What is Nuclear Fission

Nuclear fission is a reaction wherein, a large radioactive nucleus splits up into lighter nuclei and produces neutrons and gamma rays in the process. This process forms the base for nuclear reactors that have growing importance in the present day scenario. Nuclear fission reaction is also used as the fundamental principle involved in the nuclear fission bombs. A nuclear fission reaction either occurs as a spontaneous process as in the case of radioactive decay of radioactive elements; or it can be triggered by the bombardment of a nucleus with a neutron. Most of the nuclear fission reactions that occur in the modern day industry are initiated by the use of a neutron.

The process of radioactive decay of an element occurs when the nucleus tends to assume a more stable form by getting divided into lighter nuclei. However, unlike the induced nuclear fission reaction, the natural decay of materials does not liberate enormous amounts of energy. The nuclear fission reaction is also referred to as transmutation owing to the fact that the elements produced after the reaction are completely different from the parent element. The free neutrons produced during the fission reaction can be made use of for further fission, thereby, leading to the nuclear fission chain reaction which results in enormous amounts of energy.

Nuclear fission was first discovered in the year 1938 and since then, there has been lot of development in this field, as the reaction has been used for various purposes. The process that takes place in a nuclear reactor illustrates the use of nuclear fission reaction for a productive purpose wherein, the nuclear energy is produced in a controlled manner, with the use of regulators that control the rate of the fission reaction. The control over the fission reaction is exercised by keeping the number of neutrons under control. The nuclear fuel made use of in this case is uranium 235 or plutonium 230.

Due to the enormous destructive power associated with a nuclear fission reaction, it is used in fission bombs that release enormous amount of energy and heat. The main difference between the process within a nuclear reactor and fission bomb lies in the fact that while the former operates based on controlled nuclear fission reaction, the latter works on the principle of uncontrolled nuclear fission reaction. The two bombs, ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ that completely destroyed Japan during the course of the Second World War worked on the principle of nuclear fission.

All in all, nuclear fission reaction has helped in development in the field of industry and when used with control can prove to be a boon to mankind.