in nuclear physics, any species of atomic nucleus that can undergo the fission reaction. The principal fissile materials are uranium-235 (0.7 percent of naturally occurring uranium), plutonium-239, and uranium-233, the last two being artificially produced from the fertile materials uranium-238 and thorium-232, respectively. A fertile material, not itself capable of undergoing fission with low-energy neutrons, is one that decays into fissile material after neutron absorption within a reactor. Thorium-232 and uranium-238 are the only two naturally occurring fertile materials.
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