Analysis of the Atomic Bomb



Ever since the dawn of time man has found new ways of killing

each other. The most destructive way of killing people known to man

would have to be the atomic bomb. The reason why the atomic bomb is so

destructive is that when it is detonated, it has more than one effect.

The effects of the atomic bomb are so great that Nikita Khrushchev

said that the survivors would envy the dead (International Physicians

for the Prevention of Nuclear War, 1982). These devastating physical

effects come from the atomic bomb?s blast, the atomic bomb?s thermal

radiation, and the atomic bomb?s nuclear radiation.

An atomic bomb is any weapon that gets its destructive power

from an atom. This power comes when the matter inside of the atoms is

transformed into energy. The process by which this is done is known

as fission. The only two atoms suitable for fissioning are the

uranium isotope U-235 and the plutonium isotope Pu-239 (Outlaw

Labs). Fission occurs when a neutron, a subatomic particle with no

electrical charge, strikes the nucleus of one of these isotopes and

causes it to split apart. When the nucleus is split, a large amount

of energy is produced, and more free neutrons are also released.

These neutrons then in turn strike other atoms, which causes more

energy to be released. If this process is repeated, a self-sustaining

chain reaction will occur, and it is this chain reaction that causes

the atomic bomb to have its destructive power (World Book, 1990).

This chain reaction can be attained in two different ways.

The first type of atomic bomb ever used was a gun-type. In

this type two subcritical pieces of U-235 are placed in a device

similar to the barrel of an artillery shell. One piece is placed at

one end of the barrel and will remain there at rest. The other

subcritical mass is placed at the other end of the barrel. A

conventional explosive is packed behind the second subcritical mass.

When the fuse is triggered, a conventional explosion causes the second

subcritical mass to be propelled at a high velocity into the first

subcritical mass. The resulting combination causes the two

subcritical masses to become a supercritical mass. When this

supercritical mass is obtained, a rapid self-sustained chain reaction

is caused (World Book, 1990). This type of atomic bomb was used on

Hiroshima, and given the nickname ?Little Boy? after Franklin D.

Roosevelt (Outlaw Labs).

The second type of atomic bomb is an implosion bomb. In this

type a subcritical mass, which is in the shape of a ball, is placed in

the center of the weapon. This subcritical mass is surrounded in a

spherical arrangement of conventional explosives. When the fuse is

triggered all of the conventional explosives explode at the same time.

This causes the subcritical mass to be compressed into a smaller

volume, thus creating a supercritical mass to be formed. After this

supercritical mass is obtained, a self-sustained chain reaction takes

place and causes the atomic explosion (World Book, 1990). This

type of stomic bomb was used on Nagasaki, and given the nickname ?Fat

Man? after Winston Churchill (Outlaw Labs).

The blast from an atomic bomb?s explosion will last for only

one-half to one second, but in this amount of time a great deal of

damage is done (Physicians and Scientists on Nuclear War, 1981). A

fireball is created by the blast, which consists mainly of dust and

gasses. The dust produced in this fireball has no subeztial effect

on humans or their environment. However, as the gasses expand a blast

wave is produced. As this blast wave moves, it creates static

overpressure. This static overpressure then in turn creates dynamic

pressure. The static overpressure has the power to crush buildings.

The dynamic pressure creates winds, which have the power to blow down

trees (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War,

1982). The blast pressure and fireball together only last for

approximately eleven seconds, but because it contaitns fifty percent

of the atomic bomb?s latent energy a great deal of destruction occures

(The Committee for the Compilation of Materials on Damage Caused by

the Atomic Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 1981).

In Hiroshima the blast from the atomic bomb was measured to be

about four and a half to six and seven tenths tons of pressure per

square mere, while in Nagasaki the