# Why is an atom with excess neutrons unstable? [duplicate]

In this chart, I can see that stable nuclides (other than hydrogen) have a neutron count greater than or equal to their proton count, and that the neutron:proton ratio for stable nuclides increases with atomic number.

I can also see that in many cases, radioactive nuclides which have excess neutrons undergo beta minus decay, converting one of the excess neutrons to a proton, and moving toward that stable ratio.

I can see why having excess protons might make an atom unstable: they have positive charge and push each other apart. But it seems to me that excess neutrons would make it more stable, adding to the strong force between the nucleons.

Why is an atom with excess neutrons unstable?

• Let's put it this way: why are free neutrons unstable? Jun 19, 2020 at 11:39
• OR, why are not there any stable neutron only kernels ? Even 3H should be by your idea more stable than 3He, but the opposite is true. Jun 19, 2020 at 11:57
• Cross-site detailed Q&A: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/78107/… Jun 19, 2020 at 14:11
• chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/21848/… Jun 19, 2020 at 20:56

Pulling out Theoretical Nuclear Physics by Blatt and Weisskopf (published in 1952, so a bit dated in areas but still a good introduction), one finds (in Chapter VI.1 The Systematics of Stable Nuclei) that the stability of isobaric nuclei (all the same $$A$$) is determined by: