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Why it’s so difficult to build a hydrogen bomb

Discussion in 'China & Far East' started by simple Brain, Jan 8, 2016.

  1. simple Brain

    simple Brain FULL MEMBER

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    Why it’s so difficult to build a hydrogen bomb
    Tiny sun on Earth. (National Nuclear Security Administration)
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    Akshat Rathi
    January 07, 2016
    It’s been more than 60 years since the US successfully tested the first hydrogen bomb. Since then only four other countries—Russia, France, China, and the UK—have been able to make one themselves. This week North Korea claimed it had, but you can disregard Kim Jong-un’s boastfor now.




    A few more countries—India, Pakistan, South Africa, Israel, as well as North Korea—have the know-how to build simpler forms of nuclear weapons: atomic bombs. Still, no other technology in the world has remained out of the hands of so many countries for such a long time. Why?

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    It may be that the Cold War between the US and Russia deterred states from picking a battle with one of the big guns—but that didn’t stop India and Pakistan. Maybe the non-proliferation lobby after the Cold War convinced states that they don’t need nuclear weapons (South Africa, indeed, gave up its arsenal in 1991)—but Iran and North Korea kept trying.




    So the most probable reason, Robert Downes, a nuclear weapons expert at King’s College London told Quartz, is that it’s simply too hard. Let’s start with the basics of building a nuclear weapon to see why.




    First make your fuel
    Nuclear weapons make use of the “strong nuclear force,” which holds positively charged particles—protons—together in an atom’s nucleus. Though it only acts over very tiny distances, the strong nuclear force is indeed strong—about a hundred trillion trillion trillion (10 to the 38th power) times stronger than gravity—so it easily overcomes the repulsion between the positive charges. (For comparison, think how hard it is to bring together the north poles of two strong magnets.)

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    There are two types of nuclear weapons, and they make use of the strong nuclear force by either splitting very large atoms apart (nuclear fission in an atomic bomb) or by squeezing very small atoms together (nuclear fusion in a hydrogen bomb, a.k.a. thermonuclear bomb). Both processes release vast amounts of energy. Our sun and most stars are nothing but massive fusion reactors.




    The first barrier to building a nuclear weapon is finding nuclear fuel. Very few types of atoms are both the right size and abundant enough to make a nuclear weapon. It’s either uranium or plutonium for fission bombs, or a mixture of deuterium and tritium (both of them rare forms of hydrogen) for nuclear fusion.




    To collect weapons-grade uranium is not easy. You need a concentrated (“enriched”) lump of the less stable form, uranium-235, which is only about 1% of naturally occurring uranium. (The other 99%, uranium-238, doesn’t work for an atom bomb because it doesn’t split apart easily enough). Separating these two forms, or isotopes—which are identical in almost every way but differ slightly in weight—is hard, and takes a lot of energy. The plant that enriched uranium for the first atomic bomb covered more than 40 acres (16 ha) of land, with 100 miles (161 km) of piping, and thousands of heaters and compressors to turn the metallic uranium into a gas so the isotopes could be separated.




    The problem with tritium—an isotope of hydrogen—is even greater. There is nearly no naturally occurring tritium, so it has to be synthesized. This is done in specially designed reactors, which aren’t easy to build and generate tiny amounts of tritium at a time.





    So most countries fail to find enough nuclear fuel to make a bomb. Iran, for instance, struggled to generate enough enriched uranium-235 to get started. And, in the nuclear deal it signed in 2015, Iran had to send to Russia whatever low-enriched uranium it had.




    Then create a mini-sun
    With enough fuel, you can make a rudimentary nuclear bomb. What you need is to create conditions that can start a nuclear chain reaction.




    In a fission weapon, when one atom of uranium-235, for instance, splits apart, it releases two neutrons. If each neutron hits another atom of uranium-235, those too will split, each releasing another two neutrons, and so on. This happens only if there’s enough uranium-235 in one place—the critical mass—for each neutron to have a high chance of hitting another atom.




