How devastating can a hydrogen bomb be

The hydrogen bomb

Hydrogen bombs are potentially particularly devastating nuclear weapons. Unlike simple atomic explosives, they do not get most of their destructive power from the fission of uranium or plutonium nuclei, but from the fusion of nuclei of the element hydrogen.

During this process, which also drives the sun, gigantic amounts of energy are released. A nuclear explosion is necessary to generate the extreme temperatures and pressures required for nuclear fusion. Hydrogen bombs are therefore constructed in two stages, with an atomic explosive device serving as a kind of "detonator" for the fusion process. In this case, nuclei of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium carried along in the bomb are compressed to such an extent that they fuse.

Strong explosions

With hydrogen bombs, much more powerful atomic explosions can be generated than with single-stage atomic bombs, which are subject to construction-related restrictions. Because nuclear fusion processes release far more energy than nuclear fission processes, stronger bombs can also be constructed with the same dimensions. Bombs based on the fusion principle are therefore considered to be more efficient.

However, due to its extremely complex internal structure, the construction of a fusion bomb is considerably more difficult than that of a nuclear fission explosive device. Well-known experts are convinced that the states that have risen to the rank of nuclear power in the past few years have in all probability not yet had operational weapons of this type - even if India and now North Korea have said so.

The first two-stage real hydrogen bomb in the world was tested by the USA on November 1, 1952 in the Pacific (Operation Ivy Mike), the Soviet Union followed the following year. However, these weapons were rather prototypes that were not yet suitable for use. The two superpowers did not have bombs that could be used for military purposes until a little later. These have never been used in wars.

Researchers developed weapons of mass destruction with previously unknown explosive power in the 1940s and 1950s. An overview:

Atomic bomb: The American Robert Oppenheimer is considered to be her most important "father". The first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 ended the Second World War in Asia. Nuclear weapons are made with radioactive plutonium or uranium. The chain reaction when they explode releases energy in the form of heat, pressure and radiation. Hundreds of thousands can be killed and entire areas devastated in a short time. The radioactive radiation causes long-term health damage.

Hydrogen bomb (H-bomb): The hydrogen bomb, also known as the H-bomb, was developed under the direction of Edward Teller in the USA and detonated for the first time in 1952 on an atoll in the Pacific. The explosive power is many times greater than that of an atomic bomb. It releases energy from a nuclear fusion. During this fusion, the hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, among other things, fuse to form helium. It takes more than 100 million degrees to ignite the mixture. That is why an H-bomb contains an atomic bomb as a detonator.

Neutron bomb: Neutron weapons destroy living beings with little material damage. If the effect of conventional nuclear weapons is based primarily on pressure and heat waves, neutron weapons emit most of the energy in the form of hard neutron radiation. Depending on the intensity, it leads to death within minutes or weeks. Buildings remain intact. The fallout (radioactive fallout) of the weapon developed in 1958 by the American Samuel Cohen is low: one day after the explosion, the affected area can be entered safely. (APA, September 3, 2017)