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Nuclear Reactions

  1. Apr 26, 2009 #1
    (1)How does the nuclear reaction in a power plant differ, from the the one that occurs in a nuclear bomb?

    (2)I understand how the bomb works, and how a nuclear power plant works. What I don't understand is: how do Uranium fuel rods boil water in a power plant? Do they actually detonate a sort of bomb inside a very solid structure that boils water?

    (3)Or do they just let Uranium 235 and 238 decay passively by themselves overtime (producing just enough heat to boil the water.

    (4)Are nuclear reactions possible without causing massive damage/radiation output?

    (5)Can any element be used in a Nuclear Reaction, presumably to a much lesser effect than Uranium/Plutonium. Presumably, you can separate the nucleus of any atom...

    I have searched for these answers, but have not found any that are satisfactory.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 27, 2009 #2


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    i) the reactions in power plant is under control, i.e the number of fission released neutrons per nucleus are constant in time.

    ii) when neutron hits uranium nucleus in rod, the uranium nucleus split in two segments which gains lots of kinetic energy from the released binding energy (pot - energy) in the reaction. Temperature of a sample = mean kinetic energy of the constituents of a sample. The temperature of the rod ( about 1000K) will heat the water.

    iii) No, the fission is induced by neutrons, the temperature the rod would get from ordinary decay is not enough to boil water.

    iv) A nuclear reaction is of the form A + B = C + D, so there are many kinds of nuclear reactions; fusion, fission, alpha decay, beta decay, gamma decay, etc etc

    v) Again, nuclear reaction is a process where nuclei change their properties, e.g 2H -> 1D etc. But not all reactions have the same properties etc.

    Pick up any introductory text book on Nuclear physics, this is also a good site:
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