Nuclear weapon

A nuclear weapon (also called an atom bomb, nuke, atomic bomb, nuclear warhead, A-bomb, or nuclear bomb) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission (fission bomb) or from a combination of fission and fusion reactions (thermonuclear bomb). Both bomb types release large quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first test of a fission ("atomic") bomb released an amount of energy approximately equal to 20,000 tons of TNT (84 TJ).[1] The first thermonuclear ("hydrogen") bomb test released energy approximately equal to 10 million tons of TNT (42 PJ). A thermonuclear weapon weighing little more than 2,400 pounds (1,100 kg) can release energy equal to more than 1.2 million tons of TNT (5.0 PJ).[2] A nuclear device no larger than traditional bombs can devastate an entire city by blast, fire, and radiation. Since they are weapons of mass destruction, the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a focus of international relations policy.

Nuclear weapons have been used twice in war, both times by the United States against Japan near the end of World War II. On August 6, 1945, the U.S. Army Air Forces detonated a uranium gun-type fission bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" over the Japanese city of Hiroshima; three days later, on August 9, the U.S. Army Air Forces detonated a plutonium implosion-type fission bomb nicknamed "Fat Man" over the Japanese city of Nagasaki. These bombings caused injuries that resulted in the deaths of approximately 200,000 civilians and military personnel.[3] The ethics of these bombings and their role in Japan's surrender are subjects of debate.

Since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons have been detonated over two thousand times for testing and demonstration. Only a few nations possess such weapons or are suspected of seeking them. The only countries known to have detonated nuclear weapons—and acknowledge possessing them—are (chronologically by date of first test) the United States, the Soviet Union (succeeded as a nuclear power by Russia), the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel is believed to possess nuclear weapons, though, in a policy of deliberate ambiguity, it does not acknowledge having them. Germany, Italy, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands are nuclear weapons sharing states.[4][5][6] South Africa is the only country to have independently developed and then renounced and dismantled its nuclear weapons.[7]

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons aims to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons, but its effectiveness has been questioned, and political tensions remained high in the 1970s and 1980s. Modernisation of weapons continues to this day.[8]

Nagasakibomb
The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, rose some 11 mi (18 km) above the bomb's hypocenter.

Types

Trinity Detonation T&B
The Trinity test of the Manhattan Project was the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, which led J. Robert Oppenheimer to recall verses from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita: "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one "... "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds".[9]

There are two basic types of nuclear weapons: those that derive the majority of their energy from nuclear fission reactions alone, and those that use fission reactions to begin nuclear fusion reactions that produce a large amount of the total energy output.[10]

Fission weapons

Fission bomb assembly methods
The two basic fission weapon designs

All existing nuclear weapons derive some of their explosive energy from nuclear fission reactions. Weapons whose explosive output is exclusively from fission reactions are commonly referred to as atomic bombs or atom bombs (abbreviated as A-bombs). This has long been noted as something of a misnomer, as their energy comes from the nucleus of the atom, just as it does with fusion weapons.

In fission weapons, a mass of fissile material (enriched uranium or plutonium) is forced into supercriticality—allowing an exponential growth of nuclear chain reactions—either by shooting one piece of sub-critical material into another (the "gun" method) or by compression of a sub-critical sphere or cylinder of fissile material using chemically-fueled explosive lenses. The latter approach, the "implosion" method, is more sophisticated than the former.

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 amount of energy released by fission bombs can range from the equivalent of just under a ton to upwards of 500,000 tons (500 kilotons) of TNT (4.2 to 2.1×108 GJ).[11]

All fission reactions generate fission products, the remains of the split atomic nuclei. Many fission products are either highly radioactive (but short-lived) or moderately radioactive (but long-lived), and as such, they are a serious form of radioactive contamination. Fission products are the principal radioactive component of nuclear fallout. Another source of radioactivity is the burst of free neutrons produced by the weapon. When they collide with other nuclei in surrounding material, the neutrons transmute those nuclei into other isotopes, altering their stability and making them radioactive.

The most commonly used fissile materials for nuclear weapons applications have been uranium-235 and plutonium-239. Less commonly used has been uranium-233. Neptunium-237 and some isotopes of americium may be usable for nuclear explosives as well, but it is not clear that this has ever been implemented, and their plausible use in nuclear weapons is a matter of dispute.[12]

Fusion weapons

Teller-Ulam device 3D
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.

The other basic type of nuclear weapon produces a large proportion of its energy in nuclear fusion reactions. Such fusion weapons are generally referred to as thermonuclear weapons or more colloquially as hydrogen bombs (abbreviated as H-bombs), as they rely on fusion reactions between isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium). All such weapons derive a significant portion of their energy from fission reactions used to "trigger" fusion reactions, and fusion reactions can themselves trigger additional fission reactions.[13]

Only six countries—United States, Russia, United Kingdom, China, France, and India—have conducted thermonuclear weapon tests. (Whether India has detonated a "true" multi-staged thermonuclear weapon is controversial.)[14] North Korea claims to have tested a fusion weapon as of January 2016, though this claim is disputed.[15] Thermonuclear weapons are considered much more difficult to successfully design and execute than primitive fission weapons. Almost all of the nuclear weapons deployed today use the thermonuclear design because it is more efficient.

Thermonuclear bombs work by using the energy of a fission bomb to compress and heat fusion fuel. In the Teller-Ulam design, which accounts for all multi-megaton yield hydrogen bombs, this is accomplished by placing a fission bomb and fusion fuel (tritium, deuterium, or lithium deuteride) in proximity within a special, radiation-reflecting container. When the fission bomb is detonated, gamma rays and X-rays emitted first compress the fusion fuel, then heat it to thermonuclear temperatures. The ensuing fusion reaction creates enormous numbers of high-speed neutrons, which can then induce fission in materials not normally prone to it, such as depleted uranium. Each of these components is known as a "stage", with the fission bomb as the "primary" and the fusion capsule as the "secondary". In large, megaton-range hydrogen bombs, about half of the yield comes from the final fissioning of depleted uranium.[11]

Virtually all thermonuclear weapons deployed today use the "two-stage" design described above, but it is possible to add additional fusion stages—each stage igniting a larger amount of fusion fuel in the next stage. This technique can be used to construct thermonuclear weapons of arbitrarily large yield, in contrast to fission bombs, which are limited in their explosive force. The largest nuclear weapon ever detonated, the Tsar Bomba of the USSR, which released an energy equivalent of over 50 megatons of TNT (210 PJ), was a three-stage weapon. Most thermonuclear weapons are considerably smaller than this, due to practical constraints from missile warhead space and weight requirements.[16]

Edward Teller (1958)-LLNL
Edward Teller, often referred to as the "father of the hydrogen bomb"

Fusion reactions do not create fission products, and thus contribute far less to the creation of nuclear fallout than fission reactions, but because all thermonuclear weapons contain at least one fission stage, and many high-yield thermonuclear devices have a final fission stage, thermonuclear weapons can generate at least as much nuclear fallout as fission-only weapons.

