Want some salt with your Fission Chips?

Nuclear Fission is an amazing process. With a fuel that is inert (even enriched uranium won’t burn in a flame), the input of a single neutron can cause the release of more energy than tonnes of explosive.

How does a single neutron do this? A single neutron initiates a reaction which causes the release of more neutrons, each of which can initiate further reactions. This process is calledΒ  a chain reaction, as the individual events in the reaction are caused by previous events.

You can envision a chain reaction as a snowball rolling down a mountain, picking up more and more snow until an avalanche is unleashed.Β  You can model how a single change can cause a cascading sequence of events by playing this game (Can you beat my top score of 1170? Provide a screen shot if you expect me to believe you!).

So what does a chain reaction look like? Well, because of the size of the particles involved, the speed and energy of the reactions, we can’t actually see the individual events (fissions). If you want to see what it looks like, check the Tsar Bomba update on the Boomology post. We can theorise what they look like from what we know how they work, and we have various simulations:

So what do you need to know? First you need to know what happens in a chain reaction and how it is initiated, sustained and controlled. Here is an image which shows the various outcomes of a single fission event:

You can read more details about the way fission works at the following links (1, 2).

Here are some videos that explain what is happening.

The second thing you need to know is the parts and function of nuclear reactor. The best way to do this is to play with one. I considered emailing the Department of Energy to ask them to construct a nuclear power plant on HPSC grounds, but the paperwork would have taken to long to complete, so I’ve found some simulations for you (1, 2, 3). See if you can avoid the chernobyl outcome!

See you in class!


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62 Comments on “Want some salt with your Fission Chips?”

  1. Travis Says:

    Sir i have beat your score on the chain reaction game =]
    i got 2702, i will send a screen shot to prove it

  2. Kane L Says:

    hey sir, i beat your score on that chain reaction game.
    i got 1,720
    I uploaded it to photobucket.com, here is the link/pic if i can get it to work.
    Link:http://i777.photobucket.com/albums/yy55/sasuke808_2010/MyScore.jpg
    Pic: [IMG]http://i777.photobucket.com/albums/yy55/sasuke808_2010/MyScore.jpg[/IMG]

  3. Loughlin Says:

    Hey guys, I’m having a little trouble with the Nuclear Fission question in the “Energy from the Nucleus” supplement Mr. Grichting has created. The question asks for three possible sets of daughter products- one with the smallest possible nass difference between fission fragments, one with a large probability of happening and one with the largest possible mass difference between fission fragments.

    For the most common one I’ve looked at two isotopes that are on the peaks of the graph and match up correctly, and I can guess the other two pairs by looking for the closest and least close points that still correspond to an atomic mass of 236 (less neutrons). However, I can’t find any graph on the Internet or in our textbooks that has all of the fission fragments labelled, so I could tell exactly what were the isotopes we were dealing with?

    I’m just going to try my best and go as close as I can, but I’ve looked ‘everywhere’ for the more detailed information source and cannot find it.

  4. Nick Says:

    Kane Your An Idiot He Said He Got 2100.. LOL
    I Got 2067.. Aahahhaa, I Saved My Pic Aswell πŸ™‚
    And This Stuff Actually Makes Sence To Me πŸ™‚

  5. Said Mosavi 420 Says:

    hey sir its Said Mosavi just wanted to inform you that i bet ure score on the chain reaction game (HAHA)
    i got 2114 i will prove it by showing u the picture of it next lesson i have you
    take it easy bro

  6. Said Mosavi 420 Says:

    hey Kane i wanted to ask how you you actually take the pic of the sceen and upload it on the net thanks buddy

  7. Patrick Says:

    awww man!, i tried going on the simulated but after 10 mintues it timed me out, i cleared my cashe, TWICE, and still, nothing. still timed me out…and i was getting the hang of it to…so many factors, that can send it outta control..the temperature was the one thing i watched, trying to keep it steady at 300-350, the water was difficult to judge for me…to bad i got timed out…it was really fun…in a informative kind of way.

  8. Jack Says:

    Haha, hey sir! i got a top score of 1676 πŸ˜›

  9. Patrick Says:

    okay, who has found his practice test that he was meant to leave up on the blog? ive gone through the boomology post. and this post. but can’t find it, then i clicked on all the physics based topics and looked through them, well, all the ones that are relevant to the topic we are studying but still nothing

  10. Kane L Says:

    Muahahaha got 2614 on that chain reaction game πŸ˜€

  11. Patrick Says:

    mr g could you possibly give me a hint as to where i
    could find the practice test?

    • Loughlin Says:

      We’ve looked through the website, we’ve been using it correctly, and I know it’s helped me in both mathematics and physics heaps (even if it stresses me out because I always worry too much!)

      I know you’re all for torturing your students, and I respect and fear that above all things. However, we’re looking for this practice exam not so you can spoon feed us things, but so we can better prepare ourselves for how the school system judges how much we have understood the topic.

      Give us a break? I mean, we’re begging for MORE work! How many kids ASK for practice SACs?

      • Patrick Says:

        amen! HALLELUJAH! praise the lord ! 1st time ever in history THAT IVE ASKED FOR WORK! 😦

        • CyberChalky Says:

          Ask and ye shall receive (sorry that it is late!)
          Practice Test

          • Loughlin Says:

            And CyberChalky spoke.