    [​IMG]
    The basic mechanism of an atomic bomb.(The Engineer Guy)
    Once you’ve made enough uranium-235, though, creating critical mass is relatively easy. You start out with two smaller lumps of uranium and, when it’s time to set the bomb off, bang them together at high speed.




    Fusion weapons are more complex. Nuclear fusion requires conditions that exist inside the sun: extremely high temperature and pressure, millions of times of what we have on Earth. And the nuclear fuel needs to be held under those conditions for long enough to kickstart fusion.




    Although technical details remain secret, one way to create these sun-like conditions is to first have a nuclear fission explosion. In other words, you need to make an atom bomb that then sets off a hydrogen bomb. But the payoff can be thousands of times more destructive than an atom bomb.





    The biggest hydrogen bomb ever tested, Tsar Bomba (1961), was more than 3,000 times bigger than the atomic bomb that was used in Hiroshima. When it was tested in a remote part of Russia, it was predicted that anyone within 100km of the blast would have suffered third-degree burns from the radiation released. After the test, it was observed that the blast wave broke windowpanes 900km away. That is, if the explosion had occurred in Berlin, it would have broken windows in London.





    Hitting the target
    But there is little point in having a Tsar Bomba-sized hydrogen bomb today. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945 weighed 4,400kg (9,700 lb) and Tsar Bomba weighed 27,000kg. These types of bombs can only be moved in specially designed bomber planes. With today’s anti-aircraft technology, such planes would be brought down before the nuclear weapon could be deployed.





    So today, if nuclear weapons are to reach the target intended, they need to be small enough to be put on a missile. This makes the design of new nuclear weapons more difficult.




    India claims to have tested a thermonuclear device, but the claims remain contested. According to Bhupendra Jasani, a nuclear physicist at King’s College London, instead of working on hydrogen bombs, countries like India and Pakistan are probably working on “boosted” atomic bombs.




    A boosted weapon is one that packs more punch by using a higher proportion of its own nuclear fuel; although the Hiroshima bomb caused so much destruction, it used merely 1.4% the of uranium put in it. One way to do this is to put some fusion fuel at the core of an atomic bomb. This mixture of deuterium and tritium is compressed to create a fusion reaction. This produces more neutrons, which then enhance the chain reaction of the fission fuel. In other words, you use an atom bomb to set off a tiny hydrogen bomb which in turn ratchets up the atom bomb.

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    Jasani thinks, therefore, that North Korea’s claimed “hydrogen bomb” was really an attempt to test a boosted atomic bomb. The seismometer readings suggest that the bomb North Korea tested was in the range of what atomic bombs can yield, rather than what hydrogen bombs usually yield.





    So how to explain Kim Jong-un’s claim that it was a hydrogen bomb? You can find a hint in the eye-catching prose of the press release North Korea published after the nuclear test.




    The DPRK’s access to H-bomb of justice, standing against the U.S., the chieftain of aggression watching for a chance for attack on it with huge nukes of various types, is the legitimate right of a sovereign state for self-defense and a very just step no one can slander.



    All Jong-un wants is to inflate his own ego and tell his people that he is doing all he can to protect them from vicious forces outside. And, although he may not have an H-bomb, the fact that North Korea has conducted four nuclear weapons tests since 2006 should be a cause for worry.

    Why it’s so difficult to build a hydrogen bomb - Quartz
     
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  2. AUz

    AUz ELITE MEMBER

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    Does Pakistan have boosted-fission devices?
     
  3. Chinese-Dragon

    Chinese-Dragon PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    China had our first hydrogen bombs and ICBM's in the 1960's (at the 3-4 megaton range).

    The reason countries like India do not build hydrogen bombs and ICBM's is because they do not want to upset America.

    America doesn't like it when other countries can reach them with thermonuclear weapons, just see how much they cry about China and Russia. They would prefer it if other countries simply can't reach them at all.
     
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  4. faithfulguy

    faithfulguy ELITE MEMBER

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    Pakistan never tested one. So it's not known. Indians claimed that they tested one. But it turned out to be a dud.
     
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  5. dadeechi

    dadeechi BANNED

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    Pakistan has both . Boosted-fission tested. Hydrogen device untested.
     