Other types

There are other types of nuclear weapons as well. For example, a boosted fission weapon is a fission bomb that increases its explosive yield through a small number of fusion reactions, but it is not a fusion bomb. In the boosted bomb, the neutrons produced by the fusion reactions serve primarily to increase the efficiency of the fission bomb. There are two types of boosted fission bomb: internally boosted, in which a deuterium-tritium mixture is injected into the bomb core, and externally boosted, in which concentric shells of lithium-deuteride and depleted uranium are layered on the outside of the fission bomb core.

Some nuclear weapons are designed for special purposes; a neutron bomb is a thermonuclear weapon that yields a relatively small explosion but a relatively large amount of neutron radiation; such a device could theoretically be used to cause massive casualties while leaving infrastructure mostly intact and creating a minimal amount of fallout. The detonation of any nuclear weapon is accompanied by a blast of neutron radiation. Surrounding a nuclear weapon with suitable materials (such as cobalt or gold) creates a weapon known as a salted bomb. This device can produce exceptionally large quantities of long-lived radioactive contamination. It has been conjectured that such a device could serve as a "doomsday weapon" because such a large quantity of radioactivities with half-lives of decades, lifted into the stratosphere where winds would distribute it around the globe, would make all life on the planet extinct.

In connection with the Strategic Defense Initiative, research into the nuclear pumped laser was conducted under the DOD program Project Excalibur but this did not result in a working weapon. The concept involves the tapping of the energy of an exploding nuclear bomb to power a single-shot laser which is directed at a distant target.

During the Starfish Prime high-altitude nuclear test in 1962, an unexpected effect was produced which is called a nuclear electromagnetic pulse. This is an intense flash of electromagnetic energy produced by a rain of high energy electrons which in turn are produced by a nuclear bomb's gamma rays. This flash of energy can permanently destroy or disrupt electronic equipment if insufficiently shielded. It has been proposed to use this effect to disable an enemy's military and civilian infrastructure as an adjunct to other nuclear or conventional military operations against that enemy. Because the effect is produced by high altitude nuclear detonations, it can produce damage to electronics over a wide, even continental, geographical area.

Research has been done into the possibility of pure fusion bombs: nuclear weapons that consist of fusion reactions without requiring a fission bomb to initiate them. Such a device might provide a simpler path to thermonuclear weapons than one that required development of fission weapons first, and pure fusion weapons would create significantly less nuclear fallout than other thermonuclear weapons, because they would not disperse fission products. In 1998, the United States Department of Energy divulged that the United States had, "...made a substantial investment" in the past to develop pure fusion weapons, but that, "The U.S. does not have and is not developing a pure fusion weapon", and that, "No credible design for a pure fusion weapon resulted from the DOE investment".[17]

Antimatter, which consists of particles resembling ordinary matter particles in most of their properties but having opposite electric charge, has been considered as a trigger mechanism for nuclear weapons.[18][19][20] A major obstacle is the difficulty of producing antimatter in large enough quantities, and there is no evidence that it is feasible beyond the military domain.[21] However, the U.S. Air Force funded studies of the physics of antimatter in the Cold War, and began considering its possible use in weapons, not just as a trigger, but as the explosive itself.[22] A fourth generation nuclear weapon design[18] is related to, and relies upon, the same principle as antimatter-catalyzed nuclear pulse propulsion.[23]

Most variation in nuclear weapon design is for the purpose of achieving different yields for different situations, and in manipulating design elements to attempt to minimize weapon size.[11]

Weapons delivery

Fat man
The first nuclear weapons were gravity bombs, such as this "Fat Man" weapon dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. They were large and could only be delivered by heavy bomber aircraft
Dnepr rocket lift-off 1
A demilitarized, commercial launch of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces R-36 ICBM; also known by the NATO reporting name: SS-18 Satan. Upon its first fielding in the late 1960s, the SS-18 remains the single highest throw weight missile delivery system ever built.

The system used to deliver a nuclear weapon to its target is an important factor affecting both nuclear weapon design and nuclear strategy. The design, development, and maintenance of delivery systems are among the most expensive parts of a nuclear weapons program; they account, for example, for 57% of the financial resources spent by the United States on nuclear weapons projects since 1940.[24]

The simplest method for delivering a nuclear weapon is a gravity bomb dropped from aircraft; this was the method used by the United States against Japan. This method places few restrictions on the size of the weapon. It does, however, limit attack range, response time to an impending attack, and the number of weapons that a country can field at the same time. With miniaturization, nuclear bombs can be delivered by both strategic bombers and tactical fighter-bombers. This method is the primary means of nuclear weapons delivery; the majority of U.S. nuclear warheads, for example, are free-fall gravity bombs, namely the B61.[11]

Trident C-4 montage
Montage of an inert test of a United States Trident SLBM (submarine launched ballistic missile), from submerged to the terminal, or re-entry phase, of the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles

More preferable from a strategic point of view is a nuclear weapon mounted on a missile, which can use a ballistic trajectory to deliver the warhead over the horizon. Although even short-range missiles allow for a faster and less vulnerable 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.

More advanced systems, such as multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), can launch multiple warheads at different targets from one missile, reducing the chance of a successful missile defense. Today, missiles are most common among systems designed for delivery of nuclear weapons. Making a warhead small enough to fit onto a missile, though, can be difficult.[11]

Tactical weapons have involved the most variety of delivery types, including not only gravity bombs and missiles but also artillery shells, land mines, and nuclear depth charges and torpedoes for anti-submarine warfare. An atomic mortar has been tested by the United States. Small, two-man portable tactical weapons (somewhat misleadingly referred to as suitcase bombs), such as the Special Atomic Demolition Munition, have been developed, although the difficulty of combining sufficient yield with portability limits their military utility.[11]

Nuclear strategy

Nuclear warfare strategy is a set of policies that deal with preventing or fighting a nuclear war. 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. 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 destroy an enemy's nuclear forces before they could retaliate). During the Cold War, policy and military theorists considered the sorts of policies that might prevent a nuclear attack, and they developed game theory models that could lead to stable deterrence conditions.[25]

W87 MX Missile schematic
The now decommissioned United States' Peacekeeper missile was an ICBM developed to replace the Minuteman missile in the late 1980s. Each missile, like the heavier lift Russian SS-18 Satan, could contain up to ten nuclear warheads (shown in red), each of which could be aimed at a different target. A factor in the development of MIRVs was to make complete missile defense difficult for an enemy country.

Different forms of nuclear weapons delivery (see above) allow for different types of nuclear strategies. 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. This can mean keeping weapon locations hidden, such as deploying them on submarines or land mobile transporter erector launchers whose locations are difficult to track, or it can mean protecting weapons by burying them in hardened missile silo bunkers. Other components of nuclear strategies included using missile defenses to destroy the missiles before they land, or implementing civil defense measures using early-warning systems to evacuate citizens to safe areas before an attack.

Weapons designed to threaten large populations or to deter attacks are known as strategic weapons. Nuclear weapons for use on a battlefield in military situations are called tactical weapons.

Critics of nuclear war strategy often suggest that a nuclear war between two nations would result in mutual annihilation. From this point of view, the significance of nuclear weapons is to deter war because any nuclear war would escalate out of mutual distrust and fear, resulting in mutually assured destruction. This threat of national, if not global, destruction has been a strong motivation for anti-nuclear weapons activism.

Critics from the peace movement and within the military establishment have questioned the usefulness of such weapons in the current military climate. According to an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in 1996, the use of (or threat of use of) such weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, but the court did not reach an opinion as to whether or not the threat or use would be lawful in specific extreme circumstances such as if the survival of the state were at stake.

Another deterrence position is that nuclear proliferation can be desirable. In this case, it is argued that, unlike conventional weapons, nuclear weapons deter all-out war between states, and they succeeded in doing this during the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.[26] In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Gen. Pierre Marie Gallois of France, an adviser to Charles de Gaulle, argued in books like The Balance of Terror: Strategy for the Nuclear Age (1961) that mere possession of a nuclear arsenal was enough to ensure deterrence, and thus concluded that the spread of nuclear weapons could increase international stability. Some prominent neo-realist scholars, such as Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer, have argued, along the lines of Gallois, that some forms of nuclear proliferation would decrease the likelihood of total war, especially in troubled regions of the world where there exists a single nuclear-weapon state. Aside from the public opinion that opposes proliferation in any form, there are two schools of thought on the matter: those, like Mearsheimer, who favored selective proliferation,[27] and Waltz, who was somewhat more non-interventionist.[28][29] Interest in proliferation and the stability-instability paradox that it generates continues to this day, with ongoing debate about indigenous Japanese and South Korean nuclear deterrent against North Korea.[30]

The threat of potentially suicidal terrorists possessing nuclear weapons (a form of nuclear terrorism) complicates the decision process. The prospect of mutually assured destruction might not deter an enemy who expects to die in the confrontation. Further, if the initial act is from a stateless terrorist instead of a sovereign nation, there might not be a nation or specific target to retaliate against. It has been argued, especially after the September 11, 2001 attacks, that this complication calls for a new nuclear strategy, one that is distinct from that which gave relative stability during the Cold War.[31] Since 1996, the United States has had a policy of allowing the targeting of its nuclear weapons at terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction.[32]

Robert Gallucci argues that although traditional deterrence is not an effective approach toward terrorist groups bent on causing a nuclear catastrophe, Gallucci believes that "the United States should instead consider a policy of expanded deterrence, which focuses not solely on the would-be nuclear terrorists but on those states that may deliberately transfer or inadvertently leak nuclear weapons and materials to them. By threatening retaliation against those states, the United States may be able to deter that which it cannot physically prevent.".[33]

Graham Allison makes a similar case, arguing that the key to expanded deterrence is coming up with ways of tracing nuclear material to the country that forged the fissile material. "After a nuclear bomb detonates, nuclear forensics cops would collect debris samples and send them to a laboratory for radiological analysis. By identifying unique attributes of the fissile material, including its impurities and contaminants, one could trace the path back to its origin."[34] The process is analogous to identifying a criminal by fingerprints. "The goal would be twofold: first, to deter leaders of nuclear states from selling weapons to terrorists by holding them accountable for any use of their weapons; second, to give leaders every incentive to tightly secure their nuclear weapons and materials."[34]

Governance, control, and law

Flag of IAEA
The International Atomic Energy Agency was created in 1957 to encourage peaceful development of nuclear technology while providing international safeguards against nuclear proliferation.

Because they are weapons of mass destruction, the proliferation and possible use of nuclear weapons are important issues in international relations and diplomacy. In most countries, the use of nuclear force can only be authorized by the head of government or head of state.[35] Despite controls and regulations governing nuclear weapons, there is an inherent danger of "accidents, mistakes, false alarms, blackmail, theft, and sabotage".[36]

In the late 1940s, lack of mutual trust prevented the United States and the Soviet Union from making progress on arms control agreements. The Russell–Einstein Manifesto was issued in London on July 9, 1955, by Bertrand Russell in the midst of the Cold War. It highlighted the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and called for world leaders to seek peaceful resolutions to international conflict. The signatories included eleven pre-eminent intellectuals and scientists, including Albert Einstein, who signed it just days before his death on April 18, 1955. A few days after the release, philanthropist Cyrus S. Eaton offered to sponsor a conference—called for in the manifesto—in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Eaton's birthplace. This conference was to be the first of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, held in July 1957.

By the 1960s, steps were taken to limit both the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries and the environmental effects of nuclear testing. The Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963) restricted all nuclear testing to underground nuclear testing, to prevent contamination from nuclear fallout, whereas the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968) attempted to place restrictions on the types of activities signatories could participate in, with the goal of allowing the transference of non-military nuclear technology to member countries without fear of proliferation.

In 1957, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established under the mandate of the United Nations to encourage development of peaceful applications of nuclear technology, provide international safeguards against its misuse, and facilitate the application of safety measures in its use. In 1996, many nations signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty,[37] which prohibits all testing of nuclear weapons. A testing ban imposes a significant hindrance to nuclear arms development by any complying country.[38] The Treaty requires the ratification by 44 specific states before it can go into force; as of 2012, the ratification of eight of these states is still required.[37]

Additional treaties and agreements have governed nuclear weapons stockpiles between the countries with the two largest stockpiles, the United States and the Soviet Union, and later between the United States and Russia. These include treaties such as SALT II (never ratified), START I (expired), INF, START II (never ratified), SORT, and New START, as well as non-binding agreements such as SALT I and the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives[39] of 1991. Even when they did not enter into force, these agreements helped limit and later reduce the numbers and types of nuclear weapons between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia.

Nuclear weapons have also been opposed by agreements between countries. Many nations have been declared Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones, areas where nuclear weapons production and deployment are prohibited, through the use of treaties. The Treaty of Tlatelolco (1967) prohibited any production or deployment of nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Treaty of Pelindaba (1964) prohibits nuclear weapons in many African countries. As recently as 2006 a Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone was established among the former Soviet republics of Central Asia prohibiting nuclear weapons.

