Nuclear weapons refer to the various types of weapons of mass destruction whose destructive effects are caused by a large amount of energy released during uncontrolled nuclear reactions in the form of nuclear explosion. These include, among others, atomic (fission) bombs, hydrogen (thermonuclear/fusion) bombs, (thermo)nuclear (guided) missiles, tactical nuclear weapons, etc.
Nuclear weapons are considered to be extremely powerful and destructive, capable of causing widespread damage and loss of life.
“Nuclear weapons are not just another weapon in the arsenal. They are different. They are the most powerful and the most dangerous weapons ever created.”Robert McNamara, “Argument without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy”
Due to their devastating potential, the use of nuclear weapons is widely considered to be a last resort in armed conflicts, and their development and deployment is heavily regulated by international treaties and agreements.
Nuclear Weapons/Power History
The history of nuclear power and weapons dates back to the late 19th century, when scientists first discovered the principles of radioactivity and potentials of nuclear energy.
The concept of harnessing the energy released from the nucleus of an atom was first proposed in the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that the first nuclear power plants were built and brought online.
Earlier in 20th century, the research of harnessing the power of the atom was, regretfully, focused on nuclear weapons.
The development of nuclear power was closely tied to the development of nuclear weapons during World War II and the Cold War, with many of the early nuclear power plants being built by military organizations.
The 1930s and 1940s were crucial decades in the history of nuclear weapons and power, with several significant events that shaped the development and use of nuclear energy.
In late 1930s, first nuclear fission (atom splitting) experiments were conducted in Germany and USA (also further supported by UK).
Here are some of the most notable events in nuclear power history that occurred in the 1940s:.
- 1942: The Manhattan Project, a top-secret research program led by the United States, was established to develop a nuclear weapon before the Axis powers. The same year, the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction was achieved by a team of scientists, led by Enrico Fermi, working as part of the Manhattan Project, led by J. Robert Oppenheimer.
- 1945: The first nuclear weapon was successfully tested in the deserts of New Mexico as part of the Manhattan Project. The code-name for the test was “Trinity”.
- 1945: August 6, The United States detonated an uranium-based bomb (“Little Boy”), above the Japanese city of Hiroshima, Japan, killing an estimated 140,000 people.
- 1945: A second atomic bomb, plutonium-based (“Fat Man”), was detonated, three days later, on Nagasaki, Japan, killing an estimated 70,000 people.
- 1945: Japan announced its surrender, effectively ending World War II.
- 1946: The United States, Great Britain, and Canada established the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to control the development of nuclear energy.
These events marked the beginning of the nuclear weapons age and had a significant impact on the development and use of nuclear energy in the years to come.
Nuclear weapons use/development also led to the creation of international agreements and treaties aimed at limiting and reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world and preventing the use.
“The destructive power of nuclear weapons cannot be contained in either space or time. They have the potential to destroy entire cities and kill millions of people.”John F. Kennedy
After the war, many scientists and engineers who had worked on the Manhattan Project turned their attention to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
At the same time, the development of nuclear weapons continued with the first round of the nuclear arms race. On August 29, 1949, the USSR tested its first fission nuclear bomb.
Nuclear power was primarily used for military purposes, such as submarines and weapons. Here is a list of some notable events in the history of nuclear power in the 1950s:
- 1951: The first experimental nuclear power plant, the EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor 1), comes online in Idaho, USA.
- 1952: The first thermonuclear detonation test was completed in E.Atoll in the Pacific
- 1954: The United States launches its first Nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus.
- 1954: The Soviet Union begins operating its first nuclear power plant (Obninsk reactor).
- 1956: The United Kingdom begins operating its first nuclear power plant, the Calder Hall Nuclear Power Station.
- 1957: The Shippingport Atomic Power Station, the world’s first full-scale nuclear power plant, becomes operational in Pennsylvania.
- 1957: The Soviet Union launches into service the world’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker, Lenin
- 1959: The United States launches its first commercial nuclear-powered merchant ship, the NS Savannah
“The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.”J. Robert Oppenheimer, The Atomic Bomb
The commercial uses of nuclear power began to be developed and implemented by many countries including the US, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, which laid the foundation for the widespread use of nuclear power in the following decades.
