Chain reaction (physics)
Nettles, William G. Department of Physics, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee.
Last reviewed:November 2018
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- Factors affecting the effective neutron multiplication
- Nuclides for chain reactions
- Additional Readings
A nuclear fission process in which neutrons produced in earlier fission events cause successive fission events. Fission (splitting) of a large-mass atomic nucleus may be induced when the nucleus absorbs a neutron. Fission results in the release of approximately 200 MeV (200 × 106 electronvolts) of energy, divided among the kinetic energy of two (and rarely, three) medium-size fragments, 1 to 5 neutrons (most often 2 or 3), and some gamma rays (∼8 MeV). The fission neutrons can interact with nearby fissionable nuclei (the fission fuel), producing more fissions and more neutrons (see Fig. 1). If there is enough fuel assembled to interact with the fission neutrons, the number of fissions per second in this chain reaction can be sustained or increase. See also: Atomic nucleus; Electronvolt; Energy; Gamma rays; Mass; Neutron; Nuclear fission
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