By Braiden Mason
Nuclear fission takes place when an atom's nucleus splits into two or more smaller nuclei. These smaller nuclei are called fission products. Particles (neutrons, photons, alpha particles) usually are released, too. This is an exothermic process releasing kinetic energy of the fission products and energy in the form of gamma radiation. Fission may be considered a form of element transmutation since changing the number of protons of an element essentially changes the element from one into another. Nuclear fusion
If light nuclei are forced together, they will fuse with a yield of energy because the mass of the combination will be less than the sum of the masses of the individual nuclei. If the combined nuclear mass is less than that of iron at the peak of the binding energy curve, then the nuclear particles will be more tightly bound than they were in the lighter nuclei, and that decrease in mass comes off in the form of energy according to the Einstein relationship . For elements heavier than iron, fission will yield energy. The Similarities
In nuclear fission, a neutron splits a heavy atom of lets say uranium into two lighter ones. The split is accompanied by a large amount of heat energy and more neutrons. The neutrons go on to split nearby uranium atoms in a chain reaction. The fission in this chain reaction is controlled by the nuclear reactor's control rods. The lighter atoms are the radioactive wastes that cannot be harnessed for more energy. The downside is toxic waste that hangs around for centuries and has to be disposed of somewhere. In contrast, nuclear fusion combines lighter atoms to form heavier ones. Specifically, isotopes of hydrogen combine to form helium isotopes and energy. It's much more similar to how stars -- including the sun -- create energy and heat in their cores. Although nuclear fission-powered plants have been in use since the 1950s, prototype nuclear fusion reactors are still not...