I've heard that it is
possible to find the instructions for making a nuclear weapon on the
internet. Is this true, and if so, should we be concerned by this?
The instructions for making a
nuclear device are probably fairly easily obtainable via the
internet. The basic physics, is not, in fact, that difficult to
work out. However, I would not worry about this. Although making the
bomb would not be too problematic, sourcing the components would be,
especially the enriched uranium. It isn't something you can buy from
your local supermarket.
What was the biggest nuclear
bomb ever detonated?
The largest recorded nuclear
bomb was detonated by USSR on 31st October 1961. It was estimated to
be 58 megatons.
In contrast, the largest detonation by the USA was 14.8 Megatons. It
was detonated on 1st 1954, and was codenamed "Bravo". The fallout
was so great that even today the island where the test took place is
What is the difference
between fusion and fission?
Fission is where vast amounts
of energy are released by splitting atoms apart.
equally vast amounts of energy by joining atoms together.
Why invent fusion bombs, if
fission bombs were so powerful anyway?
Fission bombs produce
their destructive energy by splitting atoms of uranium apart. This
system works, however, soon after the initial explosion the
uranium235 atoms would be so far apart (atomically speaking) that
the reaction would cease as no free neutrons would hit other
uranium atoms and keep the process going.
Unlike fission bombs,
fusion bombs (thermonuclear devices), produce energy by bonding
together lighter atoms to make heavier ones. Unlike the fission
process there is no limit on the amount of fusions that can occur.
Thus, fusion bombs can be made with higher yields, and are therefore
As a very rough rule
of thumb, a fusion bomb is around a thousand times more powerful,
than an equivalently sized fission bomb.
Fusion bombs need
incredible hot temperatures to begin the reaction process. For this
they use small fission devices within them.
What is a "Dirty Bomb"?
A "dirty bomb" is not a nuclear
device in the true sense of the term. It is a bomb which contains
radio active material, packed around a conventional explosive. When
detonated the explosive sends the radioactive material into the air
and causes localised radioactivity. Although very dangerous, a dirty
bomb is nothing like a true nuclear bomb. It is similar to comparing
a firework with an artillery shell.
What is the difference
between ground-burst and air- burst weapons?
A ground-burst nuclear
device explodes when it hits the ground. This causes a more
localised area of damaged, but has the advantage of sucking up vast
amounts of soil, rock and debris. This becomes radioactive, and then
can spread as fallout over a much wider areas.
Air-burst weapons do not
create as much fall-out. However the area of devastation they cause
is more widespread. Also they create a much wider area of electrical
black-out due to the EMP produced.
Each type of detonation has
When was the first atomic
July 16th saw American
scientists explode the first Atomic. The location of the trail,
called the Trinity test, was Alamogordo. Less than one month later
the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Japan.
What is a nuclear Winter?
If scientists are correct, a
nuclear Winter would be the result of a large scale exchange of
nuclear weapons. The dust and debris created by the massive
explosions these caused would be sucked into the stratosphere. These
particles would spread for thousands of miles, and would cause the
heat and light from the Sun to be partially or totally obscured. The
resulting cold and darkness would kill much of the vegetation on the
Earth. With no vegetation it would be impossible for either animals
or, ultimately, humans to survive.
The effect would be similar to
a natural Winter, but this one would last for years rather than
What is a pre-emptive
A pre-emptive strike is the
term used to describe a surprise attack on an enemy. It's purpose is
to cripple the enemy, and thus prevent any retaliation. To negative
this form of attack the Super-powers developed three differing
method of delivering their weapons (by bomber, by missile and
launched from submarine). This meant that if one or two delivery
methods were destroyed in a surprise attack, then they would still
be able to retaliate.
Is there a difference
between an atom bomb and a nuclear bomb?
Yes, atom bombs create their
destructive power by means of fission reactions.
nuclear bombs (or thermonuclear
bombs-to give them their proper title) are more powerful and work by
the process of fusion.
How did I become interested
in this topic?
I first became interested in
this topic when studying facts for my Avro Vulcan pages. I
discovered the Vulcan would have been the backbone of Britain's
nuclear deterrent, and wanted to find out more. The more I
discovered the more questions I had! I am not an expert, but feel it
is important to have as many facts a s possible on a particular
subject if you want to make a valid judgement on it.
What is Nuclear Deterrence?
Nuclear deterrence is what
caused the Soviet Union and the USA to produce huge stockpiles of
nuclear missiles and bombs during the Cold War years. If two
opposing forces have a roughly equal amount of weapons, training,
and troops then the outcome of a battle between them is usually
unpredictable. If one side was clearly the stronger, then usually,
this side would win.
Both the former Soviet Union
and America didn't want to be the weaker side. So they both produced
many bombs and missiles capable of causing much damage to the enemy.
As both sides had similar
amounts of weapons, if a war had broken out, there would have been
no clear cut winner. Thus neither side dare risk attacking the
opposition. The oppositions weapons were a deterrent.
USA + USSR could deliver about
1 million tonnes of destructive energy.
Such destruction is basis of nuclear deterrence.
The main policies are:
The adversaries do not attack
because of fear of retaliation.
Mutually assured destruction
Neither super power will attack
the other because of unacceptable amount of damage that would be
The concept of M.A.D. lead to
triad strategy ( basing weapons in submarines , aircrafts and
missiles). This ensures that should one or two deliver systems be
destroyed by a surprise attack, part of the nuclear arsenal survives
and is able to retaliate.
Neither of the former Super-powers would divulge where their
missiles and bombs were targeted at "soft" or military targets. In
reality it was probably a mixture of both.
Enemies attack military
targets or command posts. This is often harder to achieve due to
better defences, but, if successful, helps prevent any retaliation.
Enemies attack society,
populations or economy. This is far easier, but leaves the
opposition free to retaliate.
It can be argued
that, in fact, nuclear weapons have provided us with
long term peace. There was only twenty-one years between
the First World War and the Second World War.
Since the introduction of nuclear weapons there has not
been another World War in fifty-three years.
What do you think?