In 1996, the International Court of Justice, the highest court of the United Nations, issued an Advisory Opinion concerned with the "Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons". The court ruled that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would violate various articles of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions, the UN Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Given the unique, destructive characteristics of nuclear weapons, the International Committee of the Red Cross calls on States to ensure that these weapons are never used, irrespective of whether they consider them lawful or not.[40]

Additionally, there have been other, specific actions meant to discourage countries from developing nuclear arms. In the wake of the tests by India and Pakistan in 1998, economic sanctions were (temporarily) levied against both countries, though neither were signatories with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 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). In 1981, Israel had bombed a nuclear reactor being constructed in Osirak, Iraq, in what it called an attempt to halt Iraq's previous nuclear arms ambitions; in 2007, Israel bombed another reactor being constructed in Syria.

In 2013, Mark Diesendorf said that governments of France, India, North Korea, Pakistan, UK, and South Africa have used nuclear power and/or research reactors to assist nuclear weapons development or to contribute to their supplies of nuclear explosives from military reactors.[41]

Disarmament

US and USSR nuclear stockpiles
The USSR and United States nuclear weapon stockpiles throughout the Cold War until 2015, with a precipitous drop in total numbers following the end of the Cold War in 1991.

Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-free world, in which nuclear weapons are eliminated.

Beginning with the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty and continuing through the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, there have been many treaties to limit or reduce nuclear weapons testing and stockpiles. The 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has as one of its explicit conditions that all signatories must "pursue negotiations in good faith" towards the long-term goal of "complete disarmament". The nuclear weapon states have largely treated that aspect of the agreement as "decorative" and without force.[42]

Only one country—South Africa—has ever fully renounced nuclear weapons they had independently developed. The former Soviet republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine returned Soviet nuclear arms stationed in their countries to Russia after the collapse of the USSR.

Proponents of nuclear disarmament say that it would lessen the probability of nuclear war, especially accidentally. Critics of nuclear disarmament say that it would undermine the present nuclear peace and deterrence and would lead to increased global instability. Various American elder statesmen,[43] who were in office during the Cold War period, have been advocating the elimination of nuclear weapons. These officials include Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, and William Perry. In January 2010, Lawrence M. Krauss stated that "no issue carries more importance to the long-term health and security of humanity than the effort to reduce, and perhaps one day, rid the world of nuclear weapons".[44]

SS-24 silo destruction
Ukrainian workers use equipment provided by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency to dismantle a Soviet-era missile silo. After the end of the Cold War, Ukraine and the other non-Russian, post-Soviet republics relinquished Soviet nuclear stockpiles to Russia.

In the years after the end of the Cold War, there have been numerous campaigns to urge the abolition of nuclear weapons, such as that organized by the Global Zero movement, and the goal of a "world without nuclear weapons" was advocated by United States President Barack Obama in an April 2009 speech in Prague.[45] A CNN poll from April 2010 indicated that the American public was nearly evenly split on the issue.[46]

Some analysts have argued that nuclear weapons have made the world relatively safer, with peace through deterrence and through the stability–instability paradox, including in south Asia.[47][48] Kenneth Waltz has argued that nuclear weapons have helped keep an uneasy peace, and further nuclear weapon proliferation might even help avoid the large scale conventional wars that were so common before their invention at the end of World War II.[29] But former Secretary Henry Kissinger says there is a new danger, which cannot be addressed by deterrence: "The classical notion of deterrence was that there was some consequences before which aggressors and evildoers would recoil. In a world of suicide bombers, that calculation doesn’t operate in any comparable way".[49] George Shultz has said, "If you think of the people who are doing suicide attacks, and people like that get a nuclear weapon, they are almost by definition not deterrable".[50]

United Nations

The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) is a department of the United Nations Secretariat established in January 1998 as part of the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan to reform the UN as presented in his report to the General Assembly in July 1997.[51]

Its goal is to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and the strengthening of the disarmament regimes in respect to other weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological weapons. It also promotes disarmament efforts in the area of conventional weapons, especially land mines and small arms, which are often the weapons of choice in contemporary conflicts.

Controversy

Ethics

Even before the first nuclear weapons had been developed, scientists involved with the Manhattan Project were divided over the use of the weapon. The role of the two atomic bombings of the country in Japan's surrender and the U.S.'s ethical justification for them has been the subject of scholarly and popular debate for decades. The question of whether nations should have nuclear weapons, or test them, has been continually and nearly universally controversial.[52]

Notable nuclear weapons accidents

Nuclear testing and fallout

Rael Nuclear use locations world map
Over 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted in over a dozen different sites around the world. Red Russia/Soviet Union, blue France, light blue United States, violet Britain, black Israel, yellow China, orange India, brown Pakistan, green North Korea and light green (territories exposed to nuclear bombs)
NNSA-NSO-787
This view of downtown Las Vegas shows a mushroom cloud in the background. Scenes such as this were typical during the 1950s. From 1951 to 1962 the government conducted 100 atmospheric tests at the nearby Nevada Test Site.

Over 500 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests were conducted at various sites around the world from 1945 to 1980. 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.[65] One of the fishermen died in Japan seven months later, and the fear of contaminated tuna led to a temporary boycotting of the popular staple in Japan. The incident caused widespread concern around the world, especially regarding the effects of nuclear fallout and atmospheric nuclear testing, and "provided a decisive impetus for the emergence of the anti-nuclear weapons movement in many countries".[65]

As public awareness and concern mounted over the possible health hazards associated with exposure to the nuclear fallout, various studies were done to assess the extent of the hazard. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ National Cancer Institute study claims that fallout from atmospheric nuclear tests would lead to perhaps 11,000 excess deaths among people alive during atmospheric testing in the United States from all forms of cancer, including leukemia, from 1951 to well into the 21st century.[66][67] As of March 2009, the U.S. is the only nation that compensates nuclear test victims. Since the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990, more than $1.38 billion in compensation has been approved. The money is going to people who took part in the tests, notably at the Nevada Test Site, and to others exposed to the radiation.[68][69]

In addition, leakage of byproducts of nuclear weapon production into groundwater has been an ongoing issue, particularly at the Hanford site.[70]

Effects of nuclear explosions

Effects of nuclear explosions on human health

Some scientists estimate that a nuclear war with 100 Hiroshima-size nuclear explosions on cities could cost the lives of tens of millions of people from long term climatic effects alone. The climatology hypothesis is that if each city firestorms, a great deal of soot could be thrown up into the atmosphere which could blanket the earth, cutting out sunlight for years on end, causing the disruption of food chains, in what is termed a nuclear winter.[71][72]

People near the Hiroshima explosion and who managed to survive the explosion subsequently suffered a variety of medical effects:[73]

  • Initial stage—the first 1–9 weeks, in which are the greatest number of deaths, with 90% due to thermal injury and/or blast effects and 10% due to super-lethal radiation exposure.
  • Intermediate stage—from 10–12 weeks. The deaths in this period are from ionizing radiation in the median lethal range – LD50
  • Late period—lasting from 13–20 weeks. This period has some improvement in survivors' condition.
  • Delayed period—from 20+ weeks. Characterized by numerous complications, mostly related to healing of thermal and mechanical injuries, and if the individual was exposed to a few hundred to a thousand millisieverts of radiation, it is coupled with infertility, sub-fertility and blood disorders. Furthermore, ionizing radiation above a dose of around 50–100 millisievert exposure has been shown to statistically begin increasing one's chance of dying of cancer sometime in their lifetime over the normal unexposed rate of ~25%, in the long term, a heightened rate of cancer, proportional to the dose received, would begin to be observed after ~5+ years, with lesser problems such as eye cataracts and other more minor effects in other organs and tissue also being observed over the long term.

