Share this page
Jump to:

Fission

Nuclear fission is a process where energy is released by the splitting of uranium atoms.

Contributors

What is Fission?

Nuclear fission is a process whereby energy is released by the splitting of uranium atoms. Fission releases heat energy that can generate steam, which is used to spin a turbine to produce electricity1.

Uranium is the most widely used fuel for nuclear fission. Uranium is a nonrenewable energy source but it is a common metal found as an ore worldwide. Nuclear power plants use uranium, enriched in the isotope U-235 for fuel because, unlike the more common U-238, it can fission.

Uranium is extracted from the earth through traditional mining techniques or chemical leaching with major resources in Canada, Kazakhstan and Australia2. Once mined, the uranium ore is sent to a processing plant to be concentrated into enriched fuel (i.e., uranium oxide pellets), which can then be used in a nuclear reactor.

In the plant’s nuclear reactor, neutrons released from fission collide with uranium atoms, releasing both heat and more neutrons. The heat is used to generate steam, which powers a turbine to generate electricity and the neutrons continue the chain-reaction.

There are many different types of reactors, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. These can be grouped into two main categories3:

  • Thermal-Neutron Reactor – These are the typical reactors found around the world today, of which there are many different variations. They have issues regarding radioactive waste but generate large amounts of low carbon energy. The two most common reactors in use today are the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) and the Boiling Water Reactor (BWR).
  • Fast-Neutron Reactors – Often considered the next step for nuclear power, fast reactors have been researched since the beginning of nuclear power but are yet to be deployed for a variety of technical, financial and political reasons. Should these issue be overcome, they could offer a revolutionary step in the way nuclear power is generated with great benefits towards waste disposal.

 

Video

Context

The first commercial nuclear fission power stations started operation in the 1950s. Today, there are over 435 operable in 31 countries. Nuclear accounts over 11% of global energy production. Nuclear Fission technology promises the world an abundant source of carbon-free energy. The costs of operation are fairly inexpensive and the nuclear fuels themselves are relatively abundant4.

However, there are many challenges for the technology. High costs and regulatory permitting required to construct the plants are significant barriers to the technology. Additionally, the fuel can be repurposed to create nuclear weapons, which can be a threat to national security.

The nuclear fission process also creates radioactive waste5, which, if not disposed of, could cause harm to the environment and surrounding communities. The safety and health of both workers and neighboring communities are also a significant concern in the event of nuclear accidents6.

Dive deeper

Recent blog posts about Fission

No items found.

External resources

INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Nuclear Energy Agency

International Atomic Energy Agency

International Nuclear Societies Council

World Nuclear Association

International Nuclear Law Association

International Institute of Nuclear Energy

CERN

INTERNATIONAL OR PROMINENT INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission

American Nuclear Society

European Nuclear Society

AOFNMB

Australian Nuclear Association

ANSTO

China Nuclear Energy Agency

Japan Atomic Energy Agency

Latin American Section-American Nuclear Society

Korean Nuclear Society

BATAN Indonesia

RESEARCH INSTITUTION

Institute for Nuclear Research Ukraine

Institute for Nuclear Research Hungarian

Daltoon Nuclear Institute

Joint Institute for Nuclear Research

Institute for Nuclear Research Pitesti

National Research Nuclear University MEPhI

Nuclear Energy Institute

International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID)

Belgian Nuclear Research Center

Nuclear AMRC UK

European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)

UNB – Centre for Nuclear Energy Research

Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE)

Soreq Nuclear Research Center

South West Nuclear Hub

ACADEMIC JOURNAL

Journal of Nuclear Physics

Nuclear Engineering and Design

Journal of Nuclear Materials

Journal of Nuclear and Particle Physics

International Journal of Nuclear Energy Science and Technology

HISTORY

US Department of Energy

Whatisnuclear.com

World Nuclear Association

EBSCO HOST

Nuclear Energy

ECONOMICS

Nuclear Energy Institute

Nuclear Energy Institute 2

World Nuclear Association

Jonathon Porrit

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

World Nuclear Association

UNESCO

Nuclear Energy Institute

Foro Nuclear

Nucleartourist.com

US EPA

BUSINESS ANALYSIS

Business Day Live

4-traders

Business Day Live

Nuclear energy Insider

HEALTH IMPACT

The New England Journal of Medicine

World Nuclear Association

New Scientist

Ceedata

United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC)

Study.com

The Health Physics Society University of Michigan

LiveScience

SUSTAINABILITY

ScienceDirect

The Natural Edge Project

OECD

NEA

OECD-NEA

American Nuclear Society

Pearce – Michigan Technological University

OTHER INTERESTING ESSAYS/ARTICLES

The Independent

The University of Manchester

Breaking Energy

Triple Pundit

IAEA

Loading...