Lets first take a quick look at How do you
split atoms? The short answer to this is that
you take unstable atoms and fire particles at
them. If a particle hits the nucleus of an
unstable atom, the nucleus breaks apart into
smaller pieces, releasing particles and energy.
Some isotopes of atoms, especially heavy
ones, are inherently unstable. When struck with a
neutron, they break apart, releasing energy and
more neutrons. These more neutrons can break up
other atoms of the same kind, releasing more
energy. This is called 'nuclear fission',
and it powers both nuclear power plants and more
primitive nuclear bombs.
For more information, take a look at:
The ABCs of Nuclear Science
Hope this is helpful.
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