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Q & A: Source of nuclear energy?

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Most recent answer: 04/30/2010
is nuclear energy the energy of the gluons holding the nucleas of the atom together? I understand nuclear fission energy to be the energy released when a heavy atom splits. Does the atom split into two more or less equal atoms or something else? Doesn't this indicate that most of the nuclear energy is still bound in the leftover smaller atoms and that only a small part of the available nuclear energy is released in the fission explosion?
- Ron Tellessen
Warner Springs, CA USA
The energy from nuclear fission comes from the conversion of mass into kinetic energy, using the usual Einstein relation E = (Δm)c2, where Δm is the difference between the mass of the initial nucleus and sum of the masses of the fission products.  This energy shows up in the heating of the material surrounding the source.   In the case of a nuclear reactor this energy heats up water to make steam that is then used to power an  electric generator. In the case of an atomic bomb the energy released goes to more destructive purposes.

As you suggested in your other question about the masses of the fission products, the two masses of the fission products are about the same with slight variations.

There is a nice article at 


(published on 04/30/2010)

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