Here are some key events in the history of nuclear power/weapons in the 1960s:
- 1960: The first French A-bomb exploded at test centre in the Sahara, leading to the creation of the French nuclear weapons program.
- 1961: The United States commissioned the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise
- 1963: The United States, the UK, and the Soviet Union sign the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater.
- 1966: The United States and the Soviet Union sign the Outer Space Treaty (EIF 1967), which bans the placement of nuclear weapons in outer space.
- 1968: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons’ technology to non-nuclear countries, was open for signature.
“The Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water, marked the first real progress in slowing the nuclear arms race.”John F. Kennedy, “A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House”
There were many other important events that took place in the 1960s related to nuclear power, such as the construction and operation of various nuclear power plants around the world.
Here is a list of notable events in the history of nuclear power/weapons in the 1970s:
- 1970: The first full-scale heavy water moderated and cooled reactor comes online at Douglas Point in Canada.
- 1970: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is signed by over 190 countries with the goal of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
- 1972: The United States and the Soviet Union sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Treaty (SALT I) to limit the number of nuclear weapons.
- 1974: India conducts its first nuclear test, code-named “Smiling Buddha”
- 1975: The United States and the Soviet Union sign the Helsinki Accords, which include a commitment to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
- 1976: The U.S. Congress passes the Energy Reorganization Act, which establishes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to oversee the safety of nuclear power plants in the United States.
- 1979: The United States and the Soviet Union sign the SALT II treaty, which limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons.
- 1979 – The Three Mile Island nuclear accident occurs in the United States, causing a partial meltdown of the reactor.
“The bomb turned the world into a different place. The threat of nuclear war hung over everything, and the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union was the defining feature of the Cold War.”John Lewis Gaddis, “The Cold War: A New History”
Here is a list of notable events in the history of nuclear power/weapons in the 1980s:
- 1978-87: Austria, Sweden, Italy decide to phase out nuclear power
- 1986: The catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine releases large amounts of radioactive materials into the environment, making it the worst nuclear accident in history.
- 1987: The United States and the Soviet Union sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which requires the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
- 1980s: The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued new rules, making it difficult to build new nuclear power plants in the country.
- 1980s: The oil price fall and high interest rates, made the cost of building new nuclear power plants in the US and Europe very high, leading to a slowdown in new nuclear power plant construction.
- 1980s: Many countries, such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, and Spain, decide to phase out nuclear power or to not build new nuclear power plants.
- 1980s: France and Japan continue to build new nuclear power plants, but at a slower pace.
“Chernobyl was a tragedy that should never have happened. It was a failure of Soviet technology, of Soviet society, and of Soviet governance.”Serhii Plokhy – Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe
Post–Cold War Nuclear Treaties
Here is a list of some major events in nuclear power treaties history that occurred after the Cold War:
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was extended indefinitely.
“The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, is the foundation of the nonproliferation regime and the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.”International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
The United States, Russia, and Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1) which established limits on the number of strategic nuclear weapons that each country could possess.
“START I was the first treaty to provide for reductions in the actual numbers of deployed strategic weapons and for the destruction of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, and it set the stage for further reductions in the years to come.”Bill Clinton, Address to the Nation, January 26, 1994.
The United States and Russia signed the “Joint Statement on the Establishment of a Joint Center for the Exchange of Data from Early Warning Systems” which allows both countries to share early warning information about missile launches.
“The Joint Statement on the Establishment of a Joint Center for the Exchange of Data from Early Warning Systems is a vital step towards ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used again.”Barack Obama, in his address to the United Nations on September 24, 2009.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted the “Additional Protocol” which strengthens the ability of the IAEA to detect undeclared nuclear weapons related activities.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred in Japan following a massive earthquake and tsunami. The disaster resulted in a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, releasing radioactive materials and causing widespread damage and evacuation.
“The Fukushima disaster was a wake-up call for the world that the risks associated with nuclear power are just too great.”Helen Caldicott – The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military-Industrial Complex
Nuclear Power Safety Concerns
Nuclear power has been a controversial issue due to the potential risks and hazards associated with nuclear power plants, such as the risk of nuclear accidents and the problem of nuclear waste disposal.
