Nuclear Explosions : Why They Go Boom

The nuclear bomb is one of the most destructive bombs in the world, but yet all its energy comes from 1 small atom. One may ask, How does this happen?

This type of explosion comes from when an atom is split into two. This process results in nuclear fission.

Nuclear fission is defined as "A nuclear reaction in which a heavy nucleus splits spontaneously or on impact with another particle, with the release of energy" (Webster). The energy released is so massive; it is equivalent to approximately 75 Million sticks of dynamite. 

The way to split an atom is very hard and can’t be done by physically cutting it rather you need to Shoot neutrons at an atom of macroscopic bits of Uranium 235 (the isotope of uranium with an atomic mass of 235) also abbreviated as U-235 thus creating a massive chain reaction. This massive uncontrollable chain reaction is what we see as the nuclear explosion .

The reason this explodes is because when the neutron is "fired" at the uranium, it creates an unstable element causing it to react with anything and everything around it.

The unstable element is U-236 which is an isotope of the uranium 235, is highly radioactive and cannot stay in that form for too long.

For the U-236 to become stable again, it must undergo radioactive decay. In the process of decaying, it release massive amounts of radiation, energy and splitting into two different elements as well as 2 neutrons (these two neutrons play a key role in sustaining the reaction). The two elements that form are Barium and Krypton.

This event can be shown using the following equation:

    • 235U + 1 neutron --> 2 neutrons + 92Kr + 142Ba + ENERGY

The massive amounts of energy and the two neutrons released cause other surrounding atoms of Uranium to become agitated and undergo the same process as the first. Since this event is self sustained, it is therefore a chain reaction.

To see a nuclear fission chain reaction click Here 

 For more information on Nuclear fission click on the following link :  Nuclear Fission