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Main Nuclear Physics Fission Nuclear Physics

Nuclear Fission

Learning Objectives:

  1. Define the following terms: fission, moderator, nuclear mass defect, chain reaction, enrichment, control rods, nuclear reactor, critical mass.
  2. Describe the process of fission.
  3. Recognize that slow moving neutrons are more easily captured by a nucleus.
  4. Recognize that a large amount of energy as well as fast moving neutrons are released during fission.
  5. Give an example of a substance that can act as a moderator.
  6. Compare the amount of energy released during a fission reaction with the amount of energy released during the combustion of a typical fossil fuel.
  7. Explain how the neutrons released during a fissionable reaction can sustain a chain reaction.
  8. Explain why enrichment is used in preparing nuclear fuels.
  9. Recognize that a mass greater than the critical mass is needed to produce an uncontrollable chain reaction.
  10. Recognize the destructive power of and radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons.
  11. Help bring about an end to the threat of nuclear war.
Lessons Questions
Offline Activities

Key Concepts
  • Fission is the splitting of a large nucleus into smaller nuclei.
  • Slow moving neutrons are more easily captured by a fissionable material.
  • Neutrons can be slowed by a moderator.
  • The products formed during fission have a slightly lower mass due to the nuclear mass defect.
  • A chain reaction is where the neutrons produced during a reaction causes a chain of similar reactions.
  • The concentration of a fissionable material may be increased during a process called enrichment.
  • Controlled chain reactions occur in nuclear reactors.
  • Uncontrolled chain reactions occur in atomic bombs.
  • Control rods are found in reactors and are used to absorb neutrons thereby controlling the rate of fission.
  • Critical mass of a fissionable material is the minimum mass that will produce a nuclear explosion.
  • Nuclear weapons are surrounded by a variety of societal issues.


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