Fallout exposure – Depending on if further afield individuals shelter in place or evacuate perpendicular to the direction of the wind, and therefore avoid contact with the fallout plume, and stay there for the days and weeks after the nuclear explosion, their exposure to fallout, and therefore their total dose, will vary. With those who do shelter in place, and or evacuate, experiencing a total dose that would be negligible in comparison to someone who just went about their life as normal.[74][75]

Staying indoors until after the most hazardous fallout isotope, I-131 decays away to 0.1% of its initial quantity after ten half lifes – which is represented by 80 days in I-131s case, would make the difference between likely contracting Thyroid cancer or escaping completely from this substance depending on the actions of the individual.[76]

Public opposition

Essais nucleaires manif
Demonstration against nuclear testing in Lyon, France, in the 1980s.

Peace movements emerged in Japan and in 1954 they converged to form a unified "Japanese Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs". Japanese opposition to nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific Ocean was widespread, and "an estimated 35 million signatures were collected on petitions calling for bans on nuclear weapons".[77]

In the United Kingdom, the first Aldermaston March organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament(CND) took place at Easter 1958, when, according to the CND, several thousand people marched for four days from Trafalgar Square, London, to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment close to Aldermaston in Berkshire, England, to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons.[78][79] The Aldermaston marches continued into the late 1960s when tens of thousands of people took part in the four-day marches.[77]

In 1959, a letter in the Bulletin of the 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.[80] In 1962, Linus Pauling won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to stop the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, and the "Ban the Bomb" movement spread.[52]

In 1963, many countries ratified the Partial Test Ban Treaty prohibiting atmospheric nuclear testing. Radioactive fallout became less of an issue and the anti-nuclear weapons movement went into decline for some years.[65][81] A resurgence of interest occurred amid European and American fears of nuclear war in the 1980s.[82]

Costs and technology spin-offs

According to an audit by the Brookings Institution, between 1940 and 1996, the U.S. spent $9.3 trillion in present-day terms[83] on nuclear weapons programs. 57 percent of which was spent on building nuclear weapons delivery systems. 6.3 percent of the total, $583 billion in present-day terms, was spent on environmental remediation and nuclear waste management, for example cleaning up the Hanford site, and 7 percent of the total, $653 billion was spent on making nuclear weapons themselves.[84]

Non-weapons uses

Peaceful nuclear explosions are nuclear explosions conducted for non-military purposes, such as activities related to economic development including the creation of canals. During the 1960s and 1970s, both the United States and the Soviet Union conducted a number of PNEs. Six of the explosions by the Soviet Union are considered to have been of an applied nature, not just tests.

Subsequently, the United States and the Soviet Union halted their programs. Definitions and limits are covered in the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty of 1976.[85][86] The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty of 1996, once it enters into force, will prohibit all nuclear explosions, regardless of whether they are for peaceful purposes or not.[87]

See also

References

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Bibliography

Further reading

External links

60th parallel south

The 60th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 60 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. No land lies on the parallel — it crosses nothing but ocean. The closest land is a group of rocks north of Coronation Island (Melson Rocks or Governor Islands) of the South Orkney Islands, which are about 54 km south of the parallel, and Thule Island and Cook Island of the South Sandwich Islands, which both are about 57 km north of the parallel (Thule island slightly closer).

The parallel marks the northern limit of the Southern Ocean (though some organisations and countries, notably Australia, have other definitions) and of the Antarctic Treaty System. It also marks the southern boundary of the South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and the Latin American Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.

At this latitude the sun is visible for 18 hours, 52 minutes during the summer solstice and 5 hours, 52 minutes during the winter solstice. On December 21, the sun is at 53.83 degrees up in the sky and 6.17 degrees on June 21.

The latitudes south of this parallel are often referred to as the Screaming 60s due to the prevailing high-speed, westerly winds which can generate large waves in excess of 15 m (50 ft) and peak wind speeds over 145 km/h (90 mph).

Critical mass

A critical mass is the smallest amount of fissile material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction. The critical mass of a fissionable material depends upon its nuclear properties (specifically, the nuclear fission cross-section), its density, its shape, its enrichment, its purity, its temperature, and its surroundings. The concept is important in nuclear weapon design.

Effects of nuclear explosions

The effects of a nuclear explosion on its immediate vicinity are typically much more destructive and multifaceted than those caused by conventional explosives. In most cases, the energy released from a nuclear weapon detonated within the troposphere can be approximately divided into four basic categories:

the blast itself: 40–50% of total energy

thermal radiation: 30–50% of total energy

ionizing radiation: 5% of total energy (more in a neutron bomb)

residual radiation: 5–10% of total energy with the mass of the explosionDepending on the design of the weapon and the location in which it is detonated, the energy distributed to any one of these categories may be significantly higher or lower. The blast effect is created by the coupling of immense amounts of energy, spanning the electromagnetic spectrum, with the surroundings. The environment of the explosion (e.g. submarine, ground burst, air burst, or exo-atmospheric) determines how much energy is distributed to the blast and how much to radiation. In general, surrounding a bomb with denser media, such as water, absorbs more energy and creates more powerful shockwaves while at the same time limiting the area of its effect. When a nuclear weapon is surrounded only by air, lethal blast and thermal effects proportionally scale much more rapidly than lethal radiation effects as explosive yield increases. The physical-damage mechanisms of a nuclear weapon (blast and thermal radiation) are identical to those of conventional explosives, but the energy produced by a nuclear explosion is usually millions of times more powerful per unit mass and temperatures may briefly reach the tens of millions of degrees.

