What Holds the Nucleus TogetherAs discussed elsewhere in this text, the nucleus is made up of protons and neutrons, packed tightly together in the center of the atom. These are held together by the strong nuclear force. This is an attractive force that works between protons. So, although they repel each other (due to charge) they can stay together. This force is much stronger than the electrostatic repulsion between protons but works only at VERY short distances. This means that protons repel each other strongly, but if they are packed together tightly enough, they will attract and stick together.