Nuclear Fission Definition – Examples of Fission

Nuclear Fission Definition

Definition of Nuclear Fission:

Nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts (lighter nuclei). The fission process often produces free neutrons and photons (in the form of gamma rays), and releases a large amount of energy. In nuclear physics, nuclear fission is either a nuclear reaction or a radioactive decay process. The case of decay process is called spontaneous fission and it is very rare process. In reactor physics, the neutron-induced nuclear fission is the process of the greatest practical importance.

Nuclear Fission Definition

Principles of Nuclear Fission

In general, the neutron-induced fission reaction is the reaction, in which the incident neutron enters the heavy target nucleus (fissionable nucleus), forming a compound nucleus that is excited to such a high energy level (Eexcitation > Ecritical) that the nucleus splits into two large fission fragments. A large amount of energy is released in the form of radiation and fragment kinetic energy. Moreover and what is crucial, the fission process may produce 2, 3 or more free neutrons and these neutrons can trigger further fission and a chain reaction can take place. In order to understand the process of fission, we must understand processes, that occur inside the nucleus to be fissioned. At first, the nuclear binding energy must be defined.

See next: nuclear binding energy

Definition of 235U Fission – Example

Uranium 235 is a fissile isotope and its fission cross-section for thermal neutrons is about 585 barns (for 0.0253 eV neutron). For fast neutrons its fission cross-section is on the order of barns. Most of absorption reactions result in fission reaction, but a minority results in radiative capture forming 236U. The cross-section for radiative capture for thermal neutrons is about 99 barns (for 0.0253 eV neutron). Therefore about 15% of all absorption reactions result in radiative capture of neutron. About 85% of all absorption reactions result in fission.

Uranium absorption reaction

Definition of 233U Fission – Example

Uranium 233 is a very good fissile isotope and its fission cross-sectionfor thermal neutrons is about 531 barns (for 0.0253 eV neutron). For fast neutrons its fission cross-section is on the order of barns. Most of absorption reactions result in fission reaction, but a minority results in radiative capture forming 234U. The cross-section for radiative capture for thermal neutrons is about 45 barns (for 0.0253 eV neutron). Therefore about 6% of all absorption reactions result in radiative capture of neutron. About 94% of all absorption reactions result in fission. The capture-to-fission ratio is much smaller than the other two major fissile fuels 235U and 239U.

Uranium 233 absorption reaction

Definition of 239Pu Fission – Example

Plutonium 239 is a fissile isotope and its fission cross-section forthermal neutrons is about 750 barns (for 0.025 eV neutron). For fast neutrons its fission cross-section is on the order of barns. Most of absorption reactions result in fission reaction, but a part of reactions result in radiative capture forming 240Pu. The cross-section for radiative capture for thermal neutrons is about 270 barns (for 0.025 eV neutron). Therefore about 27% of all absorption reactions result in radiative capture of incident neutron. About 73% of all absorption reactions result in fission.

Plutonium fission vs. radiative capture

See above:

Nuclear Fission