Energy from a nuclear explosion is initially released in several forms of penetrating radiation. When there is a surrounding material such as air, rock, or water, this radiation interacts with and rapidly heats the material to an equilibrium temperature (i.e. so that the matter is at the same temperature as the fuel powering the explosion). This causes vaporization of the surrounding material, resulting in its rapid expansion. Kinetic energy created by this expansion contributes to the formation of a shockwave. When a nuclear detonation occurs in air near sea level, much of the released energy interacts with the atmosphere and creates a shockwave which expands spherically from the center. Intense thermal radiation at the hypocenter forms a nuclear fireball which, if the burst is low enough, is often associated with a mushroom cloud. In a high-altitude burst, where the density of the atmosphere is low, more energy is released as ionizing gamma radiation and X-rays than as an atmosphere-displacing shockwave.

In 1942, there was some initial speculation among the scientists developing the first nuclear weapons that a large enough nuclear explosion might ignite the Earth's atmosphere. This notion concerned the nuclear reaction of two atmospheric nitrogen atoms forming a carbon and an oxygen atom, with an associated release of energy. The scientists hypothesized that this energy would heat up the remaining atmospheric nitrogen enough to keep the reaction going until all nitrogen atoms were consumed, thereby burning all of the Earth's atmosphere (which is composed of nearly 80% diatomic nitrogen) in one single massive combustion event. Hans Bethe was assigned the task of studying this hypothesis in the very early days, and eventually concluded that combustion of the entire atmosphere was not possible: the cooling of the fireball due to an inverse Compton effect all but guaranteed that such a scenario would not become a reality. Richard Hamming, a mathematician, was asked to make a similar calculation just before Trinity, with the same result. Nevertheless, the notion has persisted as a rumor for many years and was the source of gallows humor at the Trinity test.

Fissile material

In nuclear engineering, fissile material is material capable of sustaining a nuclear fission chain reaction. By definition, fissile material can sustain a chain reaction with neutrons of thermal energy. The predominant neutron energy may be typified by either slow neutrons (i.e., a thermal system) or fast neutrons. Fissile material can be used to fuel thermal-neutron reactors, fast-neutron reactors and nuclear explosives.

Gun-type fission weapon

Gun-type fission weapons are fission-based nuclear weapons whose design assembles their fissile material into a supercritical mass by the use of the "gun" method: shooting one piece of sub-critical material into another. Although this is sometimes pictured as two sub-critical hemispheres driven together to make a supercritical sphere, typically a hollow projectile is shot onto a spike which fills the hole in its center. Its name is a reference to the fact that it is shooting the material through an artillery barrel as if it were a projectile. Other potential arrangements may include firing two pieces into each other simultaneously, though whether this approach has been used in actual weapons designs is unknown.

Since it is a relatively slow method of assembly, plutonium cannot be used unless it is purely the 239 isotope. Production of impurity-free plutonium is very difficult and is impractical. The required amount of uranium is relatively large, and thus the overall efficiency is relatively low.

The method was applied in four known programs. First, the "Little Boy" weapon which was detonated over Hiroshima and several additional units of the same design prepared after World War II, in 40 Mark 8 bombs, and their replacement, 40 Mark 11 bombs. Both the Mark 8 and Mark 11 designs were intended for use as earth-penetrating bombs (see nuclear bunker buster), for which the gun-type method was preferred for a time by designers who were less than certain that early implosion-type weapons would successfully detonate following an impact. The second program was a family of 11-inch nuclear artillery shells, the W9 and its derivative W19, plus a repackaged W19 in a 16-inch shell for US Navy battleships, the W23. The third family was an 8-inch artillery shell, the W33. Later, South Africa also developed six nuclear bombs based on the gun-type principle, and was working on missile warheads using the same basic design – See South Africa and weapons of mass destruction.

There are currently no known gun-type weapons in service: advanced nuclear weapon states tended to abandon the design in favor of the implosion-type weapons, boosted fission weapons, and thermonuclear weapons. New nuclear weapon states tend to develop boosted fission and thermonuclear weapons only. All known gun-type nuclear weapons previously built worldwide have been dismantled.

List of states with nuclear weapons

Eight sovereign states have publicly announced successful detonation of nuclear weapons. Five are considered to be nuclear-weapon states (NWS) under the terms of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In order of acquisition of nuclear weapons these are: the United States, Russia (the successor state to the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, France, and China.

Since the NPT entered into force in 1970, three states that were not parties to the Treaty have conducted overt nuclear tests, namely India, Pakistan, and North Korea. North Korea had been a party to the NPT but withdrew in 2003.

Israel is also generally understood to have nuclear weapons, but does not acknowledge it, maintaining a policy of deliberate ambiguity, and is not known definitively to have conducted a nuclear test. Israel is estimated to possess somewhere between 75 and 400 nuclear warheads. One possible motivation for nuclear ambiguity is deterrence with minimum political cost.States that formerly possessed nuclear weapons are South Africa (developed nuclear weapons but then disassembled its arsenal before joining the NPT) and the former Soviet republics Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.

According to SIPRI, the worldwide total inventory of nuclear weapons as of 2018 stood at 14,465, of which 3,750 were deployed with operational forces.

Neutron reflector

A neutron reflector is any material that reflects neutrons. This refers to elastic scattering rather than to a specular reflection. The material may be graphite, beryllium, steel, tungsten carbide, or other materials. A neutron reflector can make an otherwise subcritical mass of fissile material critical, or increase the amount of nuclear fission that a critical or supercritical mass will undergo. Such an effect was exhibited twice in accidents involving the Demon Core, a subcritical plutonium pit that went critical in two separate fatal incidents when the pit's surface was momentarily surrounded by too much neutron reflective material.

Nuclear-weapon-free zone

A nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ) is defined by the United Nations as an agreement which a group of states has freely established by treaty or convention that bans the use, development, or deployment of nuclear weapons in a given area, that has mechanisms of verification and control to enforce its obligations, and that is recognized as such by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

NWFZs have a similar purpose to, but are distinct from, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to which most countries including five nuclear weapons states are party. Another term, nuclear-free zone, often means an area which has banned both nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and sometimes nuclear waste and nuclear propulsion, and usually does not mean a UN-acknowledged international treaty.

The NWFZ definition does not count countries or smaller regions that have outlawed nuclear weapons simply by their own law, like Austria with the Atomsperrgesetz in 1999. Similarly the 2+4 Treaty, which led to German reunification, banned nuclear weapons in the new states of Germany (Berlin and former East Germany), but was an agreement only among the six signatory states, without formal NWFZ mechanisms.

Nuclear explosion

A nuclear explosion is an explosion that occurs as a result of the rapid release of energy from a high-speed nuclear reaction. The driving reaction may be nuclear fission or nuclear fusion or a multi-stage cascading combination of the two, though to date all fusion-based weapons have used a fission device to initiate fusion, and a pure fusion weapon remains a hypothetical device.

Atmospheric nuclear explosions are associated with mushroom clouds, although mushroom clouds can occur with large chemical explosions. It is possible to have an air-burst nuclear explosion without those clouds. Nuclear explosions produce radiation and radioactive debris.

