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A substance that slows down free neutrons in a nuclear reactor, making them more likely to cause fissions of atoms of uranium–235 and less likely to be absorbed by atoms of uranium–238. Moderators are light elements, such as deuterium (in heavy water), graphite, and beryllium, to which neutrons can impart some of their kinetic energy on collision without being captured. Neutrons that have had their energies reduced in this way (to about 0.025 eV, equivalent to a speed of 2200 m s−1) are said to have been thermalized or to have become thermal neutrons.

Subjects: Physics.

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