Chain Reaction in Nuclear Power

In view of the very low concentration of Uranium used, it is not possible for a commercial nuclear reactor to explode like an atomic bomb from the perspective of physics. A good analogy would be to compare alcoholic spirits to beer. Alcoholic spirits, such as Vodka, typically have a 40% alcohol content, and are highly flammable. Beer, which generally has an alcohol content of less than 5%, does not burn.

The nuclear fission process begins when a neutron hits a U235 atom and causes its nucleus to split into two smaller atoms and several more neutrons. The newly generated neutrons will then hit and split other U235 atoms thus releasing more neutrons. The end result is the creation of a series of nuclear fission process known as a “Chain Reaction.” The heat released through this chain reaction can be used to produce steam for running steam turbines and electric generators that in turn produce electricity.

What’s the difference between a Nuclear Reactor and an Atomic Bomb? Will accidents or sabotage cause a nuclear reactor to explode like an atomic bomb? NO. The composition of Uranium used to generate electricity in a reactor is very different from that is used in an atomic bomb.

Nuclear Reactors
Uranium 235(2%~5%)

Nuclear reactors use low enrichment fuel with 2% to 5% of readily splittable and energy-yielding U235. Reactors also have control systems that properly control the power produced.

Atomic Bombs
Uranium 235(>90%)

Atomic bombs use much higher enrichment material with over 90% of U235 to create a massive chain reaction and produce a large amount of energy at one time.

Is it possible to stop this chain reaction?

YES. The control rods in a nuclear reactor are used to control the speed of the chain reaction and can capture free neutrons before they collide with U235 atoms. The control rods are also used to shut down the reactor and can stop a nuclear chain reaction within 2 seconds.