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Nuclear Fission

 

Nuclear Fission

Nuclear Fission and Chain Reaction

The basic fuel for nuclear reaction is uranium, a very heavy metal. Nuclear fission is initiated when the nucleus of a uranium atom is hit by a neutron and split it into two halves. In addition to splitting the nucleus into two halves, the process releases two or more neutrons and a large amount of energy in the form of heat. The released neutrons in turn hit more uranium nuclei and release more neutrons to produce a chain reaction. The fission process produces a large amount of energy for power generation.

The high-energy neutrons released by fission travel at very high speeds (fast neutron) and must be slowed down to increase its probability of hitting more uranium atoms and in turn induce more fission in the reactor. The commercial type nuclear reactors normally use moderator to slow down the high-energy fast neutrons generated from nuclear fission to become low energy neutrons (thermal neutrons), which in turn will hit the uranium nuclei to produce more fissions. Ordinary water, graphite and the more expensive heavy water are used as moderator for various types of commercial nuclear reactors.
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