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A nuclear explosion occurs as a result of the rapid release of energy from an intentionally high-speed nuclear reaction. The driving reaction may be nuclear fission, nuclear fusion or a multistage cascading combination of the two, though to date all fusion based weapons have used a fission device to initiate fusion, and a pure fusion weapon remains a hypothetical device. Atmospheric nuclear explosions are associated with mushroom clouds, although mushroom clouds can occur with large chemical explosions, and it is possible to have an air-burst nuclear explosion without these clouds. Nuclear explosions produce radiation and radioactive debris.
In physics, radiation describes a process in which energetic particles or waves travel through a medium or space.
Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles (ionizing radiation). The emission is spontaneous, in that the atom decays without any interaction with another particle from outside the atom (i.e., without a nuclear reaction). Usually, radioactive decay happens due to a process confined to the nucleus of the unstable atom, but occasionally (as with the different processes of electron capture and internal conversion) an inner electron of the radioactive atom is also necessary to the process.
Nuclear Fission energy is released when a very heavy atomic nucleus absorbs a neutron and splits into two lighter fragments. The energy release in this process is enormous. It is 10 million times greater than the energy released when one atom of carbon from a fossil fuel is burned.
The plutonium is unstable, or radioactive. Its atoms are constantly 'falling apart', breaking up into smaller elements that are more stable. Every time one nucleus does this, it releases the extra energy it no longer needs to hold it together, as well as a few left-over neutrons. This energy, and the escaping neutrons, is what we describe as the radiation being emitted from the radioactive plutonium. This energy and flow of escaping neutrons can damage human cells, so radioactivity is dangerous. Enough atoms in the chunk of plutonium are breaking down at any one time to make the chunk of plutonium warm up, but not enough to be considered an explosion.
The basic difference is that in a nuclear reactor, the nuclear chain reaction is kept at a level to be just barely self-sustaining. In a bomb, the chain reaction accelerates madly until the energy produces causes the assembly to fly apart. The distinction is exactly analogous to the difference between gasoline burning in a car engine and a molotov cocktail.
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
Originally posted by quackers
Maths for retards.
Radioactive material + radioactive material = lots and lots and lots of radioactive material.
If the heat from a thermonuclear explosion is able to vaporize the radioactive material in a nuclear power plant, where does it's own radiation come from and why is it too not simply vaporized?edit on 15-3-2011 by quackers because: (no reason given)
Originally posted by quackers
Isn't uranium vavourized during certain methods of enrichment (AVLIS)? Does it automagically become non-radioactive? No. Vapourization would achieve nothing and would only serve to make the problem a million times worse.
When you nuke a reactor, you use the reactor's fuel as fissile material in addition to the nuclear weapon and use it all up increasing the nuclear weapon yield.