The process of the descent to the earth's surface of particles contaminated with radioactive material from a radioactive cloud. The term is also applied in a collective sense to the contaminated particulate matter itself. The early (or local) fallout is defined, somewhat arbitrarily, as those particles which reach the earth within 24 hours after a nuclear explosion. The delayed (or worldwide) fallout consists of the smaller particles which ascend into the upper troposphere and stratosphere, to be carried by winds to all parts of the earth. The delayed fallout is brought to earth, mainly by rain and snow, over extended periods ranging from months to years.
The luminous sphere of hot gases which form a few millionths of a second after a nuclear explosion. It is the result of the absorption by the surrounding medium of the thermal X-rays emitted by the extremely hot (several tens of million degrees) weapon residues. The exterior of the fireball in air is initially sharply defined by the luminous shock front and later by the limits of the hot gases themselves.
Stationary mass fire, generally in builtup urban areas, causing strong, inrushing winds from all sides; the winds keep the fires from spreading while adding fresh oxygen to increase their intensity.
The launch of a surprise attack to considerably weaken or destroy an adversary's military installations or nuclear forces and thus severely reduce its ability to attack or retaliate.
Isotopes whose nuclei may be split by neutrons moving at various speeds and therefore fission very easily. Uranium-233, Uranium-235, and Plutonium-239 are all fissile isotopes. Fissile isotopes typically undergo fission more easily than other fissionable isotopes. See; Fission.
Nuclear material, containing a high proportion of fissile isotopes, which is essential for making nuclear explosives. High-enriched uranium (HEU) and weapons-grade plutonium are examples of fissile material.
The process whereby the nucleus of a particular heavy element splits into (generally) two nuclei of lighter elements, with the release of substantial amounts of energy. The most important fissionable materials are uranium-235 and plutonium-239; fission is caused by the absorption of neutrons. See; Fission