The History and Principles Behind the Almighty Tsar Bomber (Most powerful atomic bomb)

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Nuclear bombs are weapons of mass destruction. They harness the forces that hold the nucleus of an atom together by using the energy released when the particles of the nucleus (neutrons and protons) are either split or merged.

The nuclear arms race that originated in the race for atomic weapons during World War II reached a culminating point on October 30, 1961, with the detonation of the Tsar Bomba, the largest and most powerful nuclear weapon ever constructed.

As of today, nine countries hold a total of 15000 nuclear weapons according to ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) which are more than enough to end the civilization and life on Earth as we know it.

The Atomic bombs

Atomic bombs are nuclear weapons that use the energetic output of nuclear fission to produce massive explosions. These bombs are in contrast to hydrogen bombs, which use both fission and fusion to power their greater explosive potential.

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, placed the United States in an apparently unchallengeable position as the world’s only possessor of nuclear weapons. But that primacy didn’t last long. The Soviet Union had made halting progress in its own nuclear weapons program during the war, and in 1945 Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin ordered an intensification of these efforts. Soviet penetration of the British and American atomic weapons programs thanks to the activities of spies such as Klaus Fuchs aided the efforts of Soviet scientists to design and construct their own weapons.

The Soviets successfully tested their first atomic weapon on August 29, 1949, after which both superpowers upped the ante by working furiously to develop the far more powerful thermonuclear weapons, or hydrogen bombs. The United States got there first, testing their Ivy Mike Test on November 1, 1952; but once again the Soviets were close behind. Soviet scientist Andrei Sakharov, heading his country’s research into thermonuclear weapons (thanks again in part to information provided by Fuchs) oversaw the detonation of a hydrogen bomb on August 12, 1953, at the Semipalatinsk test site in what is now Kazakhstan.

From there the United States and the Soviet Union carried out a further series of open-air tests of atomic weapons. Great Britain emulated these with open-air atomic weapons tests in the late 1950s (France would follow with tests in Polynesia in the 1960s and beyond.) While the Americans focused on perfecting accurate delivery systems for small to medium size atomic devices, however, the Soviets concentrated on building larger and larger devices of almost unimaginable power. The Tsar Bomba was the outcome.

The Nuclear Chemistry Behind the Explosion

Atomic bombs are made up of a fissile element, such as uranium, that is enriched in the isotope that can sustain a fission nuclear chain reaction. When a free neutron hits the nucleus of a fissile atom-like uranium-235 (235U), the uranium splits into two smaller atoms called fission fragments, plus more neutrons. Fission can be self-sustaining because it produces more neutrons with the speed required to cause new fissions. This creates a chain reaction.

The uranium-235 content of “weapons-grade” uranium is generally greater than 85 percent, though inefficient weapons, deemed “weapons-usable,” can be made of 20 percent enriched uranium. The very first uranium bomb, Little Boy, dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, used 64 kilograms of 80 percent enriched uranium.

In fission weapons, a mass of fissile material, either enriched uranium or plutonium, is assembled into a supercritical mass—the amount of material needed to start an exponentially growing nuclear chain reaction. This is accomplished either by shooting one piece of sub-critical material into another, termed the “gun” method, or by compressing a sub-critical sphere of material using chemical explosives to many times its original density, called the “implosion” method.

The implosion method is considered more sophisticated than the gun method and only can be used if the fissile material is plutonium. The inherent radioactivity of uranium will then release a neutron, which will bombard another atom of 235U to produce the unstable uranium-236, which undergoes fission, releases further neutrons, and continues the process. The uranium atom can split any one of dozens of different ways, as long as the atomic weights add up to 236 (uranium plus the extra neutron). The following equation shows one possible split, namely into strontium-95 (95Sr), xenon-139 (139Xe), and two neutrons (n), plus energy: [latex]^{235}U+ ^1_0n\rightarrow \ \ ^{95}Sr+^{139}Xe +2\ ^1_0n+180 MeV[/latex].

The effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs

The devastating effects of both kinds of bombs depended essentially upon the energy released at the moment of the explosion, causing immediate fires, destructive blast pressures, and extreme local radiation exposures. Since the bombs were detonated at a height of some 600 meters above the ground, very little of the fission products were deposited on the ground beneath. Some deposition occurred however in areas near to each city, owing to local rainfall occurring soon after the explosions.

