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Nuclear weapon

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The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945 rose some 18 kilometers (11 miles) above the bomb's hypocenter. Nuclear weapons

History Warfare Arms race Design Testing Effects

000 tons of TNT. the Soviet Union (succeeded as a nuclear power by Russia). remain the subject of scholarly and popular debate.2 million tons (1. a uranium gun-type device code-named "Little Boy" was detonated over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. . These two bombings resulted in the deaths of approximately 200. and their ethical status. The first fission ("atomic") bomb test released the same amount of energy as approximately 20. Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. nuclear weapons have been detonated on over two thousand occasions for testing purposes and demonstrations.000.Delivery Espionage Proliferation Arsenals Terrorism Anti-nuclear opposition Nuclear-armed states United States · Russia United Kingdom · France China · India · Israel Pakistan · North Korea South Africa (former) This box: view · talk · edit A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions.100 kg) can produce an explosive force comparable to the detonation of more than 1.1 million metric tons) of TNT. and their use and control has been a major focus of international relations policy since their debut. Only a few nations possess such weapons or are suspected of seeking them. either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. fire and radiation. a plutonium implosion-type device code-named "Fat Man" was exploded over Nagasaki. The only countries known to have detonated nuclear weapons²and that acknowledge possessing such weapons²are (chronologically by date of first test) the United States.000 Japanese people²mostly civilians²from acute injuries sustained from the explosions.[2] Thus.[3] The role of the bombings in Japan's surrender. Three days later.[1] A modern thermonuclear weapon weighing little more than 2. Japan. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. on 9 August.000 tons of TNT. Nuclear weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction. Only two nuclear weapons have been used in the course of warfare.400 pounds (1. even a small nuclear device no larger than traditional bombs can devastate an entire city by blast. The first thermonuclear ("hydrogen") bomb test released the same amount of energy as approximately 10. On 6 August 1945. both by the United States near the end of World War II.

the United Kingdom.1 Aftermath o 7. In addition. South Africa.2 Fusion weapons o 1.[7] Contents [hide] y y y y y y y y y 1 Types o 1.[4][5][6] One state.1 General o 9. and law o 4. Pakistan.2 Bibliography 9 External links o 9. and North Korea.2 Historical Types .1 Disarmament 5 Controversy 6 Non-weapons uses 7 See also o 7.1 Notes o 8.1 Fission weapons o 1. though it does not acknowledge having them. control. Israel is also widely believed to possess nuclear weapons. but has since disassembled their arsenal and submitted to international safeguards.3 More technical details o 7. has admitted to having previous fabricated nuclear weapons in the past.3 Other types 2 Weapons delivery 3 Nuclear strategy 4 Governance. France.2 History o 7. the People's Republic of China. India.4 Popular culture o 7.5 Proliferation and politics 8 References o 8.

Fission weapons All existing nuclear weapons derive some of their explosive energy from nuclear fission reactions. In fission weapons. as their energy comes specifically from the nucleus of the atom. a mass of fissile material (enriched uranium or plutonium) is assembled into a supercritical mass²the amount of material needed to start an exponentially growing nuclear chain reaction²either by shooting one piece of sub-critical material into another (the "gun" method) or by compressing a sub-critical sphere of material using chemical explosives to many times its original density (the "implosion" method). and those which use fission reactions to begin nuclear fusion reactions that produce a large amount of the total energy output. A major challenge in all nuclear weapon designs is to ensure that a significant fraction of the fuel is consumed before the weapon destroys itself.The two basic fission weapon designs Main article: Nuclear weapon design There are two basic types of nuclear weapons: those which derive the majority of their energy from nuclear fission reactions alone.[8] Fusion weapons . however. This has long been noted as something of a misnomer. The amount of energy released by fission bombs can range from the equivalent of less than a ton of TNT upwards of 500. The latter approach is considered more sophisticated than the former and only the latter approach can be used if the fissile material is plutonium.000 tons (500 kilotons) of TNT. Weapons whose explosive output is exclusively from fission reactions are commonly referred to as atomic bombs or atom bombs (abbreviated as A-bombs).

