How many countries have a hydrogen bomb?

North Korea Why hydrogen bombs are extremely dangerous

About 65 years ago, on November 1, 1952, to be precise, the United States launched Operation Ivy Mike. They set off a hydrogen bomb on a Pacific island. The explosive force was 800 times greater than that of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A new technical principle was decisive for this.

The first nuclear weapons like the Hiroshima bomb were based on nuclear fission. Large atomic nuclei such as uranium 235 are bombarded by neutrons and thereby break down into smaller nuclei. This has two consequences: On the one hand, a lot of energy is released and thus heat. On the other hand, new neutrons are created that can split further nuclei themselves. An uncontrolled chain reaction starts which leads to a powerful explosion.

Hydrogen bombs: nuclear fusion instead of fission

Put simply, a hydrogen bomb works in exactly the opposite way to an atom bomb. Atomic nuclei are not split, but brought together, i.e. fused. Specifically, this means: Particularly heavy hydrogen nuclei are fused. Hence the name hydrogen bomb or H-bomb. H - because that's the chemical symbol for hydrogen.

In order to detonate, hydrogen bombs need different detonators than conventional atomic bombs. They cause extremely high temperatures and high pressures. Because the fusion only starts at around 100 million degrees, then the hydrogen nuclei fuse to form helium, as happens in the sun. And just like when atoms are split, a lot of energy is released when they fuse.

As strong as all World War II bombs put together

The hydrogen nuclei fuse to form a larger helium nucleus. But in the end it is lighter than the two starting cores. But because mass cannot simply disappear, it must have been transformed. In the form of energy. This is the famous Einstein formula: E = mc2, i.e. energy equals mass times the speed of light squared.

Their explosive power is much more powerful than that of atomic bombs. The large amount of energy generates enormous heat, which, for example, the ground can suddenly evaporate. This creates a gigantic pressure wave. Practically only hydrogen bombs are stored in the arsenals of nuclear weapons countries. The US military's largest nuclear warhead, for example, has an explosive force of half a megaton of TNT. For comparison: only four of these warheads have as much explosive power as all the bombs that were dropped in World War II combined.

Radio | 04.09.2017 | 4:30 p.m.