The Hydrogen Bomb Essay, Research Paper
The Hydrogen Bomb
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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
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.