THE HYDROGEN BOMB
“You can’t have this kind of war…there just aren’t enough bulldozers to scrape the bodies off the streets,” former American president Eisenhower said of the disastrous statistics predicted of nuclear warfare.
The first hydrogen bomb, or H-bomb, was developed in the United States and exploded in 1952 at Enewetak. This pushed Russia, formerly USSR, to accelerate its pace in the race to develop a similar bomb. A crushing amount of pressure was put on the Soviet scientists, headed by Igor Kurchatov, who were already working at a feverish pace to produce what they believe would be the only weapon that could keep the balance of power and “protect the Soviet Union and the rest of the world from (American) imperialist domination.” These scientists were told to labor for the security of their motherland.
Kurchatov ordered a mass mining operation for plutonium, which served in the makings of a reactor bomb and set up laboratories in the monastery town of Saint Sarov (the name of this town was later changed to Arzamas 16). A year later, in 1953, the Soviets succeeded in producing a bomb, designed partly by Andrei Sakharov. Sakharov had previously refused to aid in the design of atomic bombs but consented, at the urging of colleague Igor Tamm to check the equations involved in the design. In the process of doing this, Sakharov made his own design, which was adopted as the one of the leading possibilities for a nuclear reactor. The Soviet Union was on par with the United States once more.
The Mechanics of the Bomb
Unlike the atomic bomb used by the United States at Hiroshima, the hydrogen bomb usesthe energy generated by the fusion, or joining, of two hydrogen atoms into a helium atom rather than the fission, or splitting of the uranium/ plutonium atom of the atomic bomb. Because intense heat (between 50,000,000 to 400,000,000 degrees Celsius) is needed for the nuclei of the two hydrogen atoms to fuse, a fission bomb, or an atomic bomb, has to be set off to provide enough heat to detonate the H-bomb. Because of the need for such intense amount of heat, the hydrogen bomb is also referred to as the thermonuclear bomb. Because more energy is released through the fusion of two atoms than their fission, the H-bomb is about a thousand times more effective than the atomic bomb. To get a good sense such a catastrophe, just imagine the number of deaths caused by the atomic bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima in World War II…multiplied by a thousand.
H-bombs, along with the atomic bomb, kill most of the people with their radiation, rather than onsite impact. When a part of the body is exposed to most harmful of the rays, the gamma rays, which can travel in the air, radiation can spread throughout the body and damage cells, organs and bones.
Since the heat at the core of the thermonuclear explosion is so strong, the intense heat and pressure would immediately vaporize anything in the close vicinity of the explosion. As the wave emitted from the center of the explosion spreads out and becomes weaker away from center, the effects on the people gradually becomes lesser. Some survivors of the blast would die, a few weeks later, because of radioactive poisoning, while others mysteriously survive the radiation poisoning, recovering after a short period of time.