Notes on... chain reactions

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Generating Electricity Using Nuclear Fuels

  • Fission is the process of splitting an atom.
  • Uranium-235 is used as a fuel in a nuclear reactor.
  • It is used because its nuclei can be split by a neuron.
  • A slow-moving neutron is absorbed by a nucleus of uranium-235.
  • It splits into two daughter nuclei (barium-144 and krypton-89) and three more neutrons are released and gamma radiation is produced.
  • The three neutrons then go on to split 3 more uranium-235 nuclei (etc. etc.).
  • This process continues and is called a chain reaction.
  • A moderator (graphite) absorbs some of the kinetic energy of the neutrons to slow them down.
  • Control rods (boron or cadmium) absorb the neutrons or take them out of the process completely.
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