In a heterogeneous reactor the fuel and the moderator are separated in a geometric pattern called a lattice. In a homogeneous reactor the fuel and the moderator are mixed so that they present a uniform medium to the neutrons (e.g., the fuel, in the form of a uranium salt, may be dissolved in the moderator).
Besides this classification, reactors may be described in a number of ways. They may be described in terms of neutron energy (thermal reactor) or in terms of function, e.g., a power reactor for generating useful electric power, a production reactor for manufacturing fissile material (see also breeder reactor and converter reactor) and a propulsion reactor for supplying motive power to ships, submarines, or spacecraft. Reactors are also described in terms of their fuel (e.g., plutonium reactor), their moderator (e.g. graphite-moderated reactor), or their coolant (e.g., boiling-water reactor).
In the future, nuclear reactors known as fusion reactors may harness the much larger amounts of energy available from nuclear fusion.
Historically, nuclear reactors were known as atomic piles.
Related category ATOMIC AND NUCLEAR PHYSICS
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