Created By: IronlennyAugust 18, 2011 Last Edited By: IronlennyJune 29, 2014
Nuked

Useful Notes: Nuclear Energy

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This (very first draft) article covers nuclear reactions, basic reactor design, and types of radiation.

The Four fundamental forces of nature:

Gravity - The weakest of the four forces. Because it has unlimited range, can not be blocked, and effects all matter is the most noticeable on large scales. Force carrying particle - Graviton (has not been confirmed)

Electromagnetism - affects anything that has a charge. Strength drops by the cube of the distance from the source. Plays a big role in nuclear fission and fusion. Force Carrying Particle- Photon (light)

Weak Nuclear Force - Allows the transmutation of one particle in to another. Force Carrying Particle - Bosons

Strong Nuclear Force - All baryonic matter is affected by the Strong Nuclear Force. It only effects neutrons and protons that are right next to each other. For atoms smaller than uranium the binding energy of the strong nuclear force over comes the repulsion of the positively charged protons.

Structure of an atom:

Nucleus: Composed of Neutrons and Protons.

Electron Shell: For every proton in the nucleus, there is a corresponding electron orbiting the nucleus.

Elementary particles:

Neutron - Large neutrally charged particle. Resides in the nucleus.

Proton - Large positively charged particle. Resides in the nucleus.

Electron - Really small negatively charged particle. Resides in the electron shell.

There are four types of nuclear reactions:

Fission: A heavy nucleus absorbs a neutron, cause it to split into two or more daughter nuclei (generally releasing energy).

Fusion: Two light nuclei collide and form a heavier nucleus (generally releasing energy).

Spallation: A nucleus is hit by a sufficiently energetic particle to cause it to release additional particles and/or fragments.

Induced gamma emission: Isotopes in a stable excited state lose that state when exposed to high energy photons, releasing even more energetic photons.

Basic Reactor Design

All power plants in the United States, and most of the world use the same basic principle. The reactor vessel house fuel, a moderator, and coolant. The moderator increases the chance that neutrons emitted by the fuel collide with the atoms of the coolant generating heat. The coolant moves that heat to a steam turbine that powers an electrical generator. Any excess heat is removed from the coolant via a heat exchanger in to the environment.

Types of Radiation

Alpha Radiation: Ionized helium atoms released from heavy isotopes. It is the easiest type of radiation to shield against (your skin is sufficient to stall all of it), but is biologically the most damaging.

Beta Radiation: electrons released from the decay of unstable isotopes. Second easiest type to shield against (aluminum foil does the trick).

Gamma Radiation: Gamma rays are released by either excited nuclei moving down to more stable energy states, or the decay of heavy isotopes. Second hardest to shield against (about a foot of lead to cut exposure by half).

Neutron Radiation: Neutron Radiation is the release of neutrons from the fissioning of heavy isotopes. The hardest to shield against (several feet of concrete or water are needed to reduce exposure by half).
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • August 19, 2011
    jate88
    bump
  • August 19, 2011
    Smo
    These are quite good, but rely heavily on prior knowledge. I assume this is meant to help out people writing or understanding fiction that features nuclear energy as part of the story. Maybe start even more basic, with nuclear energy as a concept, what an atom is, why we would want to use it. So far, it requires knowledge of the parts of an atom.
  • August 27, 2011
    Ironlenny
    Thanks for the responses. I guess I shouldn't assume a high school physics background.
  • August 27, 2011
    Trotzky
    Fission: A heavy nucleus absorbs a neutron, cause it to split into two or more daughter nuclei (generally releasing energy).

    and some more neutrons which hit more nuclei creating a chain reaction.

    Add a version for Homer Simpson (those without high school education). There is a big swirly thing which generates heat. Heat makes steam. Steam makes wheel go around. Wheel going round make electricity because a wizard did it.

  • August 27, 2011
    theindefiniteone
    Bump.
  • August 27, 2011
    Deboss
    I thought we had this?
  • August 27, 2011
    Ironlenny
    I thought we'd have it too, but when I looked; nada.
  • August 29, 2011
    Bisected8
    Good idea and initial writeup. Although it needs some formatting. Try adding a few bold titles and suchlike to make it easier on the eyes.
  • August 29, 2011
    Trotzky
    Force carrying particles of strong are mesons, of Weak are W bosons and Z bosons or W and Z particles. Photons and theoretical gravitons are also bosons.

    I don't think explaining fermions and bosons is necessary on THIS page.
  • August 29, 2011
    Deboss
    Apparently Atomic Hate is the index.
  • August 29, 2011
    terrafox
    Artistic License Nuclear Physics covers much of this.
  • August 30, 2011
    aurora369
    All force-carrying particles are bosons, including W bosons, Z bosons, photons, gluons and mesons.
  • September 3, 2011
    Trotzky
    Mesons are bosons too. I forgot to mention that in my previous post. Maybe you do need to explain bosons after all.
  • September 4, 2011
    aurora369
    In a nutshell, there are two kinds of particles: fermions and bosons. The big difference between them is that you cannot put two fermions in the same place, they are kinda resilient; bosons aren't. Fermions are particles of matter; bosons are particles of forces.

    Fermions include leptons (electrons, muons, taons, neutrinos) and baryons (composite fermions: protons, neutrons, hyperons). Bosons include photons, W-bosons, Z-bosons, gluons, possibly gravitons, and composite bosons, called mesons.
  • September 4, 2011
    NativeJovian
    Do we really need to talk about quantum physics when we're just talking about nuclear reactions?

    Just talking about the two different types of nuclear reactions (fission and fusion), why they work (e = mc^2), and the effects they have (types of radiation) should be plenty.
  • September 5, 2011
    aurora369
    Oh, I forgot to mention another possible type of boson: the Higgs boson, that gives other particles mass (supposedly, may be jossed soon).
  • September 6, 2011
    lars_h
    Electromagnetism, like gravity, obeys the inverse square law. In the classical field theory setting, this is because of conservation of flux: the area of a sphere around a charge is proportional to the square of the radius, and since any such sphere has the same flux (from that change) through it, the flux density (i.e., field strength) must be proportional to the inverse of the square of the radius (i.e., distance from charge).

    Also be warned that the E=mc^2 explanations of nuclear power in popular science often have a flair of Hollywood Physics about them. It's really more of m=E/c^2: the amounts of potential energy that are present in nuclei are so great that you notice them as deviations in mass relative to what would be expected from summing up the component protons and neutrons. This does not imply that there is a way of releasing that energy (most naturally occurring elements aren't fissionable), but it can be used to estimate how much would be released by a particular reaction, should it occur.

    Finally, the purpose of the moderator is not to make the reaction give off more heat, it is to make the neutrons more likely to cause another fission, so that the chain reaction can be sustained.
  • November 19, 2011
    Tambov333
    Bump.
  • June 12, 2014
    Westrim
    bump
  • June 29, 2014
    Westrim
    particle accelerator bump
  • June 29, 2014
    Koveras
    The current content mainly covers nuclear physics, whereas the title is "Nuclear Energy", which kinda implies it should also cover things like nuclear reactors, how they work, and different types thereof.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable