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Nucleons bound in the reactant nuclei have low binding energy and when they fuse together , the nucleons are bound more tightly as coloumb force is also increasing. Since energy is required to tightly bind them , hence mass is converted to energy and this energy is released? If so , shouldn't the energy released used in the binding instead of being released as "free" energy.But as we observe, the opposite occurs - the mass is less in the product nucleus and due to this energy is released. If this is not the reason , then what is the reason for the release of energy during nuclear fusion and mass defect?

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