• Question: can you use NUCULAR MATERAL to make non war things like cars,energy, to make the world better ?

    Asked by scary mary to Stevie on 19 Nov 2015.
    • Photo: Steven Wray

      Steven Wray answered on 19 Nov 2015:

      I hope so! That’s what we do at the UK Atomic Energy Authority. We work to use nuclear technologies for peaceful, electricity generation purposes. I don’t think we’ll see nuclear powered cars for a while, if ever, because radiation needs a lot shielding which makes nuclear power too heavy for a car.

      All material is potentially “nuclear” though, nuclear refers to a process involving the nucleus of an atom. Atoms are (almost) the smallest thing that everything is made up of and at the centre of them is a nucleus. The two main nuclear process we know about are fission – which is splitting an atom into smaller parts – and fusion – which is combining atoms into bigger ones. It just so happens that certain materials are more useful for these nuclear reactions, for example Uranium is quite easy to split so we use it for fission. And hydrogen is really small so it’s easy to combine with other hydrogen atoms – we use that for fusion.