Nuclear describes something that has to do with the nucleus — the central part — of an atom. If you're a nuclear physicist, you do a lot of work with that part of the atom.

Nuclear power, which comes from nuclear fission — the energy released when the nucleus of an atom is split — is a controversial source of renewable energy. The word nuclear is sometimes used broadly to refer to the core of something. Your nuclear family is you, your parents, and your siblings — in a sense, the central part of your world, kind of like the nucleus of an atom.

Definitions of nuclear

adj constituting or like a nucleus

“annexation of the suburban fringe by the nuclear metropolis”
“the nuclear core of the congregation”
in or near a center or constituting a center; the inner area

adj of or relating to or constituting the nucleus of a cell

nuclear membrane”
nuclear division”

adj of or relating to or constituting the nucleus of an atom

nuclear physics”
nuclear fission”
nuclear forces”

adj (weapons) deriving destructive energy from the release of atomic energy

nuclear war”
nuclear weapons”
using nuclear weapons based on fusion as distinguished from fission
(weapons) using energy for propulsion or destruction that is not nuclear energy

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