A Nuclear Weapon
Is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission ("atomic") bomb test released the same amount of energy as approximately 20,000 tons of TNT. The first thermonuclear ("hydrogen") bomb test released the same amount of energy as approximately 10,000,000 tons of TNT.
A modern thermonuclear weapon weighing little more than 2,400 pounds (1,100 kg) can produce an explosive force comparable to the detonation of more than 1.2 million tons (1.1 million tonnes) of TNT. Thus, even a small nuclear device no larger than traditional bombs can devastate an entire city by blast, fire and radiation. Nuclear weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction, and their use and control have been a major focus of international relations policy since their debut.
Only two nuclear weapons have been used in the course of warfare, both by the United States near the end of World War II. On 6 August 1945, a uraniumgun-type fission bomb code-named "Little Boy" was detonated over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, on 9 August, a plutonium implosion-type fission bomb code-named "Fat Man" was exploded over Nagasaki, Japan. These two bombings resulted in the deaths of approximately 200,000 people—mostly civilians—from acute injuries sustained from the explosions. The role of the bombings in Japan's surrender, and their ethical status, remain the subject of scholarly and popular debate.
Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons have been detonated on over two thousand occasions for testing purposes and demonstrations. Only a few nations possess such weapons or are suspected of seeking them. The only countries known to have detonated nuclear weapons—and that acknowledge possessing such weapons—are (chronologically by date of first test) the United States, the Soviet Union (succeeded as a nuclear power by Russia), the United Kingdom, France, the People's Republic of China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. In addition,Israel is also widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, though it does not acknowledge having them. One state, South Africa, fabricated nuclear weapons in the past, but as its apartheid regime was coming to an end it disassembled its arsenal, acceded to the NPT and accepted full-scope international safeguards.
Non-weapons usesThe Federation of American Scientists estimates there are more than 17,000 nuclear warheads in the world as of 2012, with around 4,300 of them considered "operational", ready for use.
Main article: Peaceful nuclear explosions
Apart from their use as weapons, nuclear explosives have been tested and used for variousnon-military uses, and proposed, but not used for large-scale earth moving. When long term health and clean-up costs were included, there was no economic advantage over conventional explosives.
Synthetic elements, such as einsteinium and fermium, created by neutron bombardment of uranium and plutonium during thermonuclear explosions, were discovered in the aftermath of the first thermonuclear bomb test. 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, as all paintings created after that period may contain traces of caesium-137 and strontium-90, isotopes that did not exist in nature before 1945.
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The mushroom cloud of Russia’s biggest nuke was 8 times the height of Mt. Everest. This infographic will give you a visceral feel for that that means.
It was called the Tsar Bomba, but the Russians nicknamed it the Kuz’kina Mat–or what roughly translates to the “We’ll Show You.” This 50,000-kiloton hydrogen bomb was the largest detonated nuke ever, and it’s considered the most powerful man-made creation in history.
Heck, it was immensely powerful on the galactic scale. If you built a bomb of the same size and shape from the material in the sun’s core, it would take 10 million years to generate the same amount of energy.
The human mind simply can’t fathom the numbers, but this extra-long infographic by Maximilian Bode , a former art director at The New Yorker, begins to put the Tsar Bomba into perspective, at least in terms of other nukes. It gives you, even just sitting at your desk, a sense of the horrifying scale of the bombs we’ve made. Working your way from the top, you can see how tiny Little Boy and Fat Man were–the devastating nukes that the US dropped on Japan during WWII. If you’ve ever seen media of the aftermath, you might be able to grasp some of the mass horror of those weapons. But they were tiny in comparison to Tsar Bomba. Tsar Bomba was 1,400 times more powerful than Little Boy and Fat Man, combined
Scrolling through the image, seeing red square after red square as your fingers grow tired, begins to scale the true terror of the nuclear arms race between the US and Russia. We didn’t just decipher how to make nuclear weapons; we’d mastered them.
More technical details
- History of nuclear weapons
- Atomic spies
- German nuclear energy project
- Japanese atomic program
- Soviet atomic bomb project
- Los Alamos National Laboratory
- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
- Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents
- Nuclear and radiation accidents, including nuclear weapons accidents
- Nevada Test Site
- Project Gnome
- Military strategy
- Civil Defense
- Fractional Orbital Bombardment System
- Mutual Assured Destruction
- Weapon of mass destruction
- Nuclear strategy
Proliferation and politics
- Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
- International Court of Justice advisory opinion on legality of nuclear weapons
- List of states with nuclear weapons
- List of nuclear weapons
- Nth Country Experiment
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
- Nuclear weapons and the United Kingdom
- The Letters of last resort (United Kingdom)
- Nuclear weapons and Russia
- Nuclear weapons and the United States
- Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
- Three Non-Nuclear Principles, of Japan