Nuclear Processes

nuclear processes

Core Concepts

In this article you will be able to understand and differentiate both nuclear processes :fusion and fission. After reading this article you will also understand how nuclear energy works and its benefits to the environment.

Related Topics

Nuclear Fusion

Nuclear fusion is when two or more atomic nuclei combine to create new atomic and subatomic particles. Energy is released or absorbed depending on how much mass there is between the reactants and products. This mass-energy relationship is represented by a value called the nuclear binding energy, which is the amount of energy needed to completely split an atomic nucleus into its components, or, alternatively, the energy that would be released if you combined individual protons and neutrons into a single nucleus. The difference in nuclear binding energy before and after the reaction is what causes this mass difference. Nuclear fusion generates large quantities of energy, fueling active stars, main-sequence stars, and other high-magnitude stars.

The nuclear force, a product of the strong interaction, which holds protons and neutrons tightly together in the atomic nucleus, and the Coulomb force, which causes positively charged protons in the nucleus to repel one another, interact to cause the release of energy with the fusion of light elements. The nuclear force can defeat the Coulomb force in lighter nuclei, as they are sufficiently tiny and proton-poor. This is fusion generates large quantities of energy, fueling active stars, main-sequence stars, and other high-magnitude stars to the nucleus’s tiny size, which causes all nucleons to experience the short-range attractive force at least as strongly as they experience the Coulomb repulsion’s infinite-range counterpart. When fusion builds up heavier nuclei, it releases the excess energy from the net attraction of particles.


Thermonucelar Fusion

Thermonuclear fusion is the process of atomic nuclei merging by driving them together to make this feasible by employing high temperatures. At such temperatures, the matter transforms into a plasma, and if we contain it, fusion processes may take place as particles collide with extremely high thermal kinetic energy. In the quest to create fusion power, researchers are investigating one technique called thermonuclear fusion. If thermonuclear fusion were to become economically feasible, it could greatly reduce the global carbon footprint, because, unlike coal or petroleum-based fuel sources, thermonuclear fusion does not release carbon dioxide.

Nuclear Fission

Nuclear fission involves the splitting of an atom’s nucleus into two or more smaller nuclei. Even by the energetic standards of radioactive decay, the fission process releases a very high quantity of energy and frequently results in gamma rays.

Fission is a kind of radioactive decay that can happen without neutron bombardment. With the exception of a few heavy isotopes, spontaneous fission is uncommon.

Heavy elements, including uranium, thorium, and plutonium, experience both spontaneous and induced fission, which is a type of nuclear reaction. The terms “fissionable” and “fissile” describe the types of elemental isotopes that can undergo fission when a free neutron or a thermal neutron, respectively, hits them. Nuclear fuels are a few exceptionally fissile and easily attainable isotopes that can sustain a chain reaction and are available in sufficient quantities to be useful.

Nuclear Energy

Electricity generated by nuclear energy may be utilized to run hospitals, companies, schools, and residences. In the area nearby Arco, Idaho, was the first nuclear power plant. In 1951, the Experimental Breeder Reactor started supplying its own energy. Russia built the first nuclear power plant specifically to supply electricity to a town in Obninsk in 1954.

Nuclear power reactors produce renewable energy. They don’t emit greenhouse gases or harm the air. Both urban and rural regions can develop them as they do not significantly impact their surroundings. However, radioactive material is a result of nuclear energy. These nuclei lose energy and have an impact on a variety of substances, including living things and the environment. Extremely hazardous radioactive substances can result in burns and raise the risk of blood disorders, malignancies, and bone deterioration.

Atomic splitting, or fission, is the process used in nuclear reactors to generate energy. Fusion is another method of producing nuclear energy. However, nuclear fusion energy cannot be produced consistently and securely in nuclear power reactors. It’s unclear if the method will ever be a viable alternative for producing power. However, nuclear engineers are investigating nuclear fusion since the procedure is probably secure and economical.

Nuclear Fission and Fusion Problems

Problem 1

What process is responsible for combining two light atomic nuclei to form a heavier nucleus and releasing a large amount of energy in the sun and other stars?

Problem 2

Which process involves splitting a heavy atomic nucleus into two or more smaller nuclei, releasing energy in nuclear power plants?

Problem 3

Which of the following is a renewable source of energy that utilizes nuclear reactions to generate heat and produce electricity?

Problem 4

Select the correct statement:

a) Nuclear fusion is the process of splitting heavy atomic nuclei into smaller ones.

b) Nuclear fission releases more energy per unit mass compared to nuclear fusion.

c) Both nuclear fusion and nuclear fission are used in nuclear power plants to generate electricity.

Problem 5

Which of the following is NOT an advantage of using nuclear energy as a power source?

a) Low greenhouse gas emissions

b) Large potential energy output

c) Availability of abundant fuel resources

d) Simple and cost-effective waste disposal

Nuclear Fission and Fusion Practice Problems Solutions

Answer 1

Nuclear Fusion

Answer 2

Nuclear Fission

Answer 3

Nuclear Energy

Answer 4

b) Nuclear fission releases more energy per unit mass compared to nuclear fusion.

Answer 5

d) Simple and cost-effective waste disposal

Further Reading

If you are interested on the topic, this book should really interest you!