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The science of nuclear energy
The science of nuclear energy

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1.1.4 The nature of the nucleus

You have now learned about the particles that make up atoms, protons, neutrons and electrons.

These are collectively termed subatomic particles and are summarised in Table 4.

Table 4 The constituents of atoms: subatomic particles
Electric chargeNotes
Electron−1 unitIn a neutral atom, number of electrons = number of protons
NucleonsMass number = number of nucleons
Proton+1 unitAtomic number = total number of protons
Neutron0Isotopes of the same elements have different numbers of neutrons

In the next sections you will find out how the nature of the nucleus and the nucleons within lead to radioactivity and the fission reactions that power nuclear reactors.