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ZingPath: Nuclear Physics

Nuclear Energy: Fission

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Nuclear Physics

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Nuclear Energy: Fission


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Nuclear fission is explored interactively, and learners write balanced fission reaction equations.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Explain that a nuclear reaction occurs when a neutron hits a massive atom and the atomic nuclei are split.
  • Explain that nuclear fission produces energy, two new atoms, gamma radiation, and three neutrons.
  • Explain how control rods moderate the speed of a nuclear reaction by absorbing neutrons.
  • Solve and write balanced fission reaction equations.
  • Describe explosive nuclear reactions like the atomic bomb as possible effects of an uncontrolled chain reaction.

Everything You'll Have Covered

Nuclear fission occurs when neutrons collide with the nuclei of certain heavy atoms, causing it to split into two pieces. This results in the release of energy, gamma radiation, alpha radiation, and new neutrons. If one neutron from each fission reaction is captured and successfully produces fission, a controlled chain reaction is produced. If more than one neutron from each fission reaction causes another fission reaction, the number of neutrons and rate of energy production will increase. This results in an uncontrolled chain reaction.

Control rods are used to help control the rate of a fission reaction. Control rods manage the number of free neutrons allowed to reach massive atoms in the core of the reactor. Limiting the number of free neutrons limits the fission reaction rate, which could stop all fission.

The number of protons and neutrons are conserved during a fission reaction. To balance a fission reaction equation, the sum of protons and neutrons on the reactant's side of the equation must be equal to the number of protons and neutrons on the product's side of the equation.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 20 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts atomic structure, chemical reactions, energy
Course Physics
Type of Tutorial Concept Development
Key Vocabulary atom, control rods, energy