which can then induce fission in materials not normally prone to it. about half of the . deuterium. with the fission bomb as the "primary" and the fusion capsule as the "secondary". multi-staged thermonuclear weapon is controversial. France and India²have conducted thermonuclear weapon tests.)[10] All thermonuclear weapons are considered to be much more difficult to successfully design and execute than primitive fission weapons. Russia. radiation-reflecting container. This is because a fission weapon is required as a "trigger" for the fusion reactions.[9] Unlike fission weapons. The ensuing fusion reaction creates enormous numbers of highspeed neutrons. When the fission bomb is detonated. Each of these components is known as a "stage". or lithium deuteride) in proximity within a special. such as depleted uranium. this is accomplished by placing a fission bomb and fusion fuel (tritium. Thermonuclear bombs work by using the energy of a fission bomb to compress and heat fusion fuel. Such fusion weapons are generally referred to as thermonuclear weapons or more colloquially as hydrogen bombs (abbreviated as H-bombs). all such weapons derive a significant portion. In large hydrogen bombs.The basics of the Teller±Ulam design for a hydrogen bomb: a fission bomb uses radiation to compress and heat a separate section of fusion fuel. there are no inherent limits on the energy released by thermonuclear weapons. as they rely on fusion reactions between isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium). and sometimes a majority. and the fusion reactions can themselves trigger additional fission reactions. People's Republic of China. The other basic type of nuclear weapon produces a large amount of its energy through nuclear fusion reactions. In the Teller-Ulam design. which accounts for all multi-megaton yield hydrogen bombs. (Whether India has detonated a "true". gamma and X-rays emitted first compress the fusion fuel. However. Only six countries²United States. of their energy from fission. United Kingdom. then heat it to thermonuclear temperatures.

Japan. Some weapons are designed for special purposes. and much of the resulting nuclear fallout. comes from the final fissioning of depleted uranium. The detonation of any nuclear weapon is accompanied by a blast of neutron radiation. the largest ever detonated (the Tsar Bomba of the USSR) released an energy equivalent of over 50 million tons (50 megatons) of TNT. Most thermonuclear weapons are considerably smaller than this. but it is not a fusion bomb. such a device could theoretically be used to cause massive casualties while leaving infrastructure mostly intact and creating a minimal amount of fallout. Additionally. a boosted fission weapon is a fission bomb which increases its explosive yield through a small amount of fusion reactions. a neutron bomb is a thermonuclear weapon that yields a relatively small explosion but a relatively large amount of neutron radiation. and in manipulating design elements to attempt to minimize weapon size. In the boosted bomb. development and maintenance of delivery options is among the most resource-intensive aspects of a nuclear weapons program: according to one estimate. They were very large and could only be delivered by heavy bomber aircraft Main article: Nuclear weapons delivery Nuclear weapons delivery²the technology and systems used to bring a nuclear weapon to its target²is an important aspect of nuclear weapons relating both to nuclear weapon design and nuclear strategy.[11] Other types There are other types of nuclear weapons as well. Surrounding a nuclear weapon with suitable materials (such as cobalt or gold) creates a weapon known as a salted bomb. due to practical constraints arising from the space and weight requirements of missile warheads. This device can produce exceptionally large quantities of radioactive contamination. .[8] Weapons delivery The first nuclear weapons were gravity bombs.yield.[8] By chaining together numerous stages with increasing amounts of fusion fuel. the neutrons produced by the fusion reactions serve primarily to increase the efficiency of the fission bomb. For example. Most variation in nuclear weapon design is for the purpose of achieving different yields for different situations. thermonuclear weapons can be made to an almost arbitrary yield. such as this "Fat Man" weapon dropped on Nagasaki.

