The Hydrogen Bomb
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The Hydrogen Bomb
The Atomic Bomb Was A Essential First Step toward the Development of the Hydrogen
there was no way to produce the extreme amounts of heat needed to initiate the
technical difficulties involved, the need to enlarge the Atomic Bomb reserve, and
ordered that the United States should investigate the possibility of producing hydrogen
bombs. Edward Teller was placed in charge of the investigation.
The decision to move ahead with the Hydrogen bomb development was made in
Bomb. Thermonuclear devices were tested was to begin in 1952, and by 1954, both the
each side has developed nuclear arsenals that are almost entirely composed of fusion
promises total destruction.
the primary fuel. It Was Soon Recognized that pure deuterium was difficult to burn, but
that reaction could be speeded up by mixing tritium, a hydrogen isotope of mass 3, with
was bombarded with neutrons on these reactors to form tritium and helium. The tritium
could then be burned with deuterium.
November 1st, 1952, with a yield of 10 megatons (the equivalent of 10 million tons of
TNT), proved the viability of the basic ideals of a super bomb.
A year before the Mike test, scientists had shown a different way of using fusion in
nuclear weapons, the so-called booster principle. Unlike the super bomb, which used a
small Atomic bomb simply to ignite the huge hydrogen burn that produced its
tremendous yield, the booster bomb used a nearly large fission explosion to ignite a
small hydrogen burn neutrons produced by the hydrogen burn were then used to
increase, or boost, the ability of the continuing fission reaction.
In 1953 the Soviet Union exploded a small booster device that used dry lithium
deuteride, instead of liquid deuterium or a mixture of deuterium and tritium, as fuel. The
then fused with the deuterium in the compound. This method made it needless to
produce expensive tritium in reactors and made it possible to build deliver fusion
super device using this principle in the Bravo test at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954 a
Soviet test followed a year later.
In following years, development efforts were directed toward perfecting Hydrogen
missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Bombs range in size
from small-yield tactical weapons to the 60-megaton bomb exploded by the Soviet
Union in 1961.
The 60-megaton Soviet bomb is believed to have consisted of the first two parts of a
fission-fusion-fission bomb. Such a bomb combines the principles of the super and the
booster: a fission explosion ignites a fusion reaction that in turn causes the fissioning of
the bomb’s uranium wrapper. Because fission explosions produce more radioactive
particles than fusion weapons, F-F-F bombs would be especially unsafe for the
The world first became alerted to the dangers of fallout from H-bombs after the 1954
Bravo test, when radioactive ash fell on nearby islanders and a Japanese fishing boat.
1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, in
nations, three (the United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain) agree to this treaty
Unlike the Atomic bomb’s fission reaction, which stops when the pieces of uranium or
plutonium fueling it fly far enough apart during the early stages of an explosion, the
Hydrogen bomb’s fusion reaction has no abstract limit. Simply adding more hydrogen
fuel may produce larger bombs. Since a 20-megaton bomb is estimated to be capable of
destroying everything within a 16-km (10-mi) radius, however, little effort has been
directed toward increasing existing yields. Attention has focused instead on developing
smaller weapons with greater accuracy.
New Jersey: Chartwell Books Inc, 1984.