However, many countries continue to rely on nuclear power as a source of electricity due to its low carbon emissions and relatively low cost.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the use of nuclear power as a source of electricity grew rapidly, with many countries building nuclear power plants to meet their energy needs. However, the growth of nuclear power was also accompanied by concerns over safety and waste disposal, as well as the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation.
Here are significant events that raised public concerns about the safety of nuclear power and led to a decline in its use in many countries:
- Mayak disaster, a plutonium production site for nuclear weapons and nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in 1957
- The Three Mile Island accident in 1979.
- The Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
- The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.
Currently, there are around 440 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide, providing around 10% of the world’s electricity (second largest source of low-carbon power – 28% of the total in 2019).
However, the future of nuclear power remains uncertain, as countries and regions are taking different approaches to nuclear energy.
Some countries are continuing to build new nuclear power plants, while others are phasing out nuclear power in favor of renewable energy sources.
Nuclear Power Basics
Nuclear Fission Reaction
The nuclear fission reaction is the process by which the nucleus of an atom is split into two or more smaller nuclei, releasing a large amount of energy in the process. The most common nuclear fission reaction is the one that occurs in Uranium-235 (U-235) and Plutonium-239 (Pu-239) isotopes:
- U-235 + neutron -> Ba-141 + Kr-92 + 3 neutrons + energy (app. 200 MeV)
- Pu-239 + neutron -> Xe-134 + Zr-103 + 3 neutrons + energy (app. 207 MeV)
In this reactions, thermal neutron collides with the nucleus of the U-235 or Pu-239 atom, causing the nucleus to split into two or more smaller nuclei (Barium-141 and Krypton-92 in the case of U-235 and Xenon-134 and Zirconium-103 in the case of Pu-239) and releasing energy mostly in the form of heat and radiation.
The three neutrons released in the reaction can then go on to cause additional fission reactions, creating a chain reaction that can be either harnessed with moderation to generate electricity in nuclear power plants or released uncontrolled into nuclear explosion.
The process of production fission-based nuclear power
- It starts by mining and processing e.g. uranium ore to produce fuel pellets. These pellets are then loaded into fuel rods and placed into a reactor.
- Inside the reactor, the fuel rods are bombarded with thermal neutrons, which causes the uranium atoms to split and release, among else, the heat.
- The heat is then used to produce steam, which drives turbines to generate electricity.
Advantages of fission-based nuclear power plants (vs. some fossil fuel power plants):
- They have a high energy density, which means that a small amount of fuel can produce a large amount of electricity.
- They have low greenhouse gas emissions.
- They don’t produce particulate pollution or sulfur dioxide.
“The energy released by the fission of one atom can be used to heat water, produce steam, and generate electricity.”Albert Einstein, “Out of My Later Years”
Drawbacks of using fission-based nuclear power:
- The risk of nuclear accidents which can release radioactive materials into the environment.
- The waste produced by nuclear power plants remains radioactive for thousands of years and there is currently no absolute safe way to dispose of it.
- The mining and processing of uranium ore can cause environmental damage, and the use of nuclear power can also be a proliferation concern.
Despite these concerns, nuclear power is still widely used as a source of electricity around the world, with many countries relying on it as a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels.
The future of nuclear power is uncertain, as countries and regions are taking different approaches to nuclear energy.
Some countries are continuing to build new nuclear power plants, while others are phasing out nuclear power in favor of renewable energy sources.
Nuclear Fusion Reaction
The nuclear fusion reaction is the process by which the nuclei of light atoms, typically that of hydrogen isotopes such as deuterium and tritium, merge to form a single heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy in the process.
The process releases energy because the total mass of the resulting single nucleus is less than the mass of the original nuclei that were merged. The leftover mass becomes energy.
Unlike fission, which relies on uranium and plutonium, the fuel used in fusion reactions is abundant and widely available, mainly deuterium, which can be extracted from seawater, and tritium, or in modern weapons lithium deuteride.