Nuclear weapon design

Nuclear weapon designs are physical, chemical, and engineering arrangements that cause the physics package of a nuclear weapon to detonate. There are three existing basic design types:

pure fission weapons, the simplest and least technically demanding, were the first nuclear weapons built and have so far been the only type ever used in an act of war (over wartime Japan).

boosted fission weapons improve on the implosion design using small quantities of fusion fuel to enhance the fission chain reaction. Boosting can more than double the weapon's fission energy yield.

staged thermonuclear weapons are essentially arrangements of two or more "stages", most usually two. The first stage is always a boosted fission weapon as above. Its detonation causes it to shine intensely with x-radiation, which illuminates and implodes the second stage filled with a large quantity of fusion fuel. This sets in motion a sequence of events which results in a thermonuclear, or fusion, burn. This process affords potential yields up to hundreds of times those of fission weapons.A fourth type, pure fusion weapons, is a purely theoretical possibility. Such weapons would produce far less radioactive byproducts than current designs, although they would release huge numbers of neutrons.

Pure fission weapons historically have been the first type to be built by new nuclear powers. Large industrial states with well-developed nuclear arsenals have two-stage thermonuclear weapons, which are the most compact, scalable, and cost effective option once the necessary technical base and industrial infrastructure are built.

Most known innovations in nuclear weapon design originated in the United States, although some were later developed independently by other states.In early news accounts, pure fission weapons were called atomic bombs or A-bombs and weapons involving fusion were called hydrogen bombs or H-bombs. Practitioners however favor the terms nuclear and thermonuclear, respectively.

Nuclear weapon yield

The explosive yield of a nuclear weapon is the amount of energy released when that particular nuclear weapon is detonated, usually expressed as a TNT equivalent (the standardized equivalent mass of trinitrotoluene which, if detonated, would produce the same energy discharge), either in kilotons (kt—thousands of tons of TNT), in megatons (Mt—millions of tons of TNT), or sometimes in terajoules (TJ). An explosive yield of one terajoule is equal to 0.239 kilotonnes of TNT. Because the accuracy of any measurement of the energy released by TNT has always been problematic, the conventional definition is that one kiloton of TNT is held simply to be equivalent to 1012 calories.

The yield-to-weight ratio is the amount of weapon yield compared to the mass of the weapon. The practical maximum yield-to-weight ratio for fusion weapons (thermonuclear weapons) has been estimated to six megatons of TNT per metric ton of bomb mass (25 TJ/kg). Yields of 5.2 megatons/ton and higher have been reported for large weapons constructed for single-warhead use in the early 1960s. Since then, the smaller warheads needed to achieve the increased net damage efficiency (bomb damage/bomb mass) of multiple warhead systems have resulted in decreases in the yield/mass ratio for single modern warheads.

Nuclear weapons delivery

Nuclear weapons delivery is the technology and systems used to place a nuclear weapon at the position of detonation, on or near its target. Several methods have been developed to carry out this task.

Strategic nuclear weapons are used primarily as part of a doctrine of deterrence by threatening large targets, such as cities. Weapons meant for use in limited military maneuvers, such as destroying specific military, communications, or infrastructure targets, are known as tactical nuclear weapons. In terms of explosive yields, nowadays the former have much larger yield than the latter, even though it is not a rule. The bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 (with TNT equivalents between 15 and 22 kilotons) were weaker than many of today's tactical weapons, yet they achieved the desired effect when used strategically.

Nuclear weapons testing

Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield, and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Testing nuclear weapons offers practical information about how the weapons function, as well as how detonations are affected by different conditions; and how personnel, structures, and equipment are affected when subjected to nuclear explosions. However, nuclear testing has often been used as an indicator of scientific and military strength, and many tests have been overtly political in their intention; most nuclear weapons states publicly declared their nuclear status by means of a nuclear test.

The first nuclear device was detonated as a test by the United States at the Trinity site on July 16, 1945, with a yield approximately equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT. The first thermonuclear weapon technology test of an engineered device, codenamed "Ivy Mike", was tested at the Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands on November 1, 1952 (local date), also by the United States. The largest nuclear weapon ever tested was the "Tsar Bomba" of the Soviet Union at Novaya Zemlya on October 30, 1961, with the largest yield ever seen, an estimated 50–58 megatons.

In 1963, three (UK, US, Soviet Union) of the four nuclear states and many non-nuclear states signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, pledging to refrain from testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, or in outer space. The treaty permitted underground nuclear testing. France continued atmospheric testing until 1974, and China continued until 1980. Neither has signed the treaty.Underground tests in the United States continued until 1992 (its last nuclear test), the Soviet Union until 1990, the United Kingdom until 1991, and both China and France until 1996. In signing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996, these states have pledged to discontinue all nuclear testing; the treaty has not yet entered into force because of failure to be ratified by eight countries. Non-signatories India and Pakistan last tested nuclear weapons in 1998. North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016, and 2017. The most recent confirmed nuclear test occurred in September 2017 in North Korea.

Pit (nuclear weapon)

The pit, named after the hard core found in fruits such as peaches and apricots, is the core of an implosion nuclear weapon – the fissile material and any neutron reflector or tamper bonded to it. Some weapons tested during the 1950s used pits made with U-235 alone, or in composite with plutonium, but all-plutonium pits are the smallest in diameter and have been the standard since the early 1960s.

Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty

The Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ) or the Bangkok Treaty of 1995, is a nuclear weapons moratorium treaty between 10 Southeast Asian member-states under the auspices of the ASEAN: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It was opened for signature at the treaty conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on 15 December 1995 and it entered into force on March 28, 1997 and obliges its members not to develop, manufacture or otherwise acquire, possess or have control over nuclear weapons.

The Zone is the area comprising the territories of the states and their respective continental shelves and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ); "Territory" means the land territory, internal waters, territorial sea, archipelagic waters, the seabed and the sub-soil thereof and the airspace above them.

The treaty includes a protocol under which the five nuclear-weapon states recognized by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), namely China, the United States, France, Russia and the United Kingdom (who are also the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council) undertake to respect the Treaty and do not contribute to a violation of it by State parties. None of the nuclear-weapon states have signed this protocol.

Tactical nuclear weapon

A tactical nuclear weapon (TNW) or non-strategic nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon which is designed to be used on a battlefield in military situations mostly with friendly forces in proximity and perhaps even on contested friendly territory. Generally smaller in explosive power, they are defined in contrast to strategic nuclear weapons: which are designed to be mostly targeted in the enemy interior away from the war front against military bases, cities, towns, arms industries, and other hardened or larger-area targets to damage the enemy's ability to wage war.

