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Q & A: Does freezing stop radioactive decay?

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Most recent answer: 03/21/2011
Q:
If a nuclear reactor is going super critical or loses cooling why can't you freeze the uranium core with liquid nitrogen stopping the splitting of atoms???
- Will (age 32)
Indianapolis,in
A:
The processes inside the nuclei involve very high energies, much higher than those reached at normal temperatures. From the point of view of those radioactive nuclei, the temperature of liquid nitrogen or of liquid water are both effectively zero. The decays occur via quantum tunneling, not thermal activation. So you can't freeze the process to a halt.

Mike W.

(published on 03/17/2011)

Follow-Up #1: Zero-point motion blues: can't stop nothing.

Q:
Ok I know I will beat this subject up cause there has to be a better way to stop a reaction how about a massive magnetic field surrounding the uranium or gravity something has to slow down the movement I understand that it is moving super fast but there has to be away Thanks for you're info you guys rock
- Will (age 32)
Indianapolis
A:
Really, none of that stuff has any effect on the nuclear decay. Of course in principle extremely strong gravity and/or magnetic fields, unlike anything reachable on earth,  can have effects big enough to matter on the nuclear scale. Such things happen on neutron stars.  That would be a clear case of out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire.

Mike W.

(published on 03/21/2011)

Follow-up on this answer.