The nucleons are bound together in a nucleus and the energy has to be supplied in order to break apart the constituents into free nucleons. The energy with which nucleons are bounded together in a nucleus is called as Binding Energy (B.E.). In order to free nucleons from a bounded nucleus this much of energy (= B.E.) is to be supplied.
It is observed that the mass of a nucleus is always less than the mass of constituent (free) nucleons. This difference in mass is called as mass defect and is denoted as m.

There is another quantity which is very useful in predicting the stability of a nucleus called as Binding energy per nucleons.

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