are free-fall gravity bombs. More advanced systems. the response time to an impending attack. This method may still be considered the primary means of nuclear weapons delivery.[8] . This method is usually the first developed by countries as it does not place many restrictions on the size of the weapon and weapon miniaturization is something which requires considerable weapons design knowledge. the majority of U.deployment costs accounted for 57% of the total financial resources spent by the United States in relation to nuclear weapons since 1940. though. nuclear bombs can be delivered by both strategic bombers and tactical fighter-bombers.S. namely the B61. which can use a ballistic trajectory to deliver the warhead over the horizon. was as a gravity bomb. such as multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). dropped from bomber aircraft. More preferable from a strategic point of view is a nuclear weapon mounted onto a missile. Today. and the method used in the two nuclear weapons actually used in warfare.[8] A Trident II SLBM launched from a Royal Navy Vanguard class ballistic missile submarine. allowing an air force to use its current fleet with little or no modification. While even short range missiles allow for a faster and less vulnerable attack. and the number of weapons which can be fielded at any given time. reducing the chance of a successful missile defense. nuclear warheads. allow multiple warheads to be launched at different targets from one missile. It does. however. for example. missiles are most common among systems designed for delivery of nuclear weapons.[12] Historically the first method of delivery. With the advent of miniaturization. can be a difficult task. limit the range of attack. the development of long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) has given some nations the ability to plausibly deliver missiles anywhere on the globe with a high likelihood of success. Making a warhead small enough to fit onto a missile.

such as the Special Atomic Demolition Munition. although the difficulty of combining sufficient yield with portability limits their military utility. each of which could be aimed at a different target. The policy of trying to prevent an attack by a nuclear weapon from another country by threatening nuclear retaliation is known as the strategy of nuclear deterrence. land mines. Main article: Nuclear warfare Nuclear warfare strategy is a set of policies that deal with preventing or fighting a nuclear war. . Small.Tactical weapons have involved the most variety of delivery types. have been developed. two-man portable tactical weapons (somewhat misleadingly referred to as suitcase bombs). An atomic mortar was also tested at one time by the United States. policy and military theorists in nuclear-enabled countries worked out models of what sorts of policies could prevent one from ever being attacked by a nuclear weapon. Different forms of nuclear weapons delivery (see above) allow for different types of nuclear strategies. Sometimes this has meant keeping the weapon locations hidden. During the Cold War. Other components of nuclear strategies have included using missile defense (to destroy the missiles before they land) or implementation of civil defense measures (using early-warning systems to evacuate citizens to safe areas before an attack). such as deploying them on submarines or rail cars whose locations are very hard for an enemy to track and other times this means protecting them by burying them in hardened bunkers. The goal in deterrence is to always maintain a second strike capability (the ability of a country to respond to a nuclear attack with one of its own) and potentially to strive for first strike status (the ability to completely destroy an enemy's nuclear forces before they could retaliate). These were developed to make missile defense very difficult for an enemy country. Each missile could contain up to ten nuclear warheads (shown in red).[8] Nuclear strategy The United States' Peacekeeper missile was a MIRVed delivery system. The goals of any strategy are generally to make it difficult for an enemy to launch a pre-emptive strike against the weapon system and difficult to defend against the delivery of the weapon during a potential conflict. and nuclear depth charges and torpedoes for anti-submarine warfare. including not only gravity bombs and missiles but also artillery shells.

and they are said to have done this during the Cold War between the U. destruction has been a strong motivation for anti-nuclear weapons activism. The prospect of mutually assured destruction may not deter an enemy who expects to die in the confrontation. Further. From this point of view.Note that weapons which are designed to threaten large populations or to generally deter attacks are known as strategic weapons. The use of (or threat of use of) such weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict. Critics from the peace movement and within the military establishment have questioned the usefulness of such weapons in the current military climate.[13][14] The threat of potentially suicidal terrorists possessing nuclear weapons (a form of nuclear terrorism) complicates the decision process. This view argues that. and law The International Atomic Energy Agency was created in 1957 in order to encourage the peaceful development of nuclear technology while providing international safeguards against nuclear proliferation.[16] Governance. if the initial act is from a rogue group instead of a sovereign nation. 2001 attacks.[15] In 1996. the significance of nuclear weapons is purely to deter war because any nuclear war would immediately escalate out of mutual distrust and fear. according to an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in 1996. the United States adopted a policy of allowing the targeting of its nuclear weapons at terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction. nuclear weapons successfully deter all-out war between states. and the Soviet Union. especially after the September 11. distinct from the relative stability of the Cold War. Perhaps the most controversial idea in nuclear strategy is that nuclear proliferation would be desirable. that this complication is the sign of the next age of nuclear strategy. There are critics of the very idea of nuclear strategy for waging nuclear war who have suggested that a nuclear war between two nuclear powers would result in mutual annihilation. there is no fixed nation or fixed military targets to retaliate against. It has been argued.S. This threat of national. control. . unlike conventional weapons. Political scientist Kenneth Waltz is the most prominent advocate of this argument. resulting in mutually assured destruction. Weapons which are designed to actually be used on a battlefield in military situations are known as tactical weapons. if not global.

