P2 7.1 Nuclear Fission

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  • Nuclear Fission
    • The splitting of an atomic nucleus
    • Two fissionable isotopes
      • Uranium-235
        • Used in the majority of reactors
      • Plutonium-239
    • Naturally occurring uranium is uranium-238, which is non-fissionable
    • Most reactors use 'enriched' uranium that contains 2-3% uranium-235
    • For fission to occur, the nucleus must absorb a neutron
      • The nucleus then splits into two smaller nuclei
      • Two or three neutrons are emitted and energy is released
      • Energy released in a nuclear reactor is much greater than the energy released in a chemical reaction
    • A chain reaction takes place when each fission event creates more fission events
      • In a nuclear reactor, the process is controlled, so one fission neutron per fission on average goes on to create another fission event

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