Chapter 6. Fission
Out of the many nuclear reactions known, that resulting in fission has at present the greatest practical significance. In this chapter we will describe the mechanism of the process, identify the byproducts, introduce the concept of the chain reaction, and look at the energy yield from the consumption of nuclear fuels.
6.1. The Fission Process
The absorption of a neutron by most isotopes involves radiative capture, with the excitation energy appearing as a gamma ray. In certain heavy elements, notably uranium and plutonium, an alternate consequence is observed—the splitting of the nucleus into two massive fragments, a process called fission. Computer Exercise 6.A provides a graphic display of the process. Figure 6.1 shows ...