Nuclear power is a very broad field that is compromised by many aspects of science including physics and chemistry. It was discovered in the early 1900s. It is a power source widely used by the United States due to the shear amount of energy that can be created from just two atoms. Nuclear fission, the most widely used form of nuclear power, creates incredible amounts energy incredibly efficiently and due to this it is actually really popular. Nuclear power is hailed to be eco-friendly but it is argued that the radioactive wastes and the constant potential for something to go wrong is too great a risk to the environment and people.
1. A Not So Brief History
In 1789 German chemist Martin Klaproth discovered uranium, naming after Uranus. It was not until the late 1800s that radiation was discovered. It was around this time that scientists found that certain elements gave off alpha, beta, and gamma radiation (“Outline History of Nuclear Energy”). Pierre and Marie Curie coined the term radioactivity in 1896 to name the phenomenon of an element emitting alpha, beta, and/or gamma waves. In 1911 naturally radioactive elements were found to have many isotopes with the same chemistry. James Chadwick discovered the neutron in 1932, the same year that Cockcroft and Walton discovered that bombarding atoms with accelerated protons caused nuclear transformations in the atoms. Two years later Irene Curie and Frederic Joliot found that these nuclear transformations created artificial isotopes. Enrico Fermi experimented with bombarding the atoms with neutrons and, in 1935, discovered that this created even more artificial isotopes which lead to the creation of heavier and lighter elements. Otto Hans and Fritz Strassman discovered in 1938 that some of the lighter elements were barium and the rest were roughly half the weight of uranium, which was the bombarded element. The fact that some of the resulting elements were half the weight of the bombarded element demonstrated nuclear fission (“Outline History of Nuclear Energy”). The cause for the splitting was explained by Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch. They said that the neutron was captured by the nucleus which resulted in extreme vibrations that caused the nucleus to split into two parts. “They calculated the energy release from this fission as about 200 million electron volts” (“Outline History of Nuclear Energy”). Frisch confirmed this in 1939 through experiments thus confirming a paper Albert Einstein wrote that was on the equivalence of matter and energy.
All of the discoveries in 1939 sparked the interest of many scientists and caused many laboratories to begin experimenting. It was theorized at the time that this fission could lead to a self-sustaining chain reaction that would produce incredible amount of energy. This theory was confirmed by experimentally by Joliot and other scientists in Paris and then by Leo Szilard and Fermi in New York. The final piece that had lead to the use of nuclear fission and...