This happened at positions a few kilometers to the east of Nagasaki, and in areas to the west and northwest of Hiroshima. For the most part, however, these fission products were carried high into the upper atmosphere by the heat generated in the explosion itself. The majority would have decayed by the time they landed around the globe. In Hiroshima, of a resident civilian population of 250,000, it was estimated that 45,000 died on the first day and a further 19,000 during the subsequent four months. (Another figure is 78,500 fatalities, with 5 to 15% of the short-term ones being from radiation.) In Nagasaki, out of a population of 174,000, on the first day, 22,000 died and another 17,000 within four months. Unrecorded deaths of military personnel and foreign workers may have added considerably to these figures. About 15 square kilometers (over 50%) of the two cities were destroyed. It is uncertain what proportion of these 103,000 deaths, or of the further deaths in military personnel, were due to radiation exposure rather than to the very high temperatures and blast pressures caused by the explosions – 15 kilotons at Hiroshima and 25 kilotons at Nagasaki. From the estimated radiation levels, however, it is apparent that radiation alone would not have been enough to cause death in most of those exposed beyond a kilometer of the ground zero below the bombs. Most deaths were from blast injuries or burns rather than radiation. Beyond 1.5 km the radiation risk would have been much reduced (and 24 Australian prisoners of war about 1.5 km from the Nagasaki ground zero survived and many lived to a healthy old age).

In comparison, during the period of February 1945 to August 1945, the US bombing of Japanese cities – notably Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe – by B-29s delivered about 100 kilotons of high explosives and incendiaries to urban areas in hundreds of raids, resulting in a large number of deaths and causing widespread destruction. Some 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed in a single 300-bomber raid on Tokyo. About 80 square kilometers of those four cities were destroyed in ten days during March. Overall 67 Japanese cities were partly destroyed, 500,000 people were killed and 5 million more made homeless. The 103,000 deaths from the blast or acute radiation exposure at Hiroshima and Nagasaki have since been added those due to radiation-induced cancers and leukemia, which amounted to some 400 within 30 years, and which may ultimately reach about 550. (Some 93,000 exposed survivors were still being monitored 50 years later.) There was an increase in leukemia beginning about two years later and peaking at four to six years later, and other cancers beginning about ten years later. There was no evidence to suggest an increase in leukemia at less than 500 mSv acute dose. At an acute dose of 100 mSv, increased cancer risk of 1.05 times normal was calculated. There was concern about ingestion or inhalation of radionuclides, but fires released far higher levels of non-radioactive carcinogens.

Additionally, no genetic damage has been detected in survivors' children, despite a careful and continuing investigation by a joint Japanese-US foundation. The major source of exposure in both cities was from the penetrating gamma radiations, and to a lesser extent from the neutrons (mostly at Hiroshima), emitted during and shortly after fission. There were two further, and smaller, sources of exposure. One, already mentioned, was due to the 'black rain' which fell in some areas, carrying down radioactive materials from within the rising cloud of fission products. The exposures due to these depositions are in general estimated to have been small, but some increased activity from the fission product radionuclide caesium-137 remained detectable for many years in soil and farm products in the Nishiyama district east of Nagasaki. The second additional form of exposure resulted from the effect of neutrons in inducing radioactivity in various stable chemical elements such as in iron or concrete structures or roofing tiles. The total absorbed doses of radiation from these activation products are estimated to be less than one percent of that from the neutrons which induced them. They could however have caused a significant exposure of people who entered the city within a few days of the explosions.

The Effects of a Nuclear Weapon

If one of these bombs were to be used, the effect would be catastrophic.

The heart of a nuclear explosion would reach a temperature of several million degrees centigrade. Over a wide area, the resulting heat flash literally vaporizes all human tissue. People inside buildings or otherwise shielded will be indirectly killed by the blast and heat effects as buildings collapse and all inflammable materials would burst into flames. Those in underground shelters who survive the initial heat flash will die as all the oxygen is sucked out of the atmosphere.

Outside the area of total destruction, there will be a gradually increasing percentage of immediate survivors. However, most of these will suffer from fatal burns, will be blinded, bleeding, and suffering massive internal injuries. Survivors will be affected within a matter of days by the radioactive fall-out. Radiation-induced cancers will affect many, often over twenty years later.

Nuclear weapons cause severe damage to the climate and environment on a scale incomparable to any other weapon: the Red Cross estimates that a billion people around the world could face starvation as a result of nuclear war.

Taking into account the effects a nuclear bomb would have, it is no surprise that CND campaigns against nuclear weapons. They are immoral and expensive weapons of mass destruction, which have no military or strategic function in the face of 21st-century threats.

The ability to destroy the planet is now within the realm of possibility as superpower countries arm themselves with more weapons than they would ever need, all in the name of power and defense, not even considering the amount of mass destruction, thousands of innocent death, and the biological defect on the unborn generations.

Do you think we are safe living with these monstrous weapons and would these weapons do more good than it's damage when used during war?

Leave your opinion in the comment section below.

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