chemical reactions.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
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Record Link
AIP Format
(WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2010), WWW Document, (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/nuclear-control-room.html).
NOVA: Inside a Nuclear Control Room (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2010), <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/nuclear-control-room.html>.
APA Format
NOVA: Inside a Nuclear Control Room. (2010, March 19). Retrieved August 23, 2014, from WGBH Educational Foundation: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/nuclear-control-room.html
Chicago Format
WGBH Educational Foundation. NOVA: Inside a Nuclear Control Room. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, March 19, 2010. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/nuclear-control-room.html (accessed 23 August 2014).
MLA Format
NOVA: Inside a Nuclear Control Room. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2010. 19 Mar. 2010. 23 Aug. 2014 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/nuclear-control-room.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {NOVA: Inside a Nuclear Control Room}, Publisher = {WGBH Educational Foundation}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {23 August 2014}, Month = {March 19, 2010}, Year = {2010} }
Refer Export Format

%T NOVA: Inside a Nuclear Control Room
%D March 19, 2010
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%C Boston
%U http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/nuclear-control-room.html
%O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D March 19, 2010
%T NOVA: Inside a Nuclear Control Room
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%V 2014
%N 23 August 2014
%8 March 19, 2010
%9 application/flash
%U http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/nuclear-control-room.html

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NOVA: Inside a Nuclear Control Room:

Is Supplemented By NPR: U.S. Must Make Nuclear Plants Safer

This NPR article summarizes the findings of a 2011 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission report on nuclear power plant safety. The conclusions: American power plants need changes to prevent a recurrence of the accident that destroyed Japan's Fukushima plant.

relation by Caroline Hall
Is Supplemented By New York Times: Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel

This New York Times interactive animation shows what happens in a boiling-water reactor (such as Japan's failed Fukushima reactor) when water levels in the cooling pools drop near the level of the radioactive fuel rods.

relation by Caroline Hall

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