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Have you ever been watching Chernobyl? Properly, so has everybody else. Proper now it appears the entire Web is comprised of armchair dosimetrists counting roentgens of their sleep, however [Mark Wright] doesn’t want a high-budget TV present to inform him concerning the challenges of wrangling the atom with 1980s expertise. He’s accomplished it for actual. His reminiscences of working at a Westinghouse Pressurized Water Reactor over 30 years in the past are so sharp that he’s been constructing a nuclear reactor “simulator” operating on the Raspberry Pi that appears almost as tense as sitting in management room of the true factor.

The simulator software program is written in Python, and is accountable for displaying a simplified overview of the reactor and ancillary programs on the display. Right here all the knowledge required to function the “nuclear plant” will be seen at a look, from the utilization of particular person pumps to the place of the management rods.

To play the sport, if one can name it that, you could hold the digital reactor going at peak efficiency for so long as attainable. Sounds straightforward? You’ll additionally must keep away from making procedural errors and take care of randomized fault circumstances. Did your plant simply lose its exterior supply of energy? Turbine simply go offline? You higher know which buttons to push, and when.

However the software program is simply a part of the equation. Simply as flight simulator aficionados construct bodily cockpits for his or her digital plane, [Mark] has constructed an unimaginable management panel for his NuclearPi. It consists of a fully dizzying array of annunciators, indicator lights, buttons, and knobs. Every little thing is linked to the Pi via 4 32 channel I/O expanders from AB Electronics UK, however even with a whopping 128 channels obtainable, he nonetheless had to make use of some 7404 gate ICs to make every thing match.

The management panel has gone via a number of {hardware} revisions during the last couple years, as he finds what does and doesn’t work. At one level [Mark] was utilizing 6.3V incandescent bulbs. Not nice, not horrible. However he since switched the entire board over to 12V, with an enormous array  for delivering energy to the suitable annunciator. We’d like to see, and listen to, this factor in motion.

However maybe essentially the most spectacular component of this mission is simply how lengthy [Mark] has been engaged on it. He described the preliminary model of the simulator within the March 1984 situation of 80 Micro, {a magazine} for TRS-80 homeowners. A full two years earlier than the explosion of Reactor No. four at Chernobyl demonstrated the complexity of nuclear energy to most of the people, he was tinkering together with his personal digital model utilizing a string of Christmas lights and a 1.78 MHz processor.

Wanting on the ultimate simulator as a stand-alone mission, it’s spectacular sufficient. However to see a mission with such a protracted and storied historical past is really one thing particular. Whereas the person tinkerer would possibly by no means have the ability to construct their very own reactor, [Mark] has proved that a minimum of the expertise of getting a house nuclear reactor is just not exterior the realm of risk.