Nuclear fusion and fission are both natural physical processes that release energy as a result of interaction between atoms. These energies are a magnitude greater than those of chemical reactions. While fusion and fission are natural phenomena without which life on earth could not exist, it is the man-made application of these forces that most often attracts attention. The use or misuse of nuclear energy has come to define much of our modern world, creating promise and threat in equal measure.
Put simply, nuclear fission is the splitting of an atom into two or more atoms of a lower atomic weight. When the total mass of the smaller atoms is less than that of the original atom, the difference in mass is converted into energy. As Einstein taught us with his famous equation E=mc2, a small amount of mass will convert to a large amount of energy. This is because of the huge energy potential that is bound up in an atomic nucleus.
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