Are Nuclear Reactors Inequitably Distributed?

Updated: Nov 2

By: Lila McNamee and Richard Lee


Background

In 1895, scientists started researching nuclear energy and its application in developing nuclear bombs. In doing this, they discovered nuclear fission (World Nuclear Association, 2020). Fission is a reaction in which an atom is hit with a neutron and splits into two or more smaller atomic nuclei. This leads to a chain reaction in which more nuclei are split and energy is released as seen in Figure 1 (IAEA, 2021). Through further experimentation, scientists were able to discover different aspects of fission which revealed that Uranium-235 was much more conducive to the reaction than Uranium-238 (though there is a much higher abundance of Uranium-238 in nature) and that if one was able to slow the movement of the particles by storing the reaction in water, the reaction would improve and become more stable.

These, among other discoveries, led to the creation of the atomic bomb, which was the object of most early nuclear research (World Nuclear Association, 2020).