The definition of half-life is the time it takes for one-half of an original radioactive parent atom to decay. (Friedland & Relyea, 2015)
Finding the half-life of a certain isotope requires a certain amount of math by using the formula ln(nt/n0)= -kt.
In the formula,
Nt = mass of radioactive material at time interval (t)
N0 = mass of the original amount of radioactive material
k = decay constant
t = time interval (t1/2 for the half-life)
(Radioactive, 2017. Para 1,3)
For example, Plutonium, you know the stuff we put in nuclear things? If you correctly place that element into the formula above, it has a half-life of 24,110 years. (Coolmath, 2017, Para 1). That being said, if you have 60 pounds of Plutonium, in 24,110 years, you will have 30 pounds.
To begin, Uranium is known as a radioactive metal with a silver/metallic look to it. It is a cornerstone for nuclear energy because it provides use with nuclear fuel to generate electricity in nuclear power stations. (RSC, 2016, Para 3)
How do we get it?
The typical old school and more conventional way to get uranium is by mining it from deep underground shafts or from shallow pits. Then comes milling, where the uranium is crushed to very small pieces. The major type of milling would be the conventional milling process where the uranium is concentrated to the point where it produces a yellow like material called “yellowcakes”.
However, the mining method of obtaining uranium isn’t used very much anymore as there is a method which instead of mining, they inject chemicals into underground uranium deposits to dissolve or “leach” uranium from the ore. This is known as “Situ Recovery (ISR).”
There is also a known 3rd method called “Heap Leaching” that has been used to extract the uranium from ore at the conventional mills. This is no longer an option because they can no longer operate and are in the process of decommissioning. (NRC, 2017, Para 1-4)
Nuclear fusion is simply explained as the process in which the fusion of two “light elements”, which are elements with smaller atomic numbers, release nuclear energy. An example of nuclear fusion would be the power that fuels both the sun and the stars.
Nuclear fusion is more widely known for its usage in something like the hydrogen bomb where different isotopes fuse together and release a massive amount of energy (17.6 MeV to be exact)(Atomicarchive, 2015, Para 1).
So nuclear fusion obviously releases like a stupid amount of energy. Why don’t we use it?
The reason we cant use fusion power is because, for fusion to even happen on our planet, we need a temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius which happens to actually be much hotter than the core of the sun. That being said, in order for us to even create the correct setting for fusion to occur, we would need to use a substantial amount of energy. The amount of energy we would use creating the nuclear fusion energy, is much more substantial to the energy we’d get in return. Its simply not beneficial for us. (Popularmechanics, 2013, Para 5)
Simplified Explanation of Both Fission and Fusion
Radioactive Half-Life Formula. (2017). Soft Schools. Retrieved on March 21, 2017
More Ways to Use This Stuff. (2017). Cool Math. Retrieved on March 21, 2017
Uranium Recovery. (2015). United States Nuclear Regulator Committee. Retrieved on March 21, 2017
Periodic Table. (2017). Royal Society of Chemistry. Retrieved on March 21, 2017
Nuclear Fusion. 2015). Atomic Archive. Retrieved on March 21, 2017
Why Don’t we Have Fusion Power. (2013). Popular Mechanics. Retrieved on March 21, 2017
Friedland, A. J., Relyea, R., & Courard-Hauri, D. (2015). Environmental science for AP*. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman.
Nuclear Fission Chain Reaction. (2017). Retrieved on March 20, 2017 from: http://www.nuclear-power.net/nuclear-power/reactor-physics/nuclear-fission-chain-reaction/
Physics of Uranium and Nuclear Energy. (2016). Retrieved March 20, 2017 from http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fuel-cycle/introduction/physics-of-nuclear-energy.aspx