The Atomic Bomb and its Destructive Power Essay
The Atomic Bomb and its Destructive Power
An Atomic Bomb is a very powerful explosive device that entails fission of enriched Uranium or Plutonium nuclei in a chain reaction. The power of the explosion is measured in terms of the number of tons of TNT that would have to be exploded to release the same amount of energy. This fission reaction cannot be sustained unless a specific amount of plutonium or uranium, known as the critical mass, is present. When this specific amount is present, then the number of neutrons being produced by the fission of the nuclei will exceed the number of neutrons that leave the surface of the material.
This results in a chain reaction, which ultimately leads to an explosion (Atomic Bomb). The nuclear device or Atomic Bomb consists of several less than critical mass parts that are separated by lead walls. Moreover, all these portions of nuclear fuel together exceed the required critical mass. At the time of detonation, either a chemical or mechanical device is set off that causes the various sub critical mass portions of Uranium or Plutonium to combine.
Subsequently, the emitted neutron density is sufficient to set off a nuclear fission reaction releases more neutrons, this process continues until the fissile material is exhausted or is dispersed (Atomic Bomb). Such a nuclear fission reaction gives rise to an enormous amount of energy, which is mainly in the form of extreme heat. In addition, this explosion generates a huge shock wave, flash burns, high winds and radiation consisting of neutrons and gamma rays or very short wavelength light.
This radiation is fatal to living matter and makes the soil and water unusable (Atomic Bomb). The neutrons and gamma rays released during an atomic bomb explosion cause extreme harm to living tissue and constitute a prime cause for cancer. The surrounding area of a nuclear explosion becomes unusable due to contamination with radioactive fission products. A portion of these radioactive products reach the upper atmosphere either as dust or a gas and thereafter reach the site of explosion as radioactive fallout, which continues to decay over a period of time (Atomic Bomb).
Amongst nuclear weapons, the Atomic bombs have the dubious distinction of being the first to be developed, tested and deployed. Towards the end of the 1930’s physicists belonging to Europe and the USA became convinced that it would be possible to create a truly powerful explosive device that was based on the fission of uranium. In August 1939 Albert Einstein wrote to the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt a letter that gave particulars of this process and the danger that could be posed to the Allies if such an explosive device were to be created by the Axis Powers.
The President took cognizance of this warning and initiated the Manhattan Project in 1942, in order to invent such an explosive device. The Manhattan Project team led by U. S. Army Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves was ably guided by J. Robert Oppenheimer in this endeavour. This team was successful in creating the first Atomic Bomb (Atomic Bomb). The first test atomic explosion was performed at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on the 16th of July, 1945. The energy released by this explosion was the same as would be released if 20,000 tons of TNT were to be exploded.
On the 6th of August, 1945 the USA used the atomic bomb for the first time in history. This bombing, which took place almost at the end of World War II, was made on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. This bomb attack was repeated on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on the 9th of August, 1945 (Glasstone). The casualties reported due to these nuclear explosions were enormous and the USA stated that around sixty to seventy thousand people had been killed in Hiroshima by the atomic bomb, which had earned the sobriquet of Little Boy.
The same US sources placed the number of dead at forty thousand in Nagasaki, due to the explosion caused by the atomic bomb that had been dropped there, which had been nicknamed as the Fat Man. These two bombs effectively brought about the surrender of Japan to the Allies on the 14th of August 1945. These were the only occasions on which nuclear weapons had been used in warfare (Eubank. P87). The Hiroshima bomb was prepared using refined uranium – 235. The bomb was made by diffusion enrichment techniques, which utilized the minute differences in the mass of the two main isotopes of Uranium, namely U – 235 and U – 238.
The difference of mass is similar to what UF6 has with only one percent between the molecules. Thus it became much simpler to concentrate the less common isotope. The atomic bomb that destroyed nearly ninety percent of the city of Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945 was prepared using approximately sixty kilograms of highly enriched uranium (Atomic Bomb). Three days later the second bomb was exploded over Nagasaki. This bomb contained approximately eight kilograms of plutonium – 239. Special types of nuclear reactors were utilized in the preparation of this bomb.
The first human designed atomic reactor was constructed on the premises of the University of Chicago in the year 1942 during the last phase of the Second World War. In order to slow down the emergence of neutrons in fission, highly purified graphite was used in the reactor as a moderator of neutrons and to control the nuclear fission reaction. Subsequently more reactors were constructed based on the design of the Chicago reactor. They engaged simple chemical techniques to isolate plutonium – 239. There were no complexities involved in the separation of the isotopes.
