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P2 Topic 5: Nuclear fission and nuclear fusion
Atoms contain electrons, protons and neutrons which are called sub-atomic particles. Protons and neutrons
are found in the nucleus and thus are called nucleons and electrons surround the nucleus in shells.
All atoms of the same element have the same number of…

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Ionisation is when an atom loses or gains an electron to turn into an ion.
Alpha particles are capable of pulling a negatively charged electron out of its orbit (they have a large positive
Beta particles push the electrons out of orbit instead.
Gamma rays transfer energy to electrons…

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Nuclear power

Nuclear reactors can transform energy contained in the nuclei of Uranium and Plutonium atoms into thermal
energy using nuclear fission. The fuel is made into pellets, which are inserted into hollow fuel rods several
metres long. These rods are placed inside the reactor core.

The rate of which…

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After some time, radioactive waste builds up in the reactor core. This waste consists of daughter nuclei and
radioactive isotopes from when the materials in the core absorb neutrons.


Nuclear fusion occurs when small nuclei combine to form larger ones. A good example is hydrogen nuclei
combining to form…

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If the nuclei are travelling fast enough, some can overcome the electrostatic repulsion and fuse together. The
higher the temperature, the faster the nuclei move and the more likely they are to collide. As a result, the
temperature inside a fusion reactor must be very high ­ about 150,000,000C! (Ten…


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