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Earth Science
It's All Nuclear!

Earth Science
Earth Science

It's All Nuclear!
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.49

     challenging words:    rarity, half-life, onsite, isotope, portal, disposal, irreversible, tremendous, geologists, atomic, fission, reality, element, atom, radioactive, naturally
     content words:    Ernest Rutherford, United States, United States Department

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It's All Nuclear!
By Trista L. Pollard

1     The idea of fossil fuels becoming extinct has crossed the minds of many geologists and scientists. During the last eighty years, they have searched for other forms of energy, specifically renewable energy.
2     A scientist, Ernest Rutherford, was one of the first to study the effects of bombarding atomic nuclei with high-energy particles. In 1919, he was able to explain his findings. Thirty years later, the first nuclear weapons and reactors were developed. Nuclear power plants became the new portal for generating and transmitting electricity to areas around the world. Nuclear energy had arrived! Nuclear energy is produced in two ways- nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Nuclear fission occurs when the nuclei of heavy atoms are split into two or more smaller nuclei. When free neutrons strike the nucleus of an atom, the nucleus may split. This is amazing given that the atomic forces holding the nucleus together are over one million times stronger than the strongest atomic chemical bond. During fission, splitting nuclei release neutrons and energy. This begins the atomic chain reaction. The neutrons released by the splitting nuclei strike the nuclei of other atoms nearby. These atomic nuclei also split, sending out more neutrons and energy. Uncontrolled fission reactions can grow very quickly, causing explosions. When nuclear fission is controlled, the heat that is released becomes the main ingredient for producing electricity.
3     Nuclear power plants are the homes of nuclear fission reactions. Scientists work extremely hard to maintain controlled fission reactions. The only time when this may not occur is if the power plant is not working correctly. As the neutrons are released, their flow is regulated. This means scientists have the capability to slow down, speed up, or stop the reaction if necessary. Nuclear reactors are where controlled fission reactions take place.

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