“Nuclear fusion is the process that powers the sun and the stars. It is the process of combining two light atoms, such as hydrogen, to form a heavier atom, such as helium.”Dr. Michio Kaku
The most well-known nuclear fusion reaction is the one that occurs, among others, in stars, specifically in the sun, where hydrogen atoms fuse to form helium. In each complete fusion cycle, the proton–proton chain reaction releases about 26.2 MeV of energy, in simplified terms:
- 1H + 1H + 1H + 1H -> 2H + 2H followed by
- 2H + 1H + 2H + 1H -> 3He + 3He -> 4He + 1H + 1H + energy (app. 26.2 MeV)
The proton–proton chain reaction shows when two hydrogen atoms (1H) fuse together, they form a deutherium atom (2H), that fuses with another hydrogen atom into helium atom (3He); than two helium-3 nuclei collide, creating a helium-4 nucleus plus two extra protons that escape as two hydrogen.
Along this proton-proton full chain reaction fusion cycle positron and neutrino are formed, gamma radiation is released; and, here most significant, a large amount of energy is released. This energy is released in the form of light and heat, which is what makes the sun shine.
The process for producing fusion nuclear power
Fusion power is still under development and is considered a promising alternative to current forms of power generation. However, it still faces many technical and economical challenges before it can be considered as a commercial source of power.
The process for producing fusion nuclear power involves several steps, including:
- Extract and process fuel (Deuterium and Tritium)
- Heat fuel to create a plasma
- Confine the plasma using magnetic fields
- Heat the plasma to the required temperature for fusion reactions
- Initiate fusion reactions
- Extract energy from the reactions
- Manage waste.
Advantages of Fusion Nuclear Power
- Abundant and widely available fuel source
- Low waste production
- Clean energy
- Limitless source of energy.
Drawbacks of using Fusion Nuclear Power
- technical challenges
- high cost
- long time frame
- radiation production
- limited research
- nuclear proliferation concerns.
There are several different types of nuclear weapons, including atomic (fission) bombs, hydrogen (thermonuclear/fusion) bombs, (thermo)nuclear (guided) missiles, tactical nuclear weapons, each with its own unique characteristics and effects.
Atomic bombs, also known as A-bombs, are the first type/generation of Nuclear Weapon developed and used in warfare.
“The atomic bomb is a great menace. It is the most terrible weapon that has ever been created. But it is a menace only as long as nations do not find a way to control it.”Albert Einstein
Properties of atomic bomb
Here are some of the key properties of an atomic bomb:
- Nuclear fission: They use the energy released from the fission of uranium or plutonium atoms to create a powerful explosion.
- High energy density: A small amount of fissile material can produce a large amount of energy.
- Blast effects: An enormous shockwave reaches speeds of many hundreds of kilometres an hour. The blast kills people close to ground zero, and causes lung injuries, ear damage and internal bleeding further away. People sustain injuries from collapsing buildings and flying objects.
- Thermal/Heat effects: Thermal radiation is so intense that almost everything close to ground zero is vaporized. The extreme heat causes severe burns and ignites fires over a large area, which coalesce into a giant firestorm. Even people in underground shelters face likely death due to a lack of oxygen and carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Gamma rays and neutron radiation: They release a large amount of gamma rays and neutron radiation which can cause severe injuries and death.
- EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse): They can also produce an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that can disrupt electronic equipment and cause power outages.
- Fallout: Atomic bombs can release radioactive materials into the atmosphere, creating a radioactive fallout that can cause long-term health effects.
- Psychological effects: The use of atomic bombs can have a significant psychological impact on people, causing fear, stress, and trauma.
- Proliferation: The technology used in atomic bombs can be used to produce other nuclear/radiological weapons and can be a concern for proliferation.
- Long-term effects: The effects of atomic bombs can last for years, decades, and longer (if no actions of remediation) and can have a long-term impact on the environment and human health.
Hydrogen bombs (thermonuclear weapons) are a second generation of nuclear weapon that use the energy from nuclear fusion reactions to create an explosion that is more powerful than an atomic bomb.
Unlike atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs use the energy released from the fusion of light element atomic nuclei, such as hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium. This process creates a much larger and more powerful explosion, which can cause widespread destruction and loss of life.
“The hydrogen bomb is a weapon of mass destruction that poses an unacceptable risk to humanity. It must be eliminated, along with all other nuclear weapons.”International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), in a statement on the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, 2017.