Tactical nuclear weapons include gravity bombs, short-range missiles, artillery shells, land mines, depth charges, and torpedoes which are equipped with nuclear warheads. Also in this category are nuclear armed ground-based or shipborne surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and air-to-air missiles. Small, two-man portable, or truck-portable, tactical weapons (sometimes misleadingly referred to as suitcase nukes), such as the Special Atomic Demolition Munition and the Davy Crockett recoilless rifle (recoilless smoothbore gun), have been developed, although the difficulty of combining sufficient yield with portability could limit their military utility. In wartime, such explosives could be used for demolishing "choke-points" to enemy offensives, such as at tunnels, narrow mountain passes, and long viaducts.

There is no precise definition of the "tactical" category, neither considering range nor yield of the nuclear weapon. The yield of tactical nuclear weapons is generally lower than that of strategic nuclear weapons, but larger ones are still very powerful, and some variable-yield warheads serve in both roles, for example the W89 200 kiloton warhead was intended to arm both the tactical Sea Lance anti-submarine rocket propelled depth charge and the strategic bomber launched SRAM II stand off missile. Modern tactical nuclear warheads have yields up to the tens of kilotons, or potentially hundreds, several times that of the weapons used in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Specifically on the Korean peninsula with a nuclear armed North Korea facing off against a NPT compliant South Korea there have been calls to request a return of US owned and operated short range low yield nuclear weapons, nomenclatured as tactical by the US military, to provide a local strategic deterrent to the North's growing domestically produced nuclear arsenal and delivery systems.Some tactical nuclear weapons have specific features meant to enhance their battlefield characteristics, such as variable yield which allow their explosive power to be varied over a wide range for different situations, or enhanced radiation weapons (the so-called "neutron bombs") which are meant to maximize ionizing radiation exposure while minimizing blast effects.

Strategic missiles and bombers are assigned preplanned targets including enemy airfields, radars, and surface to air defenses, not only counterforce strikes on hardened or wide area bomber, submarine, and missile bases. This strategic mission is to eliminate the enemy nation's national defenses to enable following bombers and missiles to more realistically threaten the enemy nation's strategic forces, command, and economy rather than targeting mobile military assets in near real time using tactical weapons optimized for time sensitive strike missions often in close proximity to friendly forces.

Tactical nuclear weapons were a large part of the peak nuclear weapons stockpile levels during the Cold War.

Because of the risk that use of tactical nuclear weapons could unexpectedly lead to a rapid escalation of a war to full use of strategic weapons, proposals have been made within NATO and other organizations to place limitations on (and make more transparent) the stockpiling and use of these tactical weapons.

Thermonuclear weapon

A thermonuclear weapon, or fusion weapon, is a second-generation nuclear weapon design. Its greater sophistication over pure fission weapons may afford it vastly greater destructive power than first-generation atomic bombs, a more compact size, a lower mass or a combination of these benefits. Modern fusion weapons consist essentially of two main components: a nuclear fission primary stage (fueled by uranium-235 or plutonium-239) and a separate nuclear fusion secondary stage containing thermonuclear fuel: the heavy hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium, or in modern weapons lithium deuteride. For this reason, thermonuclear weapons are often colloquially called hydrogen bombs or H-bombs.A fusion explosion begins with the detonation of the fission primary stage. Its temperature soars past approximately one hundred million Kelvins, causing it to glow intensely with thermal X-radiation. These X-rays flood the void (the "radiation channel" often filled with polystyrene foam) between the primary and secondary assemblies placed within an enclosure called a radiation case, which confines the X-ray energy and resists its outward pressure. The distance separating the two assemblies ensures that debris fragments from the fission primary (which move much slower than X-ray photons) cannot disassemble the secondary before the fusion explosion runs to completion.

The secondary fusion stage—consisting of outer pusher/tamper, fusion fuel filler and central plutonium spark plug—is imploded by the X-ray energy impinging on its pusher/tamper. This compresses the entire secondary stage and drives up the density of the plutonium spark plug. The density of the plutonium fuel rises to such an extent that the spark plug is driven into a supercritical state, and it begins a nuclear fission chain reaction. The fission products so produced heat the highly compressed, and thus superdense, thermonuclear fuel surrounding the spark plug to the region of some three hundred million Kelvins, igniting fusion reactions between fusion fuel nuclei. In modern weapons fueled by lithium deuteride, the fissioning plutonium spark plug also emits free neutrons which collide with lithium nuclei and supply the tritium component of the thermonuclear fuel.

The secondary's relatively massive tamper (which resists outward expansion as the explosion proceeds) also serves as a thermal barrier to keep the fusion fuel filler from becoming too hot, which would spoil the compression. If made of uranium, enriched uranium or plutonium, the tamper captures fast fusion neutrons and undergoes fission itself, increasing the overall explosive yield. Additionally, in most designs the radiation case is also constructed of a fissile material that undergoes fission driven by fast thermonuclear neutrons. Such bombs are classified as three stage weapons, and most current Teller–Ulam designs are such fission-fusion-fission weapons. Fast fission of the tamper and radiation case is the main contribution to the total yield and is the dominant process that produces radioactive fission product fallout.The first full-scale thermonuclear test was carried out by the United States in 1952; the concept has since been employed by most of the world's nuclear powers in the design of their weapons. The design of all modern thermonuclear weapons in the United States is known as the Teller–Ulam configuration for its two chief contributors, Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam, who developed it in 1951 for the United States, with certain concepts developed with the contribution of physicist John von Neumann. Similar devices were developed by the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France, and China.

As thermonuclear weapons represent the most efficient design for weapon energy yield in weapons with yields above 50 kilotons of TNT (210 TJ), virtually all the nuclear weapons of this size deployed by the five nuclear-weapon states under the Non-Proliferation Treaty today are thermonuclear weapons using the Teller–Ulam design.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination. It was passed on 7 July 2017. In order to come into effect, signature and ratification by at least 50 countries is required. For those nations that are party to it, the treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance and encouragement to the prohibited activities. For nuclear armed states joining the treaty, it provides for a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of its nuclear weapons programme.

According to a mandate adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2016, negotiations on the treaty began in the United Nations in March 2017 and continued from 15 June to 7 July 2017. In the vote on the treaty text, 122 were in favour, 1 voted against (Netherlands), and 1 abstained (Singapore). 69 nations did not vote, among them all of the nuclear weapon states and all NATO members except the Netherlands.

W33 (nuclear warhead)

The W33 was an American nuclear artillery shell, fired from an eight-inch (203 mm) M110 howitzer and M115 howitzer.

A total of 2,000 W33 projectiles were produced, the first of which was manufactured in 1957. The W33 remained in service until 1992. The warhead used enriched uranium (code named oralloy) as its nuclear fissile material and could be used in two different yield configurations. This required the assembly and insertion of different pits, with the amount of fissile materials used controlling whether the destructive yield was low or high. The highest-yield version of the W33 may have been a boosted fission weapon.

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