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What is nuclear fission or fusion?

what is nuclear fission or fusion?

What is nuclear fission or fusion?

To understand how nuclear energy works, the first thing we must know are its processes. To do this, we must familiarize ourselves with nuclear fission and nuclear fusion, with the differences between the two, and with the advantages and disadvantages of using one or the other system.

What is nuclear fission?

We will begin by explaining what nuclear fission consists of. Nuclear fission is the reaction that occurs in the nucleus of a heavy atom. By capturing an incident neutron, that nucleus becomes unstable and splits into two nucleus of lighter atoms. These lighter atoms are called fission products. In this process two or three neutrons and gamma rays are emitted, and causes the release of large amounts of energy.

These neutrons, in turn, can cause further fission reactions by interacting with other fissionable nucleus that will emit new neutrons, and so on . This is a multiplier effect often referred to as a chain reaction.

For this fission chain reaction to happen, certain conditions must be met. On the one hand, the critical mass of the fissile material must exceed a certain threshold of quantity in this material for the reaction to take place and on the other hand, the geometry of that material must also be adequate. Fission could be generated spontaneously, but it requires the existence of a neutron capable of striking the necessary energy.

The results of this reaction are that, in just a fraction of the time, the fused nucleus release an energy which is a million times larger than that obtained through other means of energy production , such as combustion through fossil fuels.

Fissioned nucleus release energy one million times greater than that obtained.

¿Qué es la fusión nuclear?

Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two atoms with two very light nucleus join together to form a atom with a more stable and heavier nucleus, with a mass slightly less than the sum of the masses of the initial nucleus. This mass defect gives rise to a great release of energy . The energy produced by the Sun has this origin.

For nuclear fusion to occur, the cores of positive charge must be able to overcome the electrostatic forces of repulsion in their approach. This is the type of energy that is produced in the sun, where the pressure inside the star allows the nucleus that lead the reaction to bend the interactions. Here on earth, that this reaction occurs is only possible through the application of thermal energy, or through a particle accelerator.

The typical product of this type of phenomenon is a helium atom to which a neutron is added, a result that It derives from the combination of two isotopes of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium.

Differences between fission and nuclear fusion

Both fission and nuclear fusion are nuclear reactions that release energy stored in the nucleus of an atom. But there are important differences between them. Nuclear fission is the separation of a heavy nucleus into smaller nucleus, while nuclear fusion is the combination of light nucleus to create a larger and heavier one.

Image from https://revistardenergia.com

Advantages and disadvantages between nuclear fission and fusion

Nuclear fission is what currently operates in nuclear power plants around the world, so its advantages and its disadvantages are increasingly contrasted.

Among its benefits we can find:

  • Efficiency when it comes to energy production : It is a system that guarantees a stable and continuous supply. The production of energy is constant and is available practically at all times, ensuring the correct operation of the electrical system.
  • This energy is clean and respectful with the environment: It is an energy that does not release polluting gases (such as CO2) into the atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect, something that it does occur with other forms of energy production. In fact, it is the only technology available today with the ability to generate such amounts of energy without the need for fossil fuels.

Among its possible problems we can mention:

  • Safety issues: Some historical incidents at nuclear power plants it has made public opinion, to a certain extent, reluctant to this type of energy. National and international regulations, supervisory bodies and safety protocols are in charge of supervising and guaranteeing that nuclear power plants comply with regulations and are safe.
  • The residuals reagents: Undoubtedly one of the most important challenges facing the industry. The management and storage of these materials can be located in the plants themselves or in specialized locations. In any of the cases, adequate regulation on the matter would be essential to implement the corresponding solutions safely and effectively. Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, although it has not yet been able to start up, would solve this problem, by not generating reactive waste (although it could indirectly activate the structural materials of the fusion plants). In addition, it would be a practically inexhaustible source of energy production. Currently there are experimental reactors and prototypes. When the obstacles that still need to be solved are overcome (for example, the very high temperature necessary for fusion and its compatibility with materials that support it), we will undoubtedly be faced with an important paradigm shift in electricity generation. refers.


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