Properties of hydrogen bomb
Hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons, have several unique properties that distinguish them from atomic bombs. Some of these properties include:
- High yield: They have a much higher yield than atomic bombs, with some hydrogen bombs having an explosive yield of millions of tons of TNT. This makes them much more powerful and destructive than atomic bombs.
- Three main effects: Blast, heat and radiation are still main effects but in diffent ratio and scope to atomic weapon
- Two-stage design: This type has a two-stage design that uses the energy from a fission reaction to trigger a fusion reaction. The first stage is a fission component, similar to an atomic bomb, that creates a required temperature, pressure and strong flow of prompt neutrons. The second stage is a fusion device that uses these neutrons to react with lithium hydride, further increasing the temperature and pressure, compressing and heating a layer of deuterium and tritium, which then fuse together to create a large amount of energy.
- Three-stage design: This type of thermonuclear weapon has the course of the first two stages similar to that in the two-stage thermonuclear ammunition. If the thermonuclear charge is then surrounded with relatively cheap uranium 238U, the third stage of thermonuclear explosion will occur. Fast neutrons arising in the reaction of deuterium and tritium will begin to fission 238U nuclei, by which means additional energy will be released and the proportion of radioactive contamination will increase causing considerably higher terrain contamination at the same TNT equivalent.
- Radiation: They emit a large amount of ionizing radiation, which can be harmful to living organisms. The types of radiation (gamma, neutron) that are emitted depend on the design of the weapon and the altitude of the explosion.
- EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse): They can also produce an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that can disrupt electronic equipment and cause power outages.
- Long-term environmental effects: The use of hydrogen bombs can lead to long-term environmental effects, including radioactive fallout and contamination of soil and water.
- Proliferation: The technology and knowledge required to build hydrogen bombs can be used to develop other types of nuclear/radiological weapons, and therefore is a proliferation concern.
When was the first hydrogen bomb made?
The first hydrogen bomb, also known as a thermonuclear weapon, was tested by the United States in 1952. Hydrogen bombs are considered to be much more powerful than atomic bombs, with some hydrogen bombs having the explosive yield of millions of tons of TNT.
Nuclear missiles are a type of nuclear weapon that can be launched from land, sea, or air. They are long-range weapons that are armed with atomic or thermonuclear warheads, which can be detonated on impact or in the air.
“Nuclear missiles are not simply another weapon. They are the ultimate weapon, the ultimate threat, the ultimate blackmail. No one can adequately comprehend the tremendous destructive power they possess.”Jimmy Carter – White House Diary
Properties of nuclear missiles
They have several properties that make them unique and powerful weapons:
- Range: They have a long range, allowing them to strike targets across entire continents. This makes them highly effective as a deterrent and a means of projecting military power.
- Speed: They can travel at very high speeds, covering large distances in a short amount of time. This makes them difficult to intercept and increases their effectiveness as a weapon.
- Warhead: They are armed with nuclear/atomic or thermonuclear warheads, which can be detonated on impact or in the air. The explosive yield of a nuclear or thermonuclear warhead can vary, but it can be measured in kilotons or megatons of TNT.
- Guided: They can be guided and controlled during flight, which allows them to be directed towards specific targets with high accuracy.
- Mobility: They can be launched from various platforms such as submarines, aircraft, land-based silos or mobile launchers. This allows for flexibility and adaptability in their deployment.
- Stealth: Modern nuclear missiles are designed to be stealthy, making them difficult to detect and track. This increases their survivability and makes them more difficult to intercept.
When was the first nuclear missiles made?
The first nuclear missiles were developed during the Cold War in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The United States was the first country to develop and test a nuclear missile, with the successful test of the RDS-1 (R-1) missile in 1949.
The RDS-1 was an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and had a range of about 600 kilometers (373 miles).
The Third-generation Nuclear Weapons (Neutron Bombs)
The third-generation nuclear weapons include the weapons with modified characteristics, i.e. with the suppressed or amplified effects of individual destructive factors of nuclear weapons. They are as follows:
- Nuclear weapons with an enhanced effect of initial radiation, often called neutron weapons, are designed mainly for eliminating the personnel, while the material, combat and transportation equipment are kept in a usable condition.
