Atomic bomb launched in Hiroshima, Japan

Atomic bomb

Atomic bomb

One of the uses of nuclear energy is developed in the military and arms industry. One of these military uses is the development of the atomic bomb with a much greater devastation capacity than with any other type of bomb.

The atomic bomb is a weapon of mass destruction, so the international community limits and sanctions the production of such weapons with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The explosive energy of the atomic bombs is measured by comparison with that emitted by a mass of one million tons of TNT (megaton).

Atomic bomb operation 

The operation of the atomic bomb is based on a process of dividing the atomic nucleus of a heavy element, called fissile, into two or more nuclei of smaller mass. The division of the atom is caused by the collision with a free neutron. The division of an atom causes the release of a large amount of energy and one or two neutrons that can continue to collide with other nuclei. In this way, the free neutrons produced are capable of generating a chain reaction releasing a large amount of energy in a very short time. This ability to release so much energy in such a short time is the reason why the nuclear bomb has such a high destructive power.

In order to increase the performance and efficiency of an atomic bomb, practically pure fuels must be used; The isotopes used so far have been uranium-235 and plutonium-239. Uranium-235 is difficult and expensive to obtain, because it is not possible to chemically separate it from natural uranium and physical procedures such as gas diffusion must be used. Plutonium-239, which appears as a byproduct in natural uranium reactors, can be isolated by classical chemical procedures.

Other types of nuclear bombs

Plutonium pump 

The plutonium weapon has a more complicated design. The fissile mass is surrounded by conventional plastic explosives, such as the RDX, specially designed to compress the metal, so that a plutonium ball the size of a tennis ball is almost instantly reduced to the size of a marble, greatly increasing the density of the material, which instantly enters an uncontrolled nuclear fission chain reaction, causing the explosion and total destruction within a limited perimeter, in addition to the surrounding environment becoming highly radioactive, leaving serious sequelae in the organism of any living being .

Hydrogen or thermonuclear pump 

In the hydrogen pump the process is reverse. It is the fusion of the nuclei of light atoms that even gives off a specific heat energy much greater than atomic bombs. However, very high temperatures are required to start the fusion reaction, usually achieved by associating an atomic bomb with a hydrogen pump.

The hydrogen pump or (pump H), also known as thermal fusion pump or thermonuclear pump is based on obtaining the energy released by merging two atomic nuclei, instead of fission them.

To initiate this type of chain reaction, a large amount of energy is necessary. Usually these types of nuclear bombs contain an initiating element. An initiator is an atomic fission bomb that produces the initial detonation of the main bomb. The secondary elements are the elements that make up the fusible part of the pump (deuterium, tritium, lithium, etc.)

Contrary to atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs do not contaminate the explosion site with radioactive products.

Neutron bombs 

The neutron bomb is a nuclear weapon derived from the H bomb. In H bombs, normally 50% of the energy released is obtained by nuclear fission and the other 50% by fusion. In the neutron pump, the percentage of energy obtained by fission can be lowered to less than 50%, and even 5% has been achieved.

During the detonation of a neutron bomb, a large number of neutrons are emitted with very high energy levels, and therefore, with great penetration capacity.

Consequently, a pump is obtained, which for a given magnitude of shock wave and thermal pulse produces a proportion of ionizing radiations (radioactivity) up to seven times greater than those of an H pump. These radiations are essentially X-rays and high penetration gamma rays. for a few seconds Secondly, much of this radioactivity is much shorter (less than 48 hours) than can be expected from a conventional fission pump.

The practical consequences are that when a N bomb is detonated, there is little destruction of structures and buildings, but much damage and death of living beings by radiation, even if they are inside armored or armored vehicles or installations. This is why these bombs have been included in the category of tactical weapons, since they allow the continuation of military operations in the area by units equipped with protection (ABQ).

Environmental issues

The experimental atomic explosions carried out, despite their experimental nature, have caused serious environmental damage. The Pacific Islands are uninhabited by experienced French atomic explosions. The environmental damage in northeastern Kazakhstan is particularly serious.

Near the city of Semey (Semipalatinsk), the nuclear range of the USSR, 456 atomic charges were detonated, 120 of which were made on the surface of the earth. According to a 1996 survey, Kazakhstan has 179,000,000 tons of radioactive waste, a major problem for Kazakhstan. Radiation has killed many people, many people suffer from diseases caused by high radioactivity. There are no official statistics on this, and no known and unknown measures are being taken on contaminated land, which is unlikely to be used for at least several more generations.

Historical context of the atomic bomb

The mushroom cloud created by the Fat Man bomb as a result of the nuclear explosion over NagasakiFollowing the discovery of fission towards the end of 1938, a number of scientists were especially dedicated to studying this phenomenon. Leo Szilard, Eugene Paul Wigner, Albert Einstein and others received (1939) from the US government. an initial credit to make a deep investigation of nuclear energy for the development of the atomic bomb.

The fact of intervening Americans in World War II significantly increased research budgets, which accelerated them. On December 2, 1942, they managed to start the first nuclear reactor, with the direct intervention of Enrico Fermi, which was the basis of the first serious calculations of the energy that could be released in a nuclear bomb.

The works for the achievement of the first nuclear fission bomb were carried out in Los Alamos under the direction of Jacob Robert Oppenheimer under the name of Manhattan Project, and the test took place in Alamogordo (New Mexico) on July 16, 1945 The fuel used was plutonium-239.

An uranium-235 atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima (Japan) on August 6, 1945. On August 9, it plunged a plutonium-239 bomb in Nagasaki (Japan).

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Last review: September 17, 2019