it had as of 2011 not entered into force. but by the 1960s steps were being taken to limit both the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries and the environmental effects of nuclear testing. the International Committee of the Red Cross calls on States to ensure that these weapons are never used. many nations signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty[18] which prohibits all testing of nuclear weapons. These include treaties such as SALT II (never ratified). and the Treaty of Pelindaba (1964) prohibits nuclear weapons in many African countries. and New START. the United States and the Soviet Union.[19] Due to the strict entry into force criterion of the convention however. In the middle of 1996. INF. SORT. and later between the United States and Russia. START I (expired). In 1957. Many nations have been declared Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones.[21] . while the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968) attempted to place restrictions on the types of activities which signatories could participate in. as well as nonbinding agreements such as SALT I and the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives[20] of 1991. areas where nuclear weapons production and deployment are prohibited. to prevent contamination from nuclear fallout. In view of the unique. START II (never ratified). irrespective of whether they consider them to be lawful or not. these agreements helped limit and later reduce the numbers and types of nuclear weapons between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia.[17] In the late 1940s. The Treaty of Tlatelolco (1967) prohibited any production or deployment of nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. in most countries the use of nuclear force can only be authorized by the head of government or head of state. The Partial Test Ban Treaty (1963) restricted all nuclear testing to underground nuclear testing. In 1996. including the Geneva Conventions. issued an Advisory Opinion concerned with the "Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons". the highest court of the United Nations. Nuclear weapons have also been opposed by agreements between countries. the International Court of Justice. the political control of nuclear weapons has been a key issue for as long as they have existed. the Hague Conventions. The court ruled that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would violate various articles of international law. the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established under the mandate of the United Nations in order to encourage the development of the peaceful applications of nuclear technology. destructive characteristics of nuclear weapons. with the goal of allowing the transference of non-military nuclear technology to member countries without fear of proliferation. through the use of treaties. which would impose a significant hindrance to their development by any complying country. and facilitate the application of safety measures in its use.Because of the immense military power they can confer. lack of mutual trust was preventing the United States and the Soviet Union from making ground towards international arms control agreements. Even when they did not enter into force.[18] Additional treaties and agreements have governed nuclear weapons stockpiles between the countries with the two largest stockpiles. provide international safeguards against its misuse. the UN Charter. As recently as 2006 a Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone was established amongst the former Soviet republics of Central Asia prohibiting nuclear weapons.

Beginning with the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty and continuing through the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Iraq. economic sanctions were (temporarily) levied against both countries.[22] Only one country²South Africa²has ever fully renounced nuclear weapons they had independently developed. These officials include Henry Kissinger. there have been numerous campaigns to urge the abolition of nuclear weapons. in what it called an attempt to halt Iraq's previous nuclear arms ambitions. Disarmament Main article: Nuclear disarmament Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-free world. have recently been advocating the elimination of nuclear weapons. Lawrence M. especially accidentally. and William Perry.[25] Further information: See List of states with nuclear weapons for statistics on possession and deployment . in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated. and the goal of a "world without nuclear weapons" was advocated by United States President Barack Obama in an April 2009 speech in Prague. specific actions meant to discourage countries from developing nuclear arms. One of the stated casus belli for the initiation of the 2003 Iraq War was an accusation by the United States that Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear arms (though this was soon discovered not to be the case as the program had been discontinued). there have been other. The 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has as one of its explicit conditions that all signatories must "pursue negotiations in good faith" towards the longterm goal of "complete disarmament". Kazakhstan. In the wake of the tests by India and Pakistan in 1998. However. In January 2010. who were in office during the Cold War period.Additionally. Critics of nuclear disarmament say that it would undermine deterrence and could lead to increased global instability. Krauss stated that "no issue carries more importance to the long-term health and security of humanity than the effort to reduce. such as that organized by the Global Zero movement. though neither were signatories with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Proponents of nuclear disarmament say that it would lessen the probability of nuclear war occurring. there have been many treaties to limit or reduce nuclear weapons testing and stockpiles. Various American government officials. and Ukraine²returned Soviet nuclear arms stationed in their countries to Russia after the collapse of the USSR. A number of former Soviet republics²Belarus.[24] A CNN poll from April 2010 indicated that the American public was nearly evenly split on the issue. George Shultz. In 1981. Israel had bombed a nuclear reactor being constructed in Osirak. and perhaps one day.[23] In the years after the end of the Cold War. Sam Nunn. rid the world of nuclear weapons". no nuclear state has treated that aspect of the agreement as having binding force.

Radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing was first drawn to public attention in 1954 when the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test at the Pacific Proving Grounds contaminated the crew and catch of the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon. Radioactive fallout became less of an issue and the anti-nuclear weapons movement went . The question of whether nations should have nuclear weapons.[27] In 1959. in the 1980s.S. the first Aldermaston March organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament took place at Easter 1958. to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment close to Aldermaston in Berkshire.[26] One of the fishermen died in Japan seven months later.[31] In 1963. See also: Nuclear weapons debate and History of the anti-nuclear movement Even before the first nuclear weapons had been developed. and "provided a decisive impetus for the emergence of the anti-nuclear weapons movement in many countries". when several thousand people marched for four days from Trafalgar Square.[28][29] The Aldermaston marches continued into the late 1960s when tens of thousands of people took part in the four-day marches. many countries ratified the Partial Test Ban Treaty prohibiting atmospheric nuclear testing. or test them. especially regarding the effects of nuclear fallout and atmospheric nuclear testing. scientists involved with the Manhattan Project were divided over the use of the weapon. The incident caused widespread concern around the world. The role of the two atomic bombings of the country in Japan's surrender and the U. England.[26] Peace movements emerged in Japan and in 1954 they converged to form a unified "Japanese Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs". and the fear of contaminated tuna led to a temporary boycotting of the popular staple in Japan. to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons. London. Linus Pauling won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to stop the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.[30] In 1962. and the "Ban the Bomb" movement spread.Controversy Demonstration against nuclear testing in Lyon. has been continually and nearly universally controversial.'s ethical justification for them has been the subject of scholarly and popular debate for decades. France. and "an estimated 35 million signatures were collected on petitions calling for bans on nuclear weapons".[27] In the United Kingdom. a letter in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was the start of a successful campaign to stop the Atomic Energy Commission dumping radioactive waste in the sea 19 kilometres from Boston. Japanese opposition to nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific Ocean was widespread.

[26][32] A resurgence of interest occurred amid European and American fears of nuclear war in the 1980s.300 ft). such as einsteinium and fermium.[34] Synthetic elements.[35] Nuclear explosives have also been seriously studied as potential propulsion mechanisms for space travel (see Project Orion). as a means of investigating the possibilities of using peaceful nuclear explosions for large-scale earth moving. and proposed. When long term health and clean-up costs were included. . were discovered in the aftermath of the first thermonuclear bomb test. nuclear explosives have been tested and used for various nonmilitary uses.[33] Non-weapons uses Main article: Peaceful nuclear explosions The 1962 Sedan nuclear test formed a crater 100 m (330 ft) deep with a diameter of about 390 m (1. created by neutron bombardment of uranium and plutonium during thermonuclear explosions. but not used for large-scale earth moving. as all paintings created after that period may contain traces of cesium-137 and strontium-90. there was no economic advantage over conventional explosives. Apart from their use as weapons. isotopes that did not exist in nature before 1945. In 2008 the worldwide presence of new isotopes from atmospheric testing beginning in the 1950s was developed into a reliable way of detecting art forgeries.into decline for some years.