  6. atomix

    atomix BANNED

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    In a war it makes no difference whether it is a hydrogen or boosted fission device. Damage will be huge whichever is used ppl can go to hell with numbers and range.
     
  7. xunzi

    xunzi SENIOR MEMBER

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    No, it makes a massive difference. H-bomb allow you to manicure a small device to put on a nuclear tip of a missile and it will have 100x more powerful than a big, heavy fission bomb.
     
  8. sparten

    sparten SENIOR MEMBER

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    Its not really true what the article wrote (unsurprisingly as its Quartz). Its actually easier to build a Hydeogen Bomb once you have a fission bomb then building a fission bomb from scratch. The problem is that for a fission bomb you can undertake cold tests which give you high confidence that the thing will work but for fusion weapons you need to test. However, newer computing power might make this less true.

    I don't doubt that Pakistan has the ability to make H-Bombs (and I think we would have made them as well).nor India.
     
  9. AUz

    AUz ELITE MEMBER

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    Sarcastic? lol

    I don't believe Pakistan has the capacity to build a massive Hydrogen bomb
     
  10. simple Brain

    simple Brain FULL MEMBER

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    Here It tells a different story about Pakistan, that it has tested a H-Bomb, how truthful it is or whether or not Pakistan ever claimed it, I am still looking for the clues.

    Map: The countries believed to have tested hydrogen bombs


    By Adam Taylor January 6
    that Israel conducted a nuclear test in 1979 off the coast of South Africa, though there has never been any official acknowledgement and many experts remain skeptical. The Union of Concerned Scientists has said that it believes Israel possesses only fission bombs, rather than the more powerful hydrogen bombs.

    In 1996, negotiations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty were concluded. Although the agreement, which seeks to prohibit nuclear weapon tests, has not been ratified by many nations and has not come into effect, most countries have not conducted nuclear tests since. The exceptions are India, Pakistan and North Korea.

    India conducted five nuclear tests in 1998. Although the tests were said to include a hydrogen bomb, a former coordinator of India's nuclear program said in 2009 that the hydrogen bomb had been a dud and "completely failed to ignite." Pakistan performed nuclear tests in 1998 after India's, but the scale of the tests has been disputed and Pakistan has said that the weapons were fission devices, rather than hydrogen bombs.

    Which leaves North Korea. The country had already conducted three nuclear tests, but it claims that Wednesday's blast was its first involving a hydrogen bomb. Whether it has really joined the small club of countries confirmed to have conducted hydrogen bomb tests remains to be seen.

    Map: The countries believed to have tested hydrogen bombs - The Washington Post
     
  11. cerberus

    cerberus SENIOR MEMBER

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    But that dud is still have large yield of all pakistani test combind
     
  12. Shotgunner51

    Shotgunner51 INT'L MOD

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    Yes these are entirely different league of devices. China detonated its first thermonuclear device (Yu Min Configuration) on 17th June 1967 (behind US/UK, Soviet Union), 32 months after detonating its first fission weapon, with a yield of 3.31 megaton.

    Until 1988, Yu Min's name remains the top state secret of China. He was openly awarded the national top science award in January 2015, almost 48 years after first denotation of his device.

    5fd49a7d4da042ecb975b60464212fda.JPG
    At the award ceremony held in Beijing on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, Yu Min (L) received the State Preeminent Science and Technology Award for 2014 from Chinese President Xi Jinping. [Photo: Xinhua]
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2016
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  13. DavidSling

    DavidSling SENIOR MEMBER

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    In 1986,Mordechai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician, provided explicit details and photographs to the Sunday Times of a nuclear weapons program[21] in which he had been employed for nine years, "including equipment for extracting radioactive material for arms production and laboratory models of thermonuclear devices."
    By 1974 U.S. Intelligence believed Israel had stockpiled a small number of fission weapons,[74] and by 1979 were perhaps in a position to test a more advanced small tactical nuclear weapon or thermonuclear weapon trigger design.[75]