            The geeklings rejoiced.

          • LAri.KAy Says:

            My eyes welled with tears. Now i will have to complete it!

            Locky, can i compare answers with you when I’m done?

            =]

          • Patrick Says:

            everyone is gonna compare answers with Locky, get in line like the rest of us. πŸ˜›

          • Loughlin Says:

            The funny thing is, you guys are probably as good at Physics as I am. I’m not a super genius. I stress out. A lot. I get answers wrong like you guys. I’m happy to compare answers and stuff with you, but don’t expect me to do any better than you.

          • LAri.KAy Says:

            Lock, i don’t expect it. It’s just a thing that i really know from deep down..that you’re amazing!!! See me, i blank out in physics heaps. Because there’s just so much. Its just a thing i need to work on and get help with. That’s all.

            I am in line by the way, and good luck with your jam-packed weekend.
            =]

          • Patrick Says:

            For Q7. what did you say were your two points?.
            for me i wrote, “how big the room im standing next to the radiation is?”, “is the radio-isotope, contained in a container, if so, what material is is made out of?”

          • LAri.KAy Says:

            okeydokey…uh with the practise test, i didn’t get multiple choice q.8 and the explaining parts of short answer 2 and four. Also, for short answer q7….another factor (other than the distance from the radiation) would be????

          • Patrick Says:

            for Q6 did you pick sample A? what reason was your reasoning?

          • Patrick Says:

            Q8B what did you write?

          • Loughlin Says:

            Sure Lari. I just did the questions in my head this morning, but I’ll type out my answers at some stage and we can go over them- I have a totally full weekend, so I’m trying to get everything done.

  12. Loughlin Says:

    Hey Sir, I’ve been looking into the fusion processes of the sun, And they seem to have 3 main stages;

    Hydrogen-1 + Hydrogen-1 –> Hydrogen-2 + Positron + Neutrino +Energy (Because one of the protons has turned into a neutron)

    Hydrogen-2+ Hydrogen-1 –> Helium-3 + Gamma + Energy
    Helium-3 + Helium-3 –>Helium 4 (Stable) +Hydrogen-1 +Hydrogen-1

    However, Patrick was saying something about you being dissatisfied with this explanation? What aren’t you happy with?

    • Patrick Says:

      the process is right, but there is another process which is more correct.

      i THINK its this:
      Hydrogen-1 + Hydrogen-1 –> Hydrogen-2 + positron + neutrino + energy

      Hydrogen-2 + Hydrogen-2 -> Hydrogen-3 + Hydrogen-1 + Energy (in the form of Gamma rays)

      Hydrogen-2+ Hydrogen-3 -> Helium-4+Neutron+ energy

      and apparently the 1st step in the process can take up to 6 million years to start O.O

      • CyberChalky Says:

        Both process are correct; either can happen in the solar furnace. I think it is important to recognise the one that Patrick has posted because it explains the presence of Tritium in the sun.

      • Loughlin Says:

        Thanks Guys, I’ll make sure I know those other two formulae for the test as well.

  13. Patrick Says:

    oh yeah, there isn’t a Test Tomorrow everybody! just thought id post that up here, so if anyone from class checks it out, they would know

  14. Loughlin Says:

    Hey Sir, is using logarithms to find th in the Half-life formula going to be on the exam?

  15. Patrick Says:

    on the test there are two questions which are EXACTLY the same, but im wondering if its a trick question?

  16. Patrick Says:

    hey did anyone else notice that in the practice test there are 2 questions which are exactly the same? is that just a trick question, like, with a different answer?, or would the answer be the same?

  17. Loughlin Says:

    Hey guys, for multiple choice;
    6 I chose C, alpha radiation, because it DOES have the greatest ionisation power, even if it has the shortest range.

    8 is just a decay equation, I chose A.

    Short Answers;
    2- 200Sv of gamma is most powerful because by this stage type of radiation has already been taken into account.

  18. Deepti Says:

    from where dis u guys got the practice test….i searched all dis blog….bt couldnt find it!!!……Can anyone help me plez……well i m practicing from the book n notes bt is dre any practice test as well????…..couldnt find it!!…..Help me if possible!!!

    • Loughlin Says:

      In CyberChalky’s post, a couple below yours and this one.

      “Ask and ye shall receive (sorry that it is late!)
      Practice Test”


  19. […] and as a weapon.Β Β There are two previous posts on this blog that are important for you to read: “Want some salt with your Fission Chips?”Β and “Boomology – the Science of Nuclear […]

  20. darrren10 Says:

    Cool, I look forward to learning about this in the coming lessons πŸ˜€

    As for the chain reaction game I got 1870. Here’s a screen shot on photobucket.

    and yes i’m aware it’s a bit late.

  21. Chelsea Says:

    I am sorry to break this to you Sir, but i may have just beaten your top score on the Chain Reaction Effect game πŸ˜‰ I will upload a photo for you as soon as i work out how to πŸ™‚


  22. […] have written many posts on this blog about nuclear power (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) (you may want to pay particular attention to the comment streams…). Not only is […]


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