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Saturday, March 1, 2014

THE HORROR OF A HYDROGEN BOMB


My posting on Thursday focused on the ideal future form of energy for humanity:  fusion.  It was exactly 60 years ago today (I'm creating this article such that it will be posted at the local time of 6:45 AM when detonated on Bikini Atoll that day)  that the USA exploded our largest hydrogen (or fusion of a hydrogen isotope, deuterium--molecular hydrogen is not a fuel) bomb ever, Castle Bravo:

  • weight of weapon:  23,500 pounds
  • the blast was the equivalent of 15 megatons of TNT (which shocked the scientists, as this was three times what was expected), or around 1000 times more powerful than Fat Man (I'm standing next to the equivalent immediately above at the Nagasaki Peace Museum) over Nagasaki and Little Boy over Hiroshima
  • the fireball (photo at top) was 4.5 miles across in a second, with the nuclear cloud reaching a height of 130,000 in ten minutes, when the cloud was 62 miles in diameter
  • explosion left a crater more than a mile in diameter and 250 feet deep
  • the radiation cloud contaminated 7000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean, including several islands where 20,000 people lived, killing one Japanese fisherman (the ship got $15.3 million in compensation, worth $131 million today)
  • the Marshall Islands suffered through 67 nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958
  • while fusion is relatively "clean" compared to fission, there is no such thing as a clean H-Bomb, for an Atomic Bomb (Fat Man and Little Boy were A-Bombs applying the fission of plutonium and/or uranium) is used to trigger lithium deuteride, which, in addition to radiation, results in various dangerous radioactive heavy metal compounds plus radioactive tritium gas, another isotope of hydrogen
  • America was careless because it wanted to explode this device before the Russians
  • I was never able to verify how many people on these islands died nor how terribly they suffered from cancer, birth defects and thyroid problems
  • the Marshallese did get close to a billion dollars of U.S. aide, but eternal lifestyle turmoil, as captured in this quote:
[W]e are sadly more akin to the Children of Israel when they left Egypt and wandered through the desert for 40 years. We left Bikini and have wandered through the ocean for 32 years and we will never return to our Promised Land.Bikinian representative Tomaki
Juda










As massive as our Hydrogen Bomb blast was at 15 MT, the Russians on 30October 1961 exploded their Tsar Bomba (above), estimated to have been between 50 and 58 MT of TNT.  It was 26 feet long, with a diameter of 6.9 feet, weighing in at 60,000 pounds:


Nuclear weapons today are mostly H-Bombs:

  • U.S.      7700
  • Russia   8500
  • UK          225
  • France    300
  • China      250
  • India       110
  • Pakistan 120
  • N. Korea  10
  • Israel      200
However, over time, the U.S. has built more than 70,000 nuclear bombs, 67,500 missiles for nuclear weapons and 4680 bombers to carry these bombs.  So the ending of the Cold War might probably have saved Humanity, and those Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties (two), Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty are contributing to a safer future.  The current operable treaty between the U.S. and Russia is the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,  where nuclear missile launchers will be cut in half by 2021.  The nuclear inventories will NOT be reduced.

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