Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the K=1 Center for Nuclear Studies? What does the center aim to do?

A: The K=1 Project, Center for Nuclear Studies at Columbia University, or more simply, K1 Project, aims to promote informed debate on issues relating to nuclear technologies and proliferation. Read more about our mission here. 


Q: What does K=1 mean?

A: When a single atom undergoes fission (or atom-splitting), neutrons from its nucleus are ejected into the surrounding material. Each of the free neutrons can interact with the material all around—sometimes instigating a new fission reaction and continuing the chain.

In order for the chain reaction to become sustained, a critical mass of the fissile material is needed. The measurement for critical mass is dependent on k, the effective neutron multiplication factor.

k represents the number of neutrons released by the fission of a nucleus that cause another fission event—instead of simply being absorbed or leaving the material all together.

If k<1, the mass is subcritical and the chain reaction will eventually cease. On the other hand, if k>1, the mass is supercritical and the rate of fission will increase until the material destroys itself—creating a powerful explosion.

A K=1 criticality reaction.

The K=1 Project finds its inspiration in the image of the sustainable chain reaction. Like one neutron causing the release of another, our aim is to stimulate the spread of conversation and education on the topic of nuclear technologies. By providing the tools necessary to become informed regarding these important issues, K1 Project offers people the opportunity to enter into a debate that is so important to our future.

Now is the critical moment for decision making on the issues of civilian nuclear energy, disarmament, and proliferation. Only through educated and sophisticated discussion can we be sure that the choices made today will not lead to regret tomorrow—the present has the opportunity and the responsibility to ensure a bright future.


Q: What is in the "Explore" section?

A: In the "Explore" section, you will find a number of different articles written by K1 team members, as well as interviews, student films, and original publications. This assortment of media is intended to give you an overview of the topics that we find important for developing an understanding of current nuclear issues. Through our projects, we hope that you will supplement your own knowledge in order to build the necessary foundation to continue to research on your own. At the bottom of each article, there are links to direct you towards more information about the topic. In addition, the articles contain hyperlinks to the original documents where the information discussed can be found.


Q: How do I contact/get involved with K=1?

A: Email us! k1project@columbia.edu


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