Nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction or radioactive decay process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller, lighter nuclei.
Originally discovered in 1938, nuclear fission was quickly discovered to be a source of large amounts of energy, unleashed both as electromagnetic radiation and as kinetic energy. These principles allowed nuclear fission to be harnessed both as a weapon, starting with the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and as a powerful energy source. Economic pressures culminated in what is best termed a nuclear economy in the United States of the 21st century, when shortages of petroleum and other resources forced the nation to switch to nuclear fission and nuclear fusion as the primary sources of energy. Certain unscrupulous companies, like Mass Fusion, even had the audacity to sell fission products as "fusion," reaping the benefits.
To improve their bottom line, these companies would also demonstrate a wanton disregard for environment, dumping nuclear waste in the wilderness with barely any containment. Nevada and its vast deserts was a popular choice, although the aforementioned Mass Fusion would happily buy up nuclear waste and dump it in remote corners of Massachussetts.
With petroleum becoming a prohibitively expensive commodity and oil restricted for strategic uses, fission became the primary source of power until the advent of nuclear fusion in 2066. Although expensive and dangerous when used improperly, fission was used widely in a broad variety of applications, including:
- Nuclear weapons: Fission could produce extremely powerful explosions in a relatively compact package. Fission-based weapons in the multiple kiloton range were the principal type of nuclear weapon used in the Great War, delivered as bombs and missile warheads. The United States also developed man-portable nuclear catapult, the M42 Fat Man, capable of delivering miniature nuclear munitions at a range.
- Electricity generation: The principles of nuclear fission could be harnessed for large scale power generation. A sustained reaction within a nuclear reactor produces heat, which can be used to generate steam from the working fluid and turn electricity-producing turbines. Before the advent of fusion, fission reactors became a common sight across the United States. Fission reactors were also popular choices for home energy generation, allowing families to take their homes off the grid without sacrificing their quality of life. Although portable fusion generators dominated the market, home nuclear fission reactors remained in use as late as 2077, such as the Fission Pal brand. Vaults commonly used fission generators for power generation.
- Nuclear propulsion: With petroleum shortages, most automotive traffic ground to a halt. Alternative solutions were explored, and fission-based propulsion systems became popular. Nuclear engines were explored for use in space travel, by companies such as REPCONN Aerospace, but it was the automotive industry that adopted the technology most widely. Brands such as Corvega effectively monopolized the market with their nuclear vehicles. Fission-based engines and batteries proliferated and were commonplace even after the introduction of fusion engines. Unfortunately, without maintenance, aging engines became a hazard. After the Great War, most nuclear vehicles became essentially ticking bombs waiting to explode.
- Portable power sources: The humble fission battery was one of the most important breakthroughs in personal power systems. Although eclipsed by fusion generators down the line, fission batteries continued to be widely used in robotics and other fields, especially in older Protectron and Mr Handy models. After the Great War, fission batteries became a popular choice among wastelanders as a cheap, readily available source of power for jury rigging electric systems, especially restoring pre-War street lights to life and providing night-time illumination.
- Mass Fusion marketed fission reactors as fusion well before the creation of the first fusion power cell in 2066. See article for details.
- Mass Fusion building terminals; Customer Service Terminal, Company History: "In the spring of 2043, Karl Oslow dared to dream of limitless power being supplied to countless homes from a single power plant. After spending six years years cutting his teeth as an electrical engineer with Poseidon Energy, Mr. Oslow decided he'd had enough with traditional methods of energy distribution and founded Mass Fusion to begin realizing his vision. After only a decade of research, Mass Fusion's Cleanpower Initiative transitioned from dream to reality and the switches were thrown. The people of Boston embraced this new technology, and by 2070, Mass Fusion became the primary power provider for all of Massachusetts. Now, as we look to the future, Mass Fusion hopes to bring ten more power plants online in the next several decades. To open a new account and begin enjoying the benefits of your nuclear tomorrow, please see one of our Mass Fusion Customer Service Representatives today!"
- Arcade Gannon: "Nuclear waste disposal. Pre-War, people figured there was so much desert in Nevada, you might as well turn it into a big dumping ground. People didn't like it, but they weren't about to give up easy access to power, not with all of the petroleum drying up."
(Arcade Gannon's dialogue)
- Mass Fusion disposal site
- Mass Fusion containment shed
- See nuclear weapons for references.
- The Big One: "You quickly disassemble the core components of the bomb's fission reactor."
- M42 Fat Man
- Cambridge police station terminals#; Cambridge Police Evidence Terminal, CASE 772-RE: Neilson Reckless Endangerment Logs: "CASE 772-RE: Neilson Reckless Endangerment Logs EVIDENCE LOG ENTRY: ChNe-00 OBJECT: 2x spool, 200' copper cable STATUS: In Cambridge Police evidence - S01-A28. EVIDENCE LOG ENTRY: ChNe-01 OBJECT: 3x "Fission Pal" home nuclear reactors STATUS: Transferred to Hazardous Materials Disposal Unit. EVIDENCE LOG ENTRY: ChNe-02 OBJECT: 1x bag containing remains of TJM home stereo system STATUS: In Cambridge Police evidence - S01-A29."
- Piper Wright: "Wow. How much fission can one Vault need?"
(Piper Wright's dialogue) Note: This lines is spoken when xxxxxxx.
- The Courier: "Research and development."
Tour guide: "As you may already know, REPCONN is an industry leader in producing alternative fuels for military and scientific purposes. REPCONN scientists were pioneers in fission-based propulsion systems, and have recently had some very exciting breakthroughs with plasma systems. The recent partnership with RobCo has freed our engineers from mundane business matters, allowing them to focus solely on future projects."
(Tour guide's dialogue)
- Pioneer Scout Camp terminals; Pioneer Merit Badge Exam Terminal, Chemist: "Before our vehicles ran on the fission battery, we used a totally different source of power. What chemical did we used to use to power our vehicles?"
- Hancock: "Hey. Check your fire. Lot of fission engines down here."
(Hancock's dialogue) Note: Line can appear when passing through a car park.
- Danse: "Select your targets carefully down here. These automobiles tend to explode when struck by weapon's fire."
(Danse's dialogue) Note: Line can appear when passing through a car park.
- Piper Wright: "Death by nuclear car isn't how I want to go."
(Piper Wright's dialogue) Note: Line can appear when passing through a car park.
- Fission battery
- A fission battery is used to jury rig the elevator with power during Reilly's Rangers and commonly found hooked to streetlights in Fallout: New Vegas.