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Neither of the answers addresses what fissile really means, why to use fissile materials, and why not to non-fissile materials. Fissioning any fissionable isotope inherently releases a probabilistic number of neutrons, the average of which ranges from 2-4 per fission (bottom table (v bar)), and this number is not a major criterion for choosing an isotope. ...


It depends not on the number of neutrons it has but the number of neutrons that it releases in each step of the chain reaction. The isotope is chosen based on this.


The requirement for a material to be fissile (to be able to sustain a chain fission reaction) is not simply that it have neutrons, but that each fission releases enough neutrons of the right energy to trigger further reactions. As it so happens (and I know of no simple reason for this, it's just the way the equations work), U-238 isn't fissile. You can ...

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