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An approach to atom and its structure

An atom is the basic unit that makes up all matter. There are many different types of atoms, each with
its own name, mass and size. These different types of atoms are called chemical elements. The
chemical elements are organized on the periodic table. Examples of elements are hydrogen and gold.
Atoms are very small, but the exact size changes depending on the element. Atoms range from 0.1 to
0.5 nanometers in width. One nanometer is around 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human
hair. This makes atoms impossible to see without special tools.

Elemental abundances in the lithosphere (Earth's crust) and in the universe.

Atoms come together to make molecules or particles: for example, two hydrogen atoms and one
oxygen atom combine to make a water molecule, a form of a chemical reaction.

Every atom is composed of a nucleus and one or more electrons bound to the nucleus.
The nucleus is made of one or more protons and typically a similar number of neutrons.
Protons and neutrons are called nucleons. More than 99.94% of an atom's mass is in the
nucleus. The protons have a positive electric charge, the electrons have a negative

electric charge, and the neutrons have no electric charge. If the number of protons and
electrons are equal, that atom is electrically neutral. If an atom has more or fewer
electrons than protons, then it has an overall negative or positive charge, respectively,
and it is called an ion.

Helium atom

An illustration of the helium atom, depicting the nucleus (pink) and the
electron cloud distribution (black). The nucleus (upper right) in
helium-4 is in reality spherically symmetric and closely
resembles the electron cloud, although for more
complicated nuclei this is not always the case. The
black bar is one angstrom (1010 m or 100 pm where
pm is picometer is a unit of length in the metric system,
equal to one trillionth (1/1000000000000 ) of a metre)

Mass range: 1.671027 to 4.521025 kg
Electric charge: zero (neutral), or ion charge

Lithium atom model

Showing nucleus with four neutrons (blue),
three protons (red) and,
orbited by three electrons (black).
Smallest recognised division of a chemical element


Mass: 1.66 x 10(27) to 4.52 x 10(25) kg

Electric charge: zero

Lithium atom model

Atomic number
An explanation of the superscripts and subscripts seen in atomic number notation.
Atomic number is the number of protons, and therefore also the total positive charge, in
the atomic nucleus.

The RutherfordBohr
model of the
hydrogen atom
(Z = 1)

The atomic number of a chemical element (also known as its proton

number) is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom of
that element, and therefore identical to the charge number of the nucleus. It is
conventionally represented by the symbol Z. The atomic number uniquely identifies a
chemical element. In an uncharged atom, the atomic number is also equal to the number of electrons.

The atomic number, Z, should not be confused with the mass number, A, which is the number of
nucleons, the total number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus of an atom. The number of neutrons,
N, is known as the neutron number of the atom; thus, A = Z + N (these quantities are always whole
numbers). Since protons and neutrons have approximately the same mass (and the mass of the
electrons is negligible for many purposes) and the mass defect of nucleon binding is always small
compared to the nucleon mass, the atomic mass of any atom, when expressed in unified atomic mass
units (making a quantity called the "relative isotopic mass"), is roughly (to within 1%) equal to the
whole number A.

Atoms with the same atomic number Z but different neutron numbers N, and hence different atomic
masses, are known as isotopes.

Atomic nucleus
The binding energy needed for a nucleon to
escape the nucleus, for various isotopes

All the bound protons and neutrons in an

atom make up a tiny atomic nucleus, and are
collectively called nucleons. The radius of a
nucleus is approximately equal to
1.07 3A fm(1 femtometre = 0.001
picometre = 11015 metres), where A is
the total number of nucleons.[38] This is much
smaller than the radius of the atom, which is
on the order of 105 fm. The nucleons are
bound together by a short-ranged attractive potential called the residual strong force. At distances

smaller than 2.5 fm this force is much more powerful than the electrostatic force that causes positively
charged protons to repel each other.

The Electronic Structure of Atoms

The electrons are arranged in energy levels or shells around the nucleus and with
'orbits' on average increasing in distance from the nucleus.

The lowest energy levels are always filled first, you can think of the lower the shell,
the nearer the nucleus, and numbered 1, 2, 3 etc. as the shell gets further from the

Each electron in an atom is in a particular energy level (or shell) and the electrons
must occupy the lowest available energy level (or shell) available nearest the nucleus.

When the level is full, the next electron goes into the next highest level (shell) available.

Nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is the energy that holds together the nuclei of atoms. Atoms are the most simple
blocks that make up matter. Every atom has in its center a very small nucleus. Normally, nuclear
energy is hidden inside the atoms. However, some atoms are radioactive and send off part of their
nuclear energy as radiation. Radiation is given off from the nucleus of unstable isotopes of radioactive

Nuclear energy can also be freed in two other ways: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. Nuclear fusion
is the combining of two atoms into one and nuclear fission is the splitting of an atom. Both ways make
big amounts of energy. They sometimes take place in nature. Fusion is the source of heat in the sun.
Fission is also used in nuclear power plants to make electricity. Both fusion and fission can be used in
nuclear weapons.

The rate of new construction builds for civilian fission-electric reactors essentially halted
in the late 1980s, with the effects of accidents having a chilling effect. Increased
capacity factor realizations in existing reactors was primarily responsible for the
continuing increase in electrical energy produced during this period. The halting of new
builds c. 1985, resulted in greater fossil fuel generation, see above graph.

Operational Reactors by Age

Operational Reactors

Nuclear power capacity and production

The United States produces the most nuclear energy, with nuclear power providing 19%
of the electricity it consumes, while France produces the highest percentage of its
electrical energy from nuclear reactors80% as of 2006. ] In the European Union as a
whole, nuclear energy provides 30% of the electricity. Nuclear energy policy differs
among European Union countries, and some, such as Austria, Estonia, Ireland and Italy,
have no active nuclear power stations. In comparison, France has a large number of
these plants, with 16 multi-unit stations in current use.


Sources of electricity in France in 2006; nuclear power was the main source.

Annual Nuclear Power Generation by Country and Historic Maximum : 2013

Electricity generation trends in the top five fission-energy producing

countries :

Net electrical generation by source and growth from 1980 to

In terms of energy generated between 1980 and 2010, the contribution from fission
grew the fastest. Nuclear power capacity remained relatively stable between the mid
1980s until the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor in March 2011. ] In June 2015
global nuclear generation increased by 1% in 2014.

Brown -- fossil fuels; Red -- - Fission; Green- "all renewable

Production of nuclear power plants

Environmental impact of nuclear power

The environmental impact of nuclear power results from the nuclear fuel cycle, operation, and the
effects of nuclear accidents.

The greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear fission power are much smaller than those associated with
coal, oil and gas, and the routine health risks are much smaller than those associated with coal.
However, there is a "catastrophic risk" potential if containment fails,which in nuclear reactors can be
brought about by over-heated fuels melting and releasing large quantities of fission products into the
environment. This potential risk could wipe out the benefits. The most long-lived radioactive wastes,
including spent nuclear fuel, must be contained and isolated from the environment for a long period of
time. On the other side, spent nuclear fuel could be reused, yielding even more energy, and reducing
the amount of waste to be contained. The public has been made sensitive to these risks and there has
been considerable public opposition to nuclear power.

A 2008 synthesis of 103 studies estimated that the value of CO 2 emissions
for nuclear power over the lifecycle of a plant was 66.08 g/kWh

Greenhouse gas emissions:

Many stages of the nuclear fuel chain mining, milling, transport, fuel
fabrication, enrichment, reactor construction, decommissioning and waste
management use fossil fuels, or involve changes to land use, and hence emit
carbon dioxide and conventional pollutants. Nuclear energy contributes a very
small amount of emissions into the atmosphere which can cause many
environmental problems such as global warming.

Climate change
Climate change causing weather extremes such as heat waves, reduced precipitation levels and
droughts can have a significant impact on nuclear energy infrastructure. Seawater is corrosive and so
nuclear energy supply is likely to be negatively affected by the fresh water shortage. This generic
problem may become increasingly significant over time. This can force nuclear reactors to be shut
down, as happened in France during the 2003 and 2006 heat waves.

Number of reactors shut down by country

Comparison with renewable energy:

As of 2013, the World Nuclear Association has said "There is unprecedented interest in
renewable energy, particularly solar and wind energy, which provide electricity without
giving rise to any carbon dioxide emission. Harnessing these for electricity depends on
the cost and efficiency of the technology, which is constantly improving, thus reducing
costs per peak kilowatt".

100% renewable energy:

In 2014 renewables such as wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and burnt waste provided
19% of the total world final energy consumption, roughly half of it traditional use of
biomass. The most important sector electricity with a renewable share of 22.8%, most of
it coming from water power with a share of 16.6%, followed by wind with 3.1%. Several
places run their grids almost exclusively on renewable energy. At the national level, at
least 30 nations around the world already have renewable energy contributing more
than 20% of energy supply.