What Are Nuclesr Weapons Essay, Research Paper
What are Nuclear Weapons?
What exactly are nuclear weapons? How do they work? Who thought up the concept of nuclear weapons? When have they been used? Why have they been used? Most people don t know the answers to all these questions, but would really like to understand the reasons behind nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are small reliable ways to cause mass destruction. Being that the explosion of the weapons is in a large part due to very small elements such as uranium and plutonium the weapons can be very small and still cause damage on a large scale. When a bomb explodes part of the mass that the elements contains is converted into energy and if this happens quickly enough there will be a nuclear explosion (Campbell 10). Nuclear weapons have been used to end wars and have since then caused a large amount of mistrust between countries.
The idea for using nuclear weapons came about in the August of 1940. The potential of these weapons was discovered by several scientists in a laboratory called the Virus House located in Berlin, Germany (Campbell 36). Nuclear weapons were starting to be developed in 1943 by Americans and Europeans. These studies were done under the supervision of Robert Oppenheimer. By the summer of 1944 Oppenheimer s team had developed a device 10 feet long and weighing 9,000 pounds that could be dropped from a plane. In this 9,000 pound destruction device , only a few pounds of either uranium or plutonium could cause a blast that had never been seen before. This weapon had the force of 20,000 tons of TNT and could cause major damage over thousands of square miles (Macksey 174).
The testing of nuclear weapons has taken place at numerous locations. Sometimes bombs have been dropped that had little or no explosion and others have exploded with great force. The first successful explosion of an atomic bomb was on July16, 1945 in Alamogordo, New Mexico. In the 1950 s nuclear weapons called H – Bombs were beginning to be tested that had a far greater effect than that of the atomic bombs. The largest nuclear weapon to ever be tested was dropped by the Soviet Union in 1962. This weapon exploded with the force of 3,000 Hiroshima bombs (Campbell 10). Nuclear weapons that have been tested since then have mostly been smaller bombs dropped mainly to improve accuracy and delivery (Campbell 11).
Fission V fusion V fission bombs are weapons that have three stages. The first stage is called the trigger . During the trigger stage the trigger of the weapon creates a tremendous amount of energy that is delivered to the fission material almost as fast as the speed of light. Next is the H V Bomb stage. During the H V Bomb stage hydrogen atoms and other elements are compressed together causing a nuclear reaction. This happens very quickly also but not quite as fast as the trigger. The final stage of fission V fusion V fission bombs is the impact of the weapon hitting the target. During the impact, all of the weapons energy is released. Due to the three stages of the fission V fusion V fission bombs they have a very problematic production and aren t very reliable (Funk and Wagnalls 263).
H V bombs are very powerful weapons that can be used to cause many times the destruction of and atomic bomb. On average, about 50 percent of the power of an H-bomb results from thermonuclear-fusion reactions and the other 50 percent from fission that occurs in the A-bomb trigger and in the uranium jacket. A clean H-bomb is defined as one in which a significantly smaller proportion than 50 percent of the energy arises from fission (Encarta 99). A clean H-bomb is determined as one in which a considerably smaller proportion than 50 percent of the energy arises from fission. Possibly as little as 5 percent of the total explosive force might result from fission – the weapon would therefore be 95 percent clean.
The neutron bomb is a nuclear weapon that does not release as many long-lasting radioactive fission components into the ecosystem far away from the point of the initial explosion. However, the large number of neutrons released in thermonuclear reactions is known to bring about radioactivity in materials, especially earth and water, within a relatively small area around the explosion. Thus the neutron bomb is considered a tactical weapon because it can do serious damage on the battlefield without producing the radioactive fallout that endangers people or structures miles away (Funk and Wagnalls 267).
The immediate effects of all nuclear weapons are the blast, heat, and finally radiation. These immediate effects are determined by what kind of surface the weapons are dropped on. An explosion that happens in the air or water doesn t have nearly the same effect as one that happens on the ground (Philips).
The blast of an explosion is nearly one half of the weapon s total energy. The blast is determined by the height of the explosion. The winds created by the blast travel at several hundred miles per hour. In a one megaton air burst (one million tons of TNT), which has a blast 300 meters high, the lethal distance of the blast is 5 kilometers in diameter (Campbell 11). The blast of an explosion causes most initial damage by knocking over buildings or any other structure with ease. The height of a blast can reach 600 meters, which could greatly increase the diameter of it (Funk and Wagnalls250).
