- nuclear energy
energy released by reactions within atomic nuclei, as in nuclear fission or fusion. Also called atomic energy.[1925-30]
* * *Energy released from atomic nuclei in significant amounts.In 1919 Ernest Rutherford discovered that alpha rays could split the nucleus of an atom. This led ultimately to the discovery of the neutron and the release of huge amounts of energy by the process of nuclear fission. Nuclear energy is also released as a result of nuclear fusion. The release of nuclear energy can be controlled or uncontrolled. Nuclear reactors carefully control the release of energy, whereas the energy release of a nuclear weapon or resulting from a core meltdown in a nuclear reactor is uncontrolled. See also chain reaction, nuclear power, radioactivity.
* * *also called Atomic Energy,energy that is released in significant amounts in processes that affect atomic nuclei, the dense cores of atoms. It is distinct from the energy of other atomic phenomena such as ordinary chemical reactions, which involve only the orbital electrons of atoms. One method of releasing nuclear energy is by controlled nuclear fission in devices called reactors, which now operate in many parts of the world. (See nuclear reactor.) Another method for obtaining nuclear energy, controlled nuclear fusion, had not been perfected by the late 1980s. Nuclear energy has been released explosively by both nuclear fusion and nuclear fission (qq.v.).
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