    The CIA believed that the number of Israeli nuclear weapons stayed from 10 to 20 from 1974 until the early 1980s.[3] Vanunu's information in October 1986 said that based on a reactor operating at 150 megawatts and a production of 40 kg of plutonium per year, Israel had 100 to 200 nuclear devices. Vanunu revealed that between 1980 and 1986 Israel attained the ability to build thermonuclear weapons.[76] By the mid 2000s estimates of Israel's arsenal ranged from 75 to 400 nuclear warheads.[3][4]
    The State of Israel has never made public any details of its nuclear capability or arsenal. The following is a history of estimates by many different sources on the size and strength of Israel's nuclear arsenal. Estimates may vary due to the amount of material Israel has on store versus assembled weapons, and estimates as to how much material the weapons actually use, as well as the overall time in which the reactor was operated.

    • 1967 (Six Day War)– 2 bombs;[101][102] 13 bombs[103]
    • 1969– 5–6 bombs of 19 kilotons yield each[104]
    • 1973 (Yom Kippur War)– 13 bombs;[66] 20 nuclear missiles plus developed a suitcase bomb[105]
    • 1974– 3 capable artillery battalions each with 12 175 mm tubes and a total of 108 warheads;[106][107] 10 bombs[108]
    • 1976– 10–20 nuclear weapons[a]
    • 1980– 100–200 bombs[110][111]
    • 1984– 12–31 atomic bombs;[112] 31 plutonium bombs and 10 uranium bombs[113]
    • 1985– at least 100 nuclear bombs[114][115]
    • 1986– 100 to 200 fission bombs and a number of fusion bombs[116]
    • 1991– 50–60 to 200–300[117]
    • 1992– more than 200 bombs[115]
    • 1994– 64–112 bombs (5 kg/warhead);[118] 50 nuclear tipped Jericho missiles, 200 total[119]
    • 1994- 300 nuclear weapons.[120]
    • 1995– 66–116 bombs (at 5 kg/warhead);[118] 70–80 bombs;[121] "A complete Repertoire" (neutron bombs, nuclear mines, suitcase bombs, submarine-borne)[122]
    • 1996– 60–80 plutonium weapons, maybe more than 100 assembled, ER variants, variable yields[123]
    • 1997– More than 400 deliverable thermonuclear and nuclear weapons[4]
    • 2002– Between 75 and 200 weapons[124]
    • 2004– 82[125]
    • 2006– Federation of American Scientists believes that Israel "could have produced enough plutonium for at least 100 nuclear weapons, but probably not significantly more than 200 weapons".[3]
    • 2008– 150 or more nuclear weapons.[126]
    • 2008– 80 intact warheads, of which 50 are re-entry vehicles for delivery by ballistic missiles and the rest bombs for delivery by aircraft. Total military plutonium stockpile 340–560 kg[127]
    • 2009– Estimates of weapon numbers differ sharply with plausible estimates varying from 60 to 400.[128]
    • 2010– According to Jane's Defense Weekly Israel has between 100 and 300 nuclear warheads, most of them are probably being kept in unassembled mode but can become fully functional "in a matter of days".[129]
    • 2010– "More than 100 weapons, mainly two-stage thermonuclear devices, capable of being delivered by missile, fighter-bomber, or submarine"[25]
    • 2014– Approximately 80 nuclear warheads for delivery by two dozen missiles, a couple of squadrons of aircraft, and perhaps a small number of sea-launched cruise missiles.[130]
    • 2014 - "300 or more" nuclear weapons.[92]
     
  14. dadeechi

    dadeechi BANNED

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    No I am not. Any country with technology to build Boosted-fission could build a Hydrogen device. It's just the matter of material and money.

    Khushab Tritium Production Facility | Facilities | NTI
     
  15. Adam WANG SHANGHAI MEGA

    Adam WANG SHANGHAI MEGA SENIOR MEMBER

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    China need only 50 H bombs(5 Mega tons) to eliminate all indians while Indains may need 500 atomic nukes (0.5 Mega tons)to kill all Chineses!
    I think the 50 H bombs are more efficient way!