The Hydrogen Bomb


The Hydrogen Bomb Essay, Research Paper

The Hydrogen Bomb

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Thesis Statement

The hydrogen bomb is a nuclear weapon in which light atomic nuclei of hydrogen are

joined together in an uncontrolled nuclear fusion reaction to release tremendous

amounts of energy. The hydrogen bomb is about a thousand times as powerful as the

atomic bomb, which produces a nuclear fission explosion about a million times more

powerful than comparably sized bombs using conventional high explosives such as TNT.

The Hydrogen Bomb

The Atomic Bomb Was A Essential First Step toward the Development of the Hydrogen

Bomb, Before the atomic bomb was developed by the united states during World War II,

there was no way to produce the extreme amounts of heat needed to initiate the

fusion reaction of the hydrogen bomb. Even after World War II, the hydrogen bomb

faced many political and technical obstacles. The U.S. government gave priority to

perfecting and stockpiling atomic bombs, and scientist discovered that initiating a

fusion reaction was more than simply placing a container of hydrogen near a fission


Tension to develop the hydrogen bomb increased in the United States after the Soviet

Union set off its first atomic bomb in August 1949. The Military, the joint congressional

committee on Atomic Energy, and several noted physicists, including Edward Teller And

Ernest Lawrence, called for creation of a so-called super bomb, but the General

Advisory of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), chaired by J. Robert Oppenheimer, in

agreement recommended that the bomb should not be developed, because of the

technical difficulties involved, the need to enlarge the Atomic Bomb reserve, and

because of moral considerations. A Majority of the AEC supported this decision and

passed their recommendation on to President Harry S. Truman. A National Security

Council report recommend otherwise, however and at the end of January 1950, Truman

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

response to U.S. perceptions that the USSR was close to producing its own Hydrogen

Bomb. Thermonuclear devices were tested was to begin in 1952, and by 1954, both the

United States And The USSR have achieved Hydrogen Bomb capability. Since That Year

each side has developed nuclear arsenals that are almost entirely composed of fusion

weapons, rather than fission weapons. They have reached a strategic condition that

promises total destruction.

Early H-bomb Designs called for the use of deuterium, a hydrogen isotope of mass 2, as

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

the deuterium. Since tritium does not occur in nature, several reactors were built along

the Savannah River, in South Carolina, to manufacture it. The light isotope of lithium

was bombarded with neutrons on these reactors to form tritium and helium. The tritium

could then be burned with deuterium.

The First Completely Successful Hydrogen Bomb Test involved an experimental device

that burned pure deuterium liquefied under great pressure and low temperature. This

device, which was detonated in the Mike test at Eniwetok, in the Pacific Ocean, on

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

neutrons released by the Atomic bomb explosion created tritium on the spot, which

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

weapons that could fit into an airplane. The United States exploded a 15-megaton

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

bombs of various sizes that could be delivered by aircraft, intercontinental ballistic

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.

Public protests against testing in the atmosphere led to the 1958 suspension and to the

1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, in

outer space, and underwater but allows them underground. Of the five Hydrogen bomb

nations, three (the United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain) agree to this treaty

France and China have declined to sign it.

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.


John Turner. The Arms Race. New York: Press Syndicate of the University of

Cambridge, 1988.

Mark Lambert, Keith Lye, Ron Taylor and Keith Wicks. All Color Book of Science Facts.

New Jersey: Chartwell Books Inc, 1984.

James Stokley. The New World of the Atom. New York: Van Rees Press, 1970.

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