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Nuclear Energy. Nuclear energy, also called Atomic Energy is energy that is released in significant amounts in processes that affect atomic nuclei




Nuclear energy, also called Atomic Energy is energy that is released in significant amounts in processes that affect atomic nuclei, the dense cores of atoms. It is distinct from the energy of other atomic phenomena such as ordinary chemical reactions, which involve only the orbital electrons of atoms. One method of releasing nuclear energy is by controlled nuclear fission in devices called reactors, which now operate in many parts of the world.

Nuclear reactor is any of a class of devices that can initiate and control a self-sustaining series of nuclear fissions. Nuclear reactors are used as research tools, as systems for producing radioactive isotopes, and most prominently as energy sources for nuclear power plants.

Nuclear reactors operate on the principle of nuclear fission, the process in which a heavy atomic nucleus splits into two smaller fragments. The nuclear fragments are in very excited states and emit neutrons, other subatomic particles, and photons. The emitted neutrons may then cause new fissions, which in turn yield more neutrons, and so forth. Such a continuous self-sustaining series of fissions constitutes a fission chain reaction. A large amount of energy is released in this process, and this energy is the basis of nuclear power systems.

In an atomic bomb the chain reaction is designed to increase in intensity until much of the material has fissioned. This increase is very rapid and produces the extremely prompt, tremendously energetic explosions characteristic of such bombs. In a nuclear reactor the chain reaction is maintained at a controlled, nearly constant level.

Nuclear fusion is a process by which nuclear reactions between light elements form heavier elements (up to iron). In cases where the interacting nuclei belong to elements with low atomic numbers (e.g., hydrogen [atomic number 1] or its isotopes deuterium and tritium), substantial amounts of energy are released. The vast energy potential of nuclear fusion was first exploited in thermonuclear weapons, or hydrogen bombs, which were developed in the decade immediately following World War II. Meanwhile, the potential peaceful applications of nuclear fusion, especially in view of the essentially limitless supply of on Earth, have encouraged an immense effort to harness this process for the production of power.

Note

Atomic bomb, also called atom bomb, that is a weapon with great explosive power that results from the sudden release of energy upon the splitting, or fission, of the nuclei of such heavy elements as plutonium or uranium.

When a neutron strikes the nucleus of an atom of the isotopes uranium 235 or plutonium-239, it causes that nucleus to split into two fragments, each of which is a nucleus with about half the protons and neutrons of the original nucleus. In the process of splitting, a great amount of thermal energy, as well as gamma rays and two or more neutrons, is released. Under certain conditions, the escaping neutrons strike and thus fission more of the surrounding uranium nuclei, which then emit more neutrons that split still more nuclei. This series of rapidly multiplying fissions culminates in a chain reaction in which nearly all the fissionable material is consumed, in the process generating the explosion of what is known as an atomic bomb. Another method for obtaining nuclear energy, controlled nuclear fusion, had not been perfected by the late 1980s.

 







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