Nuclear fission is the basic principle behind an atomic explosion wherein vast amounts of energy are released all at once as a direct result of free neutrons impacting the nucleus of an atom (Stankunas, 2012). This creates a process known as â€œfissionâ€ (i.e. the nucleus of an atom splitting into two smaller atoms) which then subsequently releases another neutron which impacts another atom which then starts the process all over again (Stankunas, 2012). This occurs in a relatively short span of time until the fission process reaches a critical mass point (i.e. the point where there is a runaway cascade of enumerable nuclear fissions) resulting in a subsequent release of energy in the form of an atomic explosion.
While nuclear reactors do contain â€œfissableâ€ material (i.e. radioactive material that is decomposing into another type of matter), the fact remains that a certain degree of stability is required in the radioactive material needed in order to achieve a sufficient enough explosion (Gharpure, 2013). This often comes in the form of Uranium-235 which is enriched via centrifugal processes in order to have the necessary atomic density to create a large explosion (Gharpure, 2013).
In order to get the radioactive material to release all its stored energy at once, it is necessary to setup a series of explosives around a nuclear core of radioactive material. Through the use of a timer, it is the job of the explosives to detonate in such a way that they compress the radioactive material together which causes the process of fission to begin (Salvatores, 2012). Without a means of sudden compression, it would be nearly impossible to cause even the most highly enriched uranium to detonate. You could use a hammer and hit it all you want without even causing anything even remotely resembling an explosion.
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