What is a Nuclear Weapon?
It is generally speaking an extremely powerful explosive device that creates a devastating explosion by exploiting the effects of either splitting or fusing atoms. In contrast, conventional explosives like dynamite and nitro glycerin work on a molecular level, where heat released from the rapid combination of 2 or more elements or compounds creates the explosion. To give you an idea of the difference in scale, most nuclear weapons are measured by the number of tons of explosives it would take to make a similar explosion using TNT. Thus, a 50 Mega Ton nuclear bomb is equivalent (roughly) to 50 Million Tons of TNT going off at once.
What are the effects of nuclear bombs?
Like all explosives, nuclear bombs release heat on a very large scale. The firestorm from a nuclear bomb can devastate hundreds of square miles, and the resulting shock wave and wind storm can destroy cities and forests many miles away from ground zero.
In addition, most nuclear bombs release dangerous radiation that can kill or make a person sick, often fatally.
Dirty bombs, like the original atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II, throw radioactive particles of dirt and debris called fallout that can contaminate the air, water and soil around the explosion site. Winds can carry this fallout for many miles, causing deadly conditions for people who were otherwise unaffected by the original explosion.
What is Nuclear Winter?
This is a theoretical effect of a large scale nuclear conflict where millions of tons of soil, ash and other particulates are thrown high into the atmosphere creating a large scale, possibly global cloud of dust and debris. This cloud could interfere with the warming effect of the sun, potentially creating a new ice age.
Similar events have occurred in the planets past when meteor impacts or large scale volcanic eruptions have produced a similar effect.
What kind of nuclear bombs are there?
There are hundreds of variations, but from a practical standpoint, the list is somewhat shorter:
- Atomic Bomb: A bomb which works by splitting the nuclei of atoms, which releases tremendous amounts of heat and radiation. Most nuclear power plants work on a controlled version of this reaction.
- Hydrogen Bomb or Nuclear Bomb: A more powerful weapon, this bomb works by combining or fusing atoms together. These bombs are much ‘cleaner’, in that they don’t cause as much fallout, but are far more destructive in the total energy that is released.
- Neutron Bomb: Seldom talked about, this was a device designed to be detonated high above a populated area. The initial blast would release a burst of radiation that would kill the bulk of the people living in the target area, but would not destroy or contaminate the buildings or land.
- Suitcase Bomb: A device that could be carried into a populated area and set to detonate at a later time. The small size would limit the destructive range, but it would remain an effective terrorist weapon.
What is Anti-Proliferation?
That is an effort by individuals, groups and nations to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to groups and countries who are not already nuclear powers.
An effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate the current stockpiles of the nuclear powers.