nuclear fission

what is nuclear fission

Nuclear fission is the splitting of the nucleus of a radioactive atom into two smaller nuclei. This type of reaction releases a great deal of energy from a very small amount of matter. Fission of a tiny pellet of radioactive uranium- 235, like the one pictured in the Figure 1.1, releases as much energy as burning 1,000 kilograms of coal! Q: What causes the nucleus of uranium-235 atom to fission? A: Another particle collides with it.


how nuclear fission occurs

The Figure 1.2 shows how nuclear fission of uranium-235 occurs. It begins when a uranium nucleus gains a neutron. This can happen naturally when a free neutron strikes it, or it can occur deliberately when a neutron is crashed into it in a nuclear power plant. In either case, the nucleus of uranium-235 becomes extremely unstable with the extra neutron. As a result, it splits into two smaller nuclei, krypton-92 and barium-141. The reaction also releases three neutrons and a great deal of energy. It can be represented by this nuclear equation: 235 U 92 141 + 1 neutron 92 36 Kr + 56 Ba + 3 neutrons + energy Note that the subscripts of the element symbols represent numbers of protons and the superscripts represent numbers of protons plus neutrons.


pros and cons of nuclear energy

In the U.S., the majority of electricity is produced by burning coal or other fossil fuels. This causes air pollution that harms the health of living things. The air pollution also causes acid rain and contributes to global warming. In addition, fossil fuels are nonrenewable resources, so if we keep using them, they will eventually run out. The main advantage of nuclear energy is that it doesnt release air pollution or cause the other environmental problems associated with the burning of fossil fuels. On the other other hand, radioactive elements are nonrenewable like fossil fuels and could eventually be used up. The main concern over the use of nuclear energy is the risk of radiation. Accidents at nuclear power plants can release harmful radiation that endangers people and other living things. Even without accidents, the used fuel that is left after nuclear fission reactions is still radioactive and very dangerous. It takes thousands of years for it to decay until it no longer releases harmful radiation. Therefore, used fuel must be stored securely to protect people and other living things. Click image to the left or use the URL below. URL:

nuclear chain reaction

The neutrons released when uranium-235 fissions may crash into other uranium nuclei and cause them to fission as well. This can start a nuclear chain reaction. You can see how this happens in the Figure 1.3. In a chain reaction, one fission reaction leads to others, which lead to others, and so on. A nuclear chain reaction is similar to a pile of wood burning. If you start one piece of wood burning, enough heat is produced by the burning wood to start the rest of the pile burning without any further help from you. Click image to the left or use the URL below. URL:

using energy from nuclear fission

If a nuclear chain reaction is uncontrolled, it produces a lot of energy all at once. This is what happens in an atomic bomb. However, if a nuclear chain reaction is controlled, it produces energy much more slowly. This is what occurs in a nuclear power plant. The reaction is controlled by inserting rods of nonfissioning material into the fissioning material. You can see this in the Figure 1.4. The radiation from the controlled fission is used to heat water and turn it to steam. The steam is under pressure and causes a turbine to spin. The spinning turbine runs a generator, which produces electricity.



instructional diagrams

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the fuel used in nuclear power plants is

a) krypton-92.

b) barium-141.

-->  c) uranium-235.

d) none of the above

what is missing from the following nuclear equation for the fissioning of uranium-235? kr + ba + ? + energy 235 141

a) 1 electron

b) 2 protons

-->  c) 3 neutrons

d) 4 positrons

in a nuclear power plant, the energy from nuclear reactions is used to boil water.

-->  a. true

b. false

nuclear power plants do not produce air pollution.

-->  a. true

b. false

nuclear energy is a renewable energy resource.

a. true

-->  b. false

diagram questions

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