Nuclear fission and nuclear fusion
What is nuclear fusion?
• Hydrogen atoms combine to form Helium
at very high temperatures (10-15 million
• Process that powers the sun and the stars.
• When this conversion occurs, it releases
enough heat energy to keep the sun
Nuclear Fusion on Earth
• Scientists are researching a way to
harness fusion energy on earth to produce
• When successfully harnessed, this energy
will be a safe energy supply for society
without harmful environmental effects.
Animation of nuclear fusion
What is nuclear fission?
• Process of splitting atoms into smaller
• A stray neutron will collide into an atom.
When that collision occurs, the atom
becomes unstable. This causes the atom
to split into two, creating atoms that are
stable by releasing neutrons.
Nuclear fission animation
• When nuclear fission occurs and neutrons
are released, a chain reaction or “domino”
effect begins and all atoms near the fission
sight also begin splitting.
So what…how does nuclear fission
• About half of all nuclear fission power
plants are located in the US. Nuclear
power plants harness the energy inside
atoms and convert this into electricity.
• A nuclear power plant uses a controlled
fission reaction in which radioactive fuel
rods are connected to machines that can
start and stop the domino reaction.
Why use nuclear fission power?
• It is much more environmentally friendly if
all the radiation is contained correctly in
• It would take 17,000 kilograms of coal to
produce the same amount of electricity as
1 kilogram of nuclear uranium fuel!
A little history…
In 1945, the Manhattan project team
exploded the first nuclear bomb.
Currently the US has about 7,000 nuclear
warheads and the nations of the former
soviet union have about 6,000 warheads.
Other countries also have “weapons of
There are enough nuclear
weapons in the world to destroy
all civilization on earth.
The fission bomb
Uses an uncontrolled nuclear fission chain
reaction to release an enormous amount
of energy in a small amount of time.
The radioactive material is normally
surrounded by an explosive. When the
bomb is detonated, the explosive is ignited
and results in a chain reaction of the
The bomb becomes hotter and more
pressurized…and eventually it explodes
into the environment releasing radioactive
fall out into the environment. Additionally
the shock wave from the bomb can level
Thermonuclear fusion bombs
These are generally a lot more powerful
than a fission bomb. It also has a
radioactive fall out and shock wave.
What would happen if a nuclear
warhead hit America?
The actual target of the warhead would be
completely destroyed. Those areas that were
not completely destroyed by the blast would
receive the radioactive fallout cloud.
The world would go into a “nuclear winter” where
global temperatures drop (kind of like an ice age
that destroyed the dinosaurs). Not only would
the temperature be lethal, the radiation left over
from the warhead would leave little chance for
“My God, what have we
- Robert Lewis, the co-pilot of the
Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped
the first atomic bomb
The Manhattan Project
• Scientists who fled Europe during WWII
sought safety in America. These scientists
told the president about research to
develop an atomic bomb.
• They tested the bomb in New Mexico in
July 1945. The mushroom cloud of
radioactive vapor started at 30,000 feet
• The atomic bomb has only been used
twice in warfare.
• The first was at Hiroshima (August 6,1945)
At 8:16 am, 140,000 people were killed
instantly and 69,000 + were injured.
An area of one mile in diameter was
The US census department in 2000 recorded Hoover at a population of 67,242 people
• The second bomb was dropped at
Nagasaki (August 9, 1945)
40,000 were killed, and 25,000 injured
*Japan surrendered on August 10
Scientific studies in recent years
estimates that only 1/10th of 1%
of each atomic bomb’s explosive
capabilities was used
What if you survived the blast?
• Rain that occurs after the blast is filled with
radiation and many people were poisoned
• Immediate effects included burns, loss of
eyesight, loss of hearing, cancer
• Children of survivors have a very very high
rate of leukemia
• Genetic disorders were more common in
children of survivors
Test of the atomic bomb in New Mexico