Do nuclear reactions create new elements?

1 Answer

Nuclear reactions change the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom, except in the case of beta decay, where it is not the number of protons in the atom that changes, but the number of electrons.

Below are some example nuclear reactions that demonstrate the changes in the atom due to nuclear decay:

#""_92^235U -> ""_90^231Th + ""_2^4α#
#""_92^235U -> ""_93^235Np + ""_0^-1β#
#""_92^235U -> ""_92^235U + ""_0^0γ#

Nuclear reactions occur mainly within fission reactors, but can occur naturally, such as the beta decay of carbon-14 into nitrogen-14.