Tag Archive | fission

… how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.

Chapelcross Nuclear Power Station

Chapelcross Nuclear Power Station

This is the last post in our series of posts on nuclear energy.  Here, I shall describe the basic principles behind the design and continued operation of a nuclear reactor.  In our last post, we looked at the techniques responsible for making fissile matter release energy as quickly as possible (in a nuclear explosion).  Today, we will instead look at techniques to control nuclear fission reactions and usefully harness the resultant energy.  Since there are a variety of various nuclear reactor designs and fuels, I shall stick to talking about a reasonably common (although a bit aged) design known as the pressurized-water reactor using U-235 fuel.

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Dr. Strangelove…

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki - via wikipedia.org

Today’s post is about nuclear bombs.  Big boom.  Mushroom clouds.  Yep, those bombs.  In our last post, we discussed the basic mechanism behind the uranium fission chain reaction.  We also briefly talked about the difficulties involved in making it a continuous, feasible reaction.  In this post, I’ll talk about the basic principles behind the design of a nuclear fission bomb.  We’ll see two classic designs – the designs of the Hiroshima and the Nagasaki bombs, known as Little Boy and Fat Man.  I assume that you have read the previous posts, or are familiar with basic scientific terminology related to nuclear reactions.

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Nuclear Fission: A ‘Critical’ Inquiry

Fission of U-235

Fission of U-235 - wikipedia.org

In the previous post, I described the basic principles behind radioactivity.  In today’s post, I will describe nuclear fission reactions – the technique through which we can deliberately induce heavy atoms to break apart into smaller fragments, releasing energy in through radiation.  In the previous post, we talked about half-lives and what happens to radioactive atoms if one were to leave them alone and let them naturally decay.  As it turns out, there are other ways to make atoms break apart; one can slam atoms with proton and neutrons to make them more unstable, causing them to fragment.  The energy released from this fragmentation can be harnessed in a controlled manner in nuclear reactors, or can be deployed destructively in the form of a nuclear fission bomb. Read More…