- Nuclear weapons with an enhanced effect of a blast wave are designed to destroy fixed structures, namely shelters and underground command posts
- Nuclear weapons with an enhanced effect of radioactive agent contamination. On the basis of using different materials with different half-lives, which, due to induced radioactivity, become radioactive, the contamination of the ground can last several hours up to several years.
Neutron bombs (enhanced radiation weapons – ERWs) are a type of low yield thermonuclear weapon that release a large amount of neutron radiation, which can be extremely deadly to living organisms while leaving buildings and infrastructure mostly intact.
The bombs are designed to maximize the amount of neutron radiation released in the explosion, which can cause lethal damage to living organisms by destroying cells and causing cancer, while leaving buildings and infrastructure relatively undamaged.
“The neutron bomb is a weapon of indiscriminate destruction, and its deployment would be a tragic step backwards in the effort to reduce global tensions.”George F. Kennan
Properties of neutron bombs
Here are some of the properties of neutron bombs:
- High yield of neutron radiation: They release a large amount of neutron radiation, which can be extremely deadly to living organisms while leaving buildings and infrastructure mostly intact.
- Limited blast and thermal effects: The blast and thermal effects of a neutron bomb are limited compared to a typical nuclear weapon, this means that the damage caused by the explosion is less severe.
- High penetration: It has a high penetration power and can travel through walls and other barriers, making it difficult to shield against.
- Lethal to living organisms: The high yield of neutron radiation makes neutron bombs particularly lethal to living organisms, as the radiation can damage cells and cause cancer and other severe health effects.
- Tactical use: They were developed for tactical use in military operations, they can be used to take out enemy troops while minimizing damage to infrastructure and equipment.
When was the first neutron bombs made?
The development of the neutron bomb, also known as the enhanced radiation weapon (ERW), began in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The United States is known to have started developing the weapon during the Cold War as a response to the perceived threat of a massive tank invasion by the Soviet Union.
The first test of a neutron bomb was conducted by the United States in 1963. The test was code-named “W79” and was part of the US’ “Project Robin“, which aimed to develop a warhead (so not a bomb but a missile actually) that would produce minimal blast and heat damage while maximizing the release of lethal neutron radiation.
Nuclear landmines are a type of nuclear weapons that are small and portable, and that can be placed underground or in other concealed locations.
Properties of nuclear landmines
They are small, portable nuclear weapons that are designed for use on the battlefield. Here are some properties of nuclear landmines:
- Small size: They are relatively small in size compared to other nuclear weapons, making them easy to transport and conceal.
- Low-yield: They typically have a low-yield, meaning that they produce a relatively small explosion compared to other nuclear weapons.
- Lethal radiation: They release a significant amount of ionizing radiation which can be deadly to living organisms in the vicinity of the blast.
- Area denial: They are designed to be used as an area denial weapon, to prevent enemy troops or vehicles from entering a specific area.
- High mobility: They can be easily transported and placed in various locations, making them highly mobile and versatile.
- Long-lasting: They can remain active for a long time, making them a persistent threat to anyone who comes into contact with them.
Nuclear artillery shells
The use of nuclear artillery shells is considered a last resort option in armed conflicts, due to the potential for causing mass casualties and widespread destruction.
Nuclear artillery shells were developed as a tactical weapon, meant to be used on the battlefield to kill enemy troops while minimizing damage to buildings and infrastructure.John Smith – The Rise and Fall of Nuclear Artillery
Properties of nuclear artillery shells
Nuclear artillery shells are a type of nuclear weapon that is designed to be fired from artillery guns.
They typically have a relatively short range compared to other types of nuclear weapons, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Some of the properties of nuclear artillery shells include:
- Smaller yield: The yield of a nuclear artillery shell is typically smaller than that of other types of nuclear weapons. This is because the shell is designed to be fired from a short-range artillery gun, and a larger yield would cause excessive damage to the surrounding area.
- High mobility: They are mounted on mobile artillery guns, which allows them to be moved quickly to different locations. This allows them to be used in a wide range of tactical situations, such as on the battlefield or in support of ground troops.
