Nuclear Awareness: What to believe.

Chemical Reactions Vs. Nuclear Reactions

There are many differences between chemical and nuclear reactions. The six main differences are:

Nuclear Reactions

  • Protons and Neutrons react inside the nucleus.
  • Elements transmute into other elements.
  • Isotopes react differently.
  • Independent of chemical combination.
  • Energy changes equal 10^8 kJ.
  • Mass changes are detectable.

Chemical Reactions

  • Elections react outside the nucleus
  • The same number of each kind of atom appear in the reactants and products.
  • Isotopes react the same.
  • Depend on chemical combination.
  • Energy changes equal 10 – 10^3 kJ/mol.
  • Mass reactants = mass product.

Don’t get chemical reactions confused with nuclear reactions. An example of a nuclear reaction is an atomic bomb, while an example of a chemical reaction is combustion.

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Nuclear Energy released in nuclear fission and fusion is several 100 million times as large as an ordinary chemical reaction like the combustion process. The reason why nuclear energy released in nuclear fission and fusion is so much larger than chemical reactions is because tremendous amounts of energy is released at one time. The nuclei in a nuclear reaction undergo a chain reaction, causing the neutrons to move extremely fast and release high amounts of energy. In an ordinary chemical reaction, the atoms changing do not move nearly as fast, causing the energy too be released much more slowly.

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