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DEFCON: A

History of
Nuclear
Weapons
By Matthew Stamm
DURING THE COLD
WAR, THE ENTIRE
WORLD WAS
INDANGER OF
COMPLETE
DESTRUCTION
THROUGH A NUCLEAR
HOLOCAUST.
These weapons are the most
dangerous pieces of military
hardware ever devised for a
multitude of reasons. The
fission and fusion reaction
generated upon detonation of
these warheads is capable of
instantly vaporizing millions of
people while also producing
profuse amounts of deadly
radiation.

There exists two types of


these weapons, the first one
to be produced and the only
one to actually be used in
warfare is the atomic bomb.
This bomb uses solely nuclear
fission for its reaction and is
much less powerful than its
counterpart, the hydrogen
bomb. This sort of explosive is
most commonly referred to as
a Thermonuclear weapon
and has two stages wherein it
generates fission to ignite a
fusion reaction.

Now, I am become
Death, the destroyer of
worlds.
J. Robert
Oppenheimer
The Road to Hiroshima
and Nagasaki
After the discovery of the
nuclear fission reaction, there
was an immediate rush
between the Allies and
Germany to create such a
bomb during the Second
World War.

A group of scientists, some


whom were European
defectors fearful of that were
Germans looming over them,
where contracted by the U.S
to manufacture a weapon that
could harness the power of
the atom. J. Robert
Oppenheimer was the leader
of this group of scientists
stationed at Los Alamos.
Multiple sites and factories
were developed into, at the
time, the largest industrial
enterprise ever conceived.
One such factory, K-25 (a
subsidiary of the Oak Ridge,
Tennessee complex, was the
largest factory ever at the
time and employed over 10
000 workers, most of whom
had no idea of what they were
working on. The goal of these
factories was to purify the
stable uranium 238 isotope
into the fissile uranium 235
isotope. Also, adding a
neutron to the 238 isotope
can create plutonium, an
unnaturally occurring fissile
isotope. Three projects were
developed: two gun type
bomb, thin man and little boy
and another plutonium

implosion bomb named Fat


boy. Thin man was eventually
scrapped due to
aerodynamics issues and the
plutonium leading to early
detonations.

Above: The Fat Man bomb.

On August 6th, 1945 the


uranium based bomb Little
Boy, was dropped on
Hiroshima, Japan. Three days
later, the plutonium based
bomb Fat Man was
detonated over the city of
Nagasaki. Very soon after,
Japan surrendered; thus
signaling the ending of the
Second World War.
Recently, historians
uncovered a drawing detailing
a working design of a Nazi
nuclear weapon, suggesting
that the Nazis were closer
than previously thought to

building a weapon of their


own. Some even believe that
the Nazis had indeed create
said device, but no record was
ever found; much less the
actual weapon.

Above: Design of the Nazi Nuke

If the Third World War


is fought with nuclear
weapons, the fourth
will be fought with
bows and arrows.
-Lord Louis
Mountbatten
Thermonuclear
weapons and the Cold
War
Not long after the Americans
crafted their bomb, the Soviet
Union produced their own
weapon. During the United
States research, multiple

spies and intelligence leaks


had advanced the Russians
scientific efforts. They were so
fixed on mimicking the
plutonium implosion bomb
dropped on Nagasaki that
they even rejected a more
efficient model. Through
stubborn and ignorant
working environments
governed by doubtful
administrators, the physicists
tested their first fission bomb
dubbed Joe-1 far before
American predictions. The
United States no longer had a
monopoly on their coveted
invention. Now that the two
super powers had knowledge
on fission weapons, the arms
race began. The U.S, however,
began testing on a more
powerful weapon: the

hydrogen bomb.

Above: A war room during the Cold


War

For years, the thought of a


weapon powered by the same
energy has the sun itself had
been contemplated but never
brought to fruition. The idea of
a weapon so powerful had
always been dismissed due to
the fact that it could only be
used as a weapon of
genocide. President Truman,
however, authorized the
testing of fusion bombs. In
years to come, both Russia
and the United States had
usable fusion weapons that
were hundreds of times more
powerful than the regular
fission bomb.

On March 1st 1954, the U.S


tested its first practical
thermonuclear device at Bikini
Atoll. The resulting blast was
twice has large as predicted
and created a large amount of
nuclear fallout, killing some
personnel and nearby
fisherman. In light of the
devastation that the weapon
could create, the fear of a fullfledged nuclear war was now
taken into consideration. Now
not only were the citizens of
the two super powers in
danger, but the entire world
due to the fallout of the fission
reaction.
Using the research and
employment of the rocket
used by the Nazis in the
Second World War, the
hydrogen bomb now had a
delivery system for which
hundreds or even thousands
of these weapons could be
deployed to any place in the
world. In addition to this, the
deployment of these weapons
from submarines made
prevention impossible. After
the processing of think tanks
and super computers,
strategic operations of all out

nuclear strikes had been


calculated and perfectly
planned. Wars would no
longer be fought on
battlefields, but in dark rooms
filled with computers. The
prospect of global
annihilation, humanitys
extinction was very real.

developed nuclear devices of


their own. BBC reports that In
2006, 2009 and again in 2013,
North Korea announced that it
had conducted successful
nuclear tests - they all came
after the North was
sanctioned by the UN for
launching rockets. Though
these programs remain rather
primitive, the threat remains.

Protests and Limitation


With the emergence of
nuclear weapons, so came the
movement against them. A
number of the weapons have
since been decommissioned
as so that they can never be
used again. The U.N has
pushed for limitations on the
countries with existing
weapons and the complete
ban of those who do not.

Second Arms Race


Though the U.N has pushed to
ban to development of
nuclear weapons, many
countries continue to pursue
said bombs. Recently, India,
Pakistan and North Korea have
begun testing and even

Above: North Korean leader Kim Jong


un

Non-Military Use
Although nuclear weapons are
usually used for military
purposes, they can be used
for different purposes. These
bombs can be used for large
scale earth moving,
propulsion for space craft and
most importantly for the
avoidance of asteroids
colliding with the Earth.

Sources:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/scie
nce/nature/4598955.stm
http://www.un.org/disarmame
nt/WMD/Nuclear/
http://science.howstuffworks.c
om/nuclear-bomb.htm