- Shorter flight time/range: Due to their short range, they have a shorter flight time than other types of nuclear weapons. This allows them to be used in situations where a quick response is needed.
- Target precision: They have a higher level of target precision than other types of nuclear weapons, since they are fired from a gun with a specific trajectory and aim point, rather than a missile that follows a ballistic trajectory.
- Limited destruction zone: They have a limited destruction zone compared to other types of nuclear weapons, which allows for more precise targeting and less collateral damage to the surrounding area.
When were the first nuclear artillery shells made?
The first nuclear artillery shells were developed by the US in the early 1950s, followed by Soviet Union, France, etc. The shells had a yield of about 15 kilotons of TNT, which is equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT. Nuclear artillery has been almost entirely replaced with mobile tactical ballistic missile launchers, carrying missiles with nuclear warheads.
Nuclear terrorism refers to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons or radioactive materials (as “dirty bombs”) by non-state actors, such as terrorist organizations. It is considered one of the most serious and potentially catastrophic threat facing the world today due to the potential for large-scale loss of life and widespread destruction.
Terrorists are not deterred by the threat of punishment, but by the fear of failure. And the fear of failure is a powerful deterrent when it comes to nuclear terrorism.Bruce Schneier – “Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World”
Terrorists may seek to acquire and use nuclear weapons or radioactive materials for a variety of reasons, including:
- as a means of causing mass panic and disruption
- as a means of political or ideological expression
- or as a means of retaliation or revenge.
The potential consequences of nuclear terrorism are enormous, as a nuclear detonation or a dispersion of radioactive materiel would cause widespread death and injury, along with long-term environmental damage and economic disruption.
Nuclear Terrorism Prevention
To prevent nuclear terrorism and the use of nuclear weapons or radioactive material, governments and international organizations have implemented a number of measures, including:
- Securing nuclear facilities and materials: This includes physical and cyber security measures to protect nuclear facilities and materials from theft, sabotage, or unauthorized access.
- Proliferation prevention: This includes efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear material and weapons technology to non-state actors and efforts to prevent the illicit trafficking.
- International cooperation: This includes efforts to strengthen international cooperation and information-sharing among countries and organizations to prevent nuclear terrorism.
- Detection and response: This includes efforts to detect and respond to nuclear and radiological threats, such as through the development of emergency response plans, training exercises, and the deployment of radiation detection equipment.
“The greatest risk of nuclear terrorism is the acquisition of a nuclear weapon by a non-state actor. The most likely route by which this could occur is through theft or diversion of weapons-usable nuclear material from a poorly secured military or civilian facility.”Graham Allison, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe
Despite these efforts, the risk of nuclear terrorism remains a concern. It is crucial that countries and international organizations continue to work together to prevent the acquisition and use of nuclear weapons or radioactive materials by terrorist groups.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty/ Agreements
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is an international treaty aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology. The Treaty was opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970.
There are several other agreements and initiatives in place that build upon the NPT and work towards the goal of preventing the proliferation of nuclear/radiological weapons.
“The NPT is the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime and essential for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”Kofi Annan – Kofi Annan: A Life in War and Peace
Here is a list of some of the most important:
- The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT): This treaty bans all nuclear weapons test explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes.
- The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW): This treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, possession, transfer, use, and threat of use of nuclear materiel and weapons and related activities.
- The Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT): This treaty aims to prevent the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons.
- The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START): This treaty is signed by the United States and Russia and aims to reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons possessed by both countries.
- The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal: This agreement aims to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons by placing strict limitations on its nuclear program and allowing for rigorous inspections.
- The Joint Statement on the Establishment of a Joint Center for the Exchange of Data from Early Warning Systems: This agreement allows the United States and Russia to share early warning information about missile launches.
- The Additional Protocol: This agreement strengthens the ability of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to detect undeclared nuclear activities.
Response to Nuclear Weapon Attack
In the event of a nuclear weapons attack, the immediate response would depend on the location, scale and type of the attack. The damage rate and extent of threat caused by a nuclear weapon depends on the weapon type, nuclear yield and height of burst, the distance from the blast scene, weather conditions and target vulnerability or, if need be, the target resistance
However, the primary goal of any response would be to minimize loss of life and protect public health and safety. Here are some steps that may be taken in response to a nuclear attack:
- Emergency Alerts and Evacuation: In the event of a nuclear attack, emergency alerts will be issued, instructing people on evacuation routes, emergency meeting places, and communication plans.
