Environmental Engineering Reference

In-Depth Information

A nuclear power plant located in the small town of Byron, Illinois.

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Enormous Energy

To really understand what happens in fi ssion, you need to look at

the mass, or amount of matter, of the particles involved. When

a nucleus splits, the particles that result have less mass than

the original nucleus did. In other words, some mass disappears.

Actually, it gets turned into energyâ€”a great deal of energy. The

famous scientist Albert Einstein came up with a formula that

described this. The formula is e = mc
2
. Here, e is energy, m is mass,

and c is the speed of light, which must be squared, or multiplied by

itself. This formula can tell how much energy is produced in fi ssion.

All you have to do is multiply the amount of mass that was lost by c
2
,

which is a very, very big number. If you measure the speed of light in

meters per second, then c is about 300 million, or 300,000,000.

So c
2
is 300 million x 300 million (300,000,000 x 300,000,000),

which equals 90 quadrillion (90,000,000,000,000,000)!