Nuclear Fission - Physics
Welcome to Study Guides!

Nuclear Fission

Atomic explosion

Fission reactions are the kind of nuclear reaction we use for nuclear power plants and nuclear submarines, and also to set off a nuclear bomb. With fission reactions, you take very large atoms like uranium and plutonium and smash them apart into smaller atoms. Because it takes a lot of strong nuclear force to glue these very large atoms together, when they're smashed into smaller atoms those atoms don't need as much energy to hold them together, and the extra energy escapes in the form of photons - light and heat - and also neutrons. Unlike fusion, fission is not very common in nature, though sometimes very large atoms do break apart on their own.

Breaking apart these very large atoms also releases a lot of radiation. If the radiation gets into the air, it can kill people or make them sick. Some people get sick right away, some only get sick months or years later. The radiation is very strong for a few hours, and then quickly gets weaker. People can still get cancer from being near where a nuclear bomb went off even two years later, but the effect doesn't last forever.

Learn by Doing - Fission

Bibliography and further reading about nuclear fission:

Nuclear Physics
Physics home

LIMITED TIME OFFER FOR TEACHERS: Using this article with your class? Show us your class page where you're using this article, and we'll send you a free subscription so all your students can use Study Guides with no distractions! (Not a teacher? Paid subscriptions are also available for just $16/year!)
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Study Guides
  • Publisher:
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more? is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 27 April, 2017