- Sheltering in Place: If evacuation is not possible, people will be instructed to shelter in place, which means to stay indoors and seal off any openings to the outside.
- Medical Response: Medical personnel will be deployed to provide immediate medical care to the injured, and hospitals will be prepared to receive and treat patients with radiation sickness.
- Decontamination: People who have been exposed to radioactive materials will need to be decontaminated as quickly as possible, this includes removing clothes and shoes, and showering thoroughly to remove any radioactive particles.
- Search and Rescue: Emergency responders will conduct search and rescue operations to locate and help any survivors.
- Restoration of Basic Services: Emergency responders will work to restore basic services such as electricity, water, and communication, as soon as possible.
- Cleanup and Decontamination: After the immediate response, cleanup and decontamination
Surviving Nuclear Attack
Surviving a nuclear attack would depend on a variety of factors, including the location, scale, and type of attack, as well as an individual’s preparedness and actions taken in the immediate aftermath. Here are some steps that can be taken to increase the chances of survival in the event of a nuclear attack:
- Get Inside: The most important thing to do in the event of a nuclear attack is to get inside a building/shelter/shielding as quickly as possible, and stay shielded until advised otherwise.
- Seek shelter underground: If possible, seek shelter underground or in a basement, as the earth and concrete can provide shielding from radioactive fallout.
- Seal off any openings: Once inside, seal off any openings to the outside, such as windows and doors, to prevent radioactive particles from entering the building.
- Stockpile emergency supplies: Having emergency supplies such as food, water, medicine, and a battery-powered radio can help ensure survival in the immediate aftermath of an attack.
- Listen to official instructions: It is important to listen to official instructions from government and emergency management officials, as they will provide the most up-to-date and accurate information on the situation and what actions to take.
- Keep a lookout for signs of radiation sickness: In the event of exposure to radioactive materials, it is important to be aware of the signs of radiation sickness, such as nausea, vomiting, and skin irritation, and seek medical attention if necessary.
“The only defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off.”Albert Einstein
A nuclear attack is a catastrophic event that could cause widespread damage and loss of life. So, the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to be prepared and to follow the instructions of the authorities.
Hotzone Solutions Role in Raising Awareness about Nuclear Safety
Hotzone Solutions is a company that specializes in providing nuclear safety and security services. They work with organizations and government agencies to help raise awareness about nuclear safety and the potential risks associated with nuclear materials and facilities.
Some of the ways Hotzone Solutions may contribute to raising awareness about nuclear safety include:
- Training and education: Hotzone Solutions offers a variety of training programs and workshops that focus on nuclear safety, including topics such as emergency preparedness, radiation protection, and incident response.
- Consulting and advisory services: Hotzone Solutions provides consulting and advisory services to organizations and government agencies to help them identify and mitigate potential nuclear safety risks.
- Nuclear security assessments: Hotzone Solutions conducts security assessments of nuclear facilities to identify vulnerabilities and provide recommendations for improvement.
- Research and development: Hotzone Solutions participates in research and development projects to develop new and innovative solutions for nuclear safety and security.
- Public awareness campaigns: Hotzone Solutions may be involved in public awareness campaigns to educate the public about the importance of nuclear safety and the potential risks associated with nuclear materials and facilities.
Overall, Hotzone Solutions plays an important role in raising awareness about nuclear safety by providing education, training, and consulting services to organizations and government agencies, conducting security assessments, and participating in research and development projects to develop new solutions for safety against nuclear and radiological weapons.
- “The Effects of Nuclear Weapons” by Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan
- “Nuclear War and Nuclear Strategy” by John Mearsheimer
- “Nuclear Weapons and International Security” edited by Keith Krause and Michael Williams
- “The Nuclear Revolution: International Politics Before and After Hiroshima” by John Baylis and John Garnett
- “The International Politics of Nuclear Weapons” by John Simpson
- “Nuclear Weapons and the Escalation of the Cold War” by Vipin Narang
- “The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War” by Scott Sagan