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Fission and Synthesis of Nuclear Chemistry

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Fission and fusion are both important parts of nuclear chemistry. Both generate massive amount of energy. Both produce lots of heat. Both produce lethal doses of radioactive waves. Each reaction is different in its own way. Fission is the splitting of heavy unstable elements like Uranium-235 and Plutonium. Nuclear power plants use fission to make electricity and to power homes. Fission usually occurs when a neutron impacts an unstable atom, splitting the atom into two while releasing three more neutrons. This process keeps repeating leading to a meltdown. We control this by circulating water throughout the building and making control rods out of material the readily absorb neutrons.

Fission also creates radioactive waste that will last up to millions of years. Fusion is the process of combing of two lighter elements into a heavier element. Fusion is the process that powers the sun. Fusion creates enormous amounts of energy, than we can handle safely. Fusion is a process that requires material to be constantly fed in else it will run out. Also fusion operates at such extreme temperature, 100 million Kelvin, that most of the matter is essentially plasma and will melt any container holding the reaction. Fusion creates helium as a by-product along with massive amounts of gamma radiation.

Nuclear radiation is radiation in the form of elementary particles like alpha and beta particles. Nuclear radiation comes from unstable nuclei. Nuclear radiation can come in three forms: alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma waves. Alpha particles are essentially helium atoms. Each particle has two protons and two neutrons and can be stopped by clothing. Beta particles are electrons emitted from a neutron, changing it to a proton, and can be stopped by most solid objects. Gamma waves are electro-magnetic waves emitted alongside alpha and beta particles. They have no mass and no charge and will require several feet of lead and concrete to stop it. Nuclear radiation in general is harmful to your health, but each type of nuclear radiation harms certain parts of your body. Alpha particles are not harmful when expose eternally, but will cause lung cancer if inhaled or ingested. Beta particles will cause tissue burns and radiation poisoning. When ingested will be more severe. Gamma radiation is the most dangerous of the three. It will pass through your entire body, causing multiple organ systems to fail while causing other to mutate.

The Manhattan Project was a secret government project to build the first nuclear bomb. A German scientist named Leo Szilard convinced President Franklin Roosevelt that the bomb is necessary Because Germany would certainly build a bomb. Roosevelt set up a committee for research about the theoretical side of the bomb and if it is possible. Roosevelt put the project on the back burner so to speak until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor bringing the United States into World War II. Roosevelt now deemed the committee that was building the top priority and is top secret. Roosevelt put General Leslie Grooves at the head of the project. General Grooves recruited J. Robert Oppenheimer to be the head scientist of the whole project. The Army purchased 52,000 in New Mexico to build Los Alamos city that is the scientist devoted to building the atomic bomb. Enrico Fermi was a German scientist, part of the Manhattan Project, who proved that a stable chain reaction is possible by using a nuclear reactor under Stagg Fields at University of Chicago. After this achievement funds flowed to the project more freely and Roosevelt approved $190,000 addition to the project. On November of 1944, the US discovers that Germany is not making a nuclear bomb.

On May 8, 1945, Germany surrenders unconditionally to the US Army. In the summer of 1945, the people working on the atomic bomb were ready to test it. On July 16, 1945 on the Trinity test site, the first atomic bomb was tested. No one watching the bomb knew what to expect. The bomb made a visible flash that lit up the night sky for 200 miles. The mushroom cloud reached 40,000 feet and made a crater, full of metamorphosing sand, half a mile wide. August 6, 1945, the US bombs Hiroshima with the Uranium nuclear bomb “Little Boy” and on August 9, 1945, the US bombs Nagasaki with the Plutonium nuclear bomb “Fat Man”.

One thing I learned from the movie is that working with the \ elements of the universe is extremely hazardous. Germany was making Zeppelins since the 1900’s. In 1927, the US passed the Helium Control Act that banned the export of helium to other countries. The Hindenburg was to the flagship of Germany. It was designed for helium but, was filled hydrogen instead. When landing in New Jersey, the Hindenburg caught fire while falling from the sky. Marie Curie was one of the most famous female scientists ever. She pioneered the research on radioactivity. The thing she loved to do most was the thing that killed her. During the Manhattan Project, scientist Harry Daghlian and Louis Sloatin were both killed by tickling the dragon’s tail. Harry Daghlian dropped a brick used to deflect neutrons. He was exposed to neutrons and gamma radiation. He died 25 days later. Louis Sloatin was putting two halves of a beryllium coated shell around a Plutonium core and measuring the rate of fission. His hand slipped and the two halves fell together. Louis Sloatin was exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. He died nine days later. Whenever someone is working with the elements of the universe, there is always some terrible accident that happens and fatally hurts someone.

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