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nuclear energy

Introduction

nuclear energy, the energy stored in the nucleus of an atom and released through fission, fusion, or radioactivity. In these processes a small amount of mass is converted to energy according to the relationship E = mc 2, where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light (see relativity). The most pressing problems concerning nuclear energy are the possibility of an accident or systems failure at a nuclear reactor or fuel plant, such as those which occurred at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986), and Fukushima (2011), and the potential threat to the continued existence of the human race posed by nuclear weapons (see disarmament, nuclear).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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