Hydro bombs are the most terrifying weapon of mass destructive power. The theoretical possibility of obtaining energy through thermonuclear fusion was known before World War II, but it was the war and the subsequent arms race that raised the question of creating a technical device to create this reaction in practice. It is known that in Germany in 1944, work was carried out to initiate thermonuclear fusion by compression of nuclear fuel using conventional explosives, but they were unsuccessful because they could not get the necessary temperatures and pressure to reach the hydrogen bomb explosion. The U.S. and Soviet Union have been developing thermonuclear weapons since the 1940s, almost simultaneously testing the first thermonuclear devices in the early 1950s. In 1952 atoll Eniwetok U.S. detonated a charge of 10.4 megatons, and in 1953 the USSR tested a device with a capacity of 400 kilotons.
The designs of the first thermonuclear devices were poorly suited for actual combat use and could not bring the needed hydrogen bomb effect. For example, the device tested by the USA in 1952 was a ground structure with the height of a two-story house and weighing over 80 tons. The liquid thermonuclear fuel was stored in it using a huge refrigeration unit. Therefore, in the future mass production of thermonuclear weapons was carried out with the use of solid fuel – lithium deuteride-6. In 1954 the U.S. tested a device based on it at Bikini Atoll, and in 1955 at the Semipalatinsk test site, a new Soviet thermonuclear bomb was tested. In 1957, a hydrogen bomb was tested in Great Britain. In October 1961, a 58-megaton thermonuclear bomb, the most powerful bomb ever tested by humanity, went down in history as the Tsar Bomb, exploded on Novaya Zemlya in the USSR. Further, development focused on reducing the size of hydrogen bombs to ensure they could be delivered to their targets by ballistic missiles. Already in the 60s the mass of the devices managed to reduce to several hundred kilograms, and by the ‘70s ballistic missiles could carry more than 10 warheads at a time – a missile with a dividing head part, each part can hit its own target.
The first hydrogen explosion was carried out in the United States in 1952 at Eniwetok Atoll. There, a charge with a power of 10.4 megatons was detonated. However, this device was too big to call it a bomb. The first thermonuclear weapon was rested by the USSR. At that time only the USSR and the U.S. were the countries with hydrogen bombs.
Sixty-eight years ago, on August 12, 1953, the Soviet Union tested its first hydrogen bomb, a terrible weapon that nevertheless played a role in preserving peace. It was based on ideas expressed by the physicist Andrei Sakharov, who later became one of the brightest symbols of the dissident movement in the Soviet Union. The success of the hydrogen bomb followed the success of the atomic bomb, which was tested in the Soviet Union in 1949. But it was impossible to stop – a year later, U.S. President Harry Truman signed a memorandum on the creation of a more powerful and advanced weapon. The “Sakharov Layer.” -was a hydrogen bomb on which prominent Soviet physicists worked. It was called the RDS-6. The country had mastered military technology that seemed unthinkable just a short time ago.
As early as June 1953, Beria, whose power only grew stronger after Stalin’s death, signed a decree on the RDS-6 test program. The bomb was tested at the Semipalatinsk test site – it took place at 7:30 am – a powerful explosion of deafening power was heard from many kilometers away. To assess the hydrogen bomb damage and its destructive power, a city of industrial and administrative buildings was built at the Semipalatinsk test site. The USSR found money to build a new city just to fully destroy everything within a hydrogen bomb radius. The environmental effects of hydrogen bomb were devastating, as no scientist could predict such an effect of this weapon.
To understand a hydrogen bomb, let’s understand the structure of atomic weapons. The principle of the atomic bomb is based on the phenomenon of radioactive decay. But the materials used to build the core of an atomic weapon are not only radioactive, but are also prone to causing a chain reaction.
The nuclei of radioactive elements are quite heavy: they contain many neutrons and protons. But such systems are unstable: the protons in the nucleus are strongly repelled from each other, causing them to decay over time into smaller and more stable fragments. A considerable amount of energy is released as a result of such decay. In some reactions, such as the decay of uranium, neutrons are also produced as a byproduct. It is thanks to these particles, which can acquire a high speed after the decay of the atom, that chain reactions are possible, which are the basis of atomic weapons.
In order to induce a chain reaction, it is necessary to “hit” the uranium atom with a neutron. This produces fission fragments and two neutrons, each of which can also hit the uranium atom. In this way, the number of decays begins to increase exponentially. However, in order to start such a process, it is necessary to reach a critical mass of the material. If the mass of uranium in the atomic charge is less than the critical mass, there will be no explosion. Therefore, several pieces of radioactive material, separated from each other, are placed in the atomic bomb. At the moment of the explosion, the detonating charges push these pieces together, the critical mass is reached and the explosion process begins.
To understand how hydrogen bomb works, we need to study some chemistry. The hydrogen bomb uses a nuclear fusion reaction instead of radioactive decay. The atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier element. A huge amount of energy is released as a byproduct, much more than in nuclear fission. However, in order to carry out such a fusion, the substance must be compressed so that the nuclei of its atoms literally “enter” into each other. Hydrogen bombs use nuclear charges for this purpose. At the moment of the explosion, they compress and heat the deuterium in the bomb’s core so that a fusion reaction takes place. This makes the explosion power of a thermonuclear weapon more than five times greater than that of an atomic bomb and increases the area of radioactive fallout by a factor of 5 to 10. That is the answer to the question of how strong is a hydrogen bomb in comparison with an atomic one. Another interesting fact, that the hydrogen bomb range is from 150 kilotons to almost 1.5 megatons.
The most dangerous consequence of the explosion will, of course, be the hydrogen bomb radiation. The decay of heavy elements in the raging vortex of fire will fill the atmosphere with tiny particles of radioactive dust – so light that when it enters the atmosphere it can circle the globe two or three times and only then fall out as precipitation. Thus, a single bomb blast of 100 megatons could have consequences for the entire planet.
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