The first test explosion had taken place at Alamogordo in New Mexico on the16th of July 1945 using a plutonium explosive device (Glasstone). Initially the creation of the atomic bomb proceeded at a slow pace. However, the results of different research groups clearly indicated that its destructive power could be awesome and this led to a considerable hastening of the development process. Subsequently, the US Government became convinced of the fact that this world war was based on technology to a very great extent.
Accordingly, it accepted the fact that there should be consensus between science, technology and the US Government (Eubank. P. 8). The destructive effects of both uranium and plutonium fuel nuclear fission bombs relied upon the energy released during the explosion caused by nuclear fission, which resulted in instantaneous fires, destructive blast pressures and maximum radiation exposures. The quantity of deposits of fission particles on the ground was very limited because these bombs had been exploded at a height of around six hundred metres above the ground.
However, some traces of deposit of these particles were found in the surrounding areas of the cities in which these explosions took place and this was attributed to the rainfall that had occurred immediately after these explosions. Areas at a few kilometres distance to the east of Nagasaki and in west and north – west of Hiroshima had recorded these radioactive traces. Most of the radioactive fission particles got carried away by the heat emanated from the explosions into the outermost atmosphere (Atomic Bomb or A Bomb).
The death toll was estimated at 45,000 of the civilian population out of a total of 250,000 in Hiroshima on the day the bomb went off and 19,000 resident civilians succumbed in the succeeding four months. The population of Nagasaki was 174,000 and out of these 22,000 died on the day of the explosion and another 17,000 died during the succeeding four months (Smith). A large number of malformations or deformations of fetuses was recorded among the civilians who had been exposed directly to the radioactivity.
This resulted in deformities in children who were born subsequent to the explosion. Apart from these untoward incidents, no significant gene damages were found to have occurred in the children of the survivors (Smith). Gamma radiations and neutrons had emerged during and immediately after the fission. These were the major components of the radiation in those cities. There were other sources of exposure derived from the black rain which precipitated in some areas. The rain water contained radioactive materials that had emanated from within the rising cloud of fission products.
However, there was little exposure to these depositions. Traces of radionuclide cesium – 137, which was a by – product of the fission were detected for a long period after the explosion in areas of Nishiyama district (Smith). Other category of nuclear bombs, fusion bombs, such as hydrogen or thermonuclear bombs have been developed and tested in the 1950s. However, these weapons have never been detonated in warfare. The modus operandi of a thermonuclear bomb is that a fission reaction takes place first to produce very high temperature.
Hydrogen isotopes of deuterium and tritium combine because of the extreme heat and in the process give out a very large amount of thermonuclear energy. The primary source of energy depends on the fusion reaction. This process is similar to the process that gives the Sun its energy (Atomic Bomb). Nations that had developed atomic bombs test them in order to determine their efficiency and to study the effects caused by such explosions. These tests are usually conducted by exploding them in the atmosphere, under the earth and under the sea.
The countries that have admitted to the possession of a nuclear warhead are the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India and Pakistan. South Africa proclaimed that it had developed a number of such bombs and that later on it had dismantled them. Since the war came to an end due to the Atomic Bomb, a new era has begun, which makes a logical analysis of the basic concepts in respect of human life, technical innovations and society. In the social context, the deep sorrow caused by the destruction of the atomic bomb was immense.
Its impact extended into the hearts of the nations of the world crossing the borders of Japan. In addition to the immense grief caused, the use of the atomic bomb made some of the people of the United States a target for criticism from the people of the world for having caused such a large number of deaths. Although the Americans wanted to depict the atomic bomb attacks on Japan, during the war, as a symbol of their hatred towards the Japanese who had attacked Pearl Harbor, these bombings were criticized as being unjust to the people of Japan.
Any country with the required amount of technology could have used the atom bomb. However the United States had the benefit of possessing not only the money but also the technology to take up such a project. However, the fact remains that the atomic bomb, saved a million lives though it killed tens of thousands of people. The rules of war were changed forever by the atomic bomb. It not only exterminated the enemy but also ruined humanity itself. The inventors of this weapon had hoped that their invention would result in the end of war.
This new weapon was so terrible that its architects were terrified of the idea that it could again be put to use. Works Cited “Atomic Bomb. ” Microsoft Encarta Premium . Redmond, WA, 2006. “Atomic Bomb. ” Britannica Concise Encyclopaedia. 2003. “Atomic Bomb or A Bomb. ” The Columbia Encyclopaedia . 2004. Eubank, Keith. “The Bomb. ” Kreiger Pub Co. Glasstone, Samuel. “Nuclear Weapons. ” Microsoft Encarta 2006 [DVD]. Redmond, WA, 2005. Smith, Mikki. “Hiroshima was no longer a city. ” International Socialist Review, Issue 13. August – September 2000.