The initial explosion of a nuclear weapon causes a flash of heat. This flash of heat is visible as a fireball , which is an extremely hot and intense mass of gas. The fireball grows and rises to the extent at which it expands to 2400 meters in diameter. If the fireball touches the ground a crater will be formed in the earth (Campbell 10,11). The blast at which the heat flash comes from can be seen to some extent from 90 miles away. The heat flash instantly kills its victims as its heat radiation sears their flesh (Philips). Retinal burns can be the result of a person who glanced at the burst at a distance of more than 90 C (Campbell amiles from ground zero. The temperature of the blast exceeds 1,000 11).
The effects of nuclear weapons on the climate could be catastrophic even if less than one half of the weapons in the possession of the United States and Russia were dropped. The explosions of these nuclear weapons could throw millions of pounds of dust and smoke into the air causing a Nuclear Winter . The amount could be adequate enough to block off sunlight for several months, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, destroying plant life and creating a subfreezing climate until the dust is scattered throughout the land. Because of this block of sunlight, plants would ultimately die and would mean the death to all things (Encarta 99).
The thermal effects of nuclear weapons include heat radiation. The heat radiation can start fires in dry flammable materials, such as paper and some fabrics, and may spread if conditions are suitable. This heat radiation spreads quickly over the land and instantly disintegrates anything close to it (Philips). Under some conditions many single fires can combine to produce a firestorm similar to those that accompany some large forest fires. The heat of the fire causes a strong updraft, which produces strong winds drawn in toward the center of the burning area. These winds fan the flame and everything flammable is destroyed. Due to the fact that the flames are drawn inward, though, the area over which such a fire spreads may be limited.
Perhaps the biggest killer of people over a longer period of time is the radiation let off by the explosion of a nuclear weapon. When absorbed by the body, nuclear radiation can cause serious injury. Nuclear radiation is much worse than thermal radiation in that it can spread over many miles and doesn t lose its power until living organisms body cells absorb it. This radiation can hide for many years and show up later in life as cancer. This kind of nuclear radiation is called residual radiation (also known as fallout)(Hogg 64). The nature of radioactivity and the immense areas contaminable by a single bomb undoubtedly make radioactive fallout potentially one of the most lethal effects of nuclear weapons (Encarta 99).
A chain reaction happens when the nuclei of an atom explodes and causes each neighboring nuclei to explode causing an almost endless reaction (Walker). This can happen due to a very fast release of neutrons by a nucleus. Uranium V 235 and Uranium V 238 are two kinds of uranium needed for a chain reaction to happen. These two materials are known as fissile materials because they are able to sustain a fissile chain reaction (Encarta).
All nuclear weapons are strategically planned where to be dropped. This is known as a weapon system. Nuclear weapons are ideal devices for destroying human life and all things that support life. The U.S. Military doesn t aim to destroy life when they drop bombs, but to destroy targets rather. The only time bombs are dropped on highly populated areas is when a military base is located nearby or underground (Hogendoom).
As reinforcement to the U.S., Military Harry S. Truman decided to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Truman was told that if he didn t drop the atomic bomb 500,000 extra soldiers lives would be lost. Truman told Japan officials that if they didn t accept the warning he would be forced to authorize the dropping of the bomb. When Japan refused, Truman commanded the dropping of the bomb. On August 6, 1945, at 9:15 AM Tokyo time, the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima (Encarta 99). The Supreme Allied Headquarters reported that 129,558 people were killed, injured, or missing and 176,987 people were homeless. The explosion of the bomb was equivalent to 12,000 tons of TNT. The explosion of the bomb and its high winds completely destroyed the city. The following day a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. About one-third of the city was destroyed, and about 66,000 people were killed or injured. Japan asked for peace on August 14. The official Japanese surrender took place on September 2, 1945 (Encarta 99).
Peace has since been kept with nuclear weapons but there is much distrust between nations. Several nations have exploded nuclear devices in tests in the atmosphere, under the earth, and under the sea. Only the United States, Russia, Great Britain, France, and the People s Republic of China admit to possessing nuclear weapons. Other nations such as Israel, Iraq and South Africa are thought to have them as well, or to have the capability to assemble them quickly. In 1957 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established to manage the development and spread of nuclear technology and materials. Two years later a treaty was negotiated to neutralize the Antarctic Region and to prohibit the detonation or storage of nuclear weapons there. Both the U.S. and the USSR signed the treaty (Encarta 99).
Whether to use nuclear weapons or not is a very controversial issue. The next time nuclear weapons are dropped could mean the end of the world as we know it. We must wait and see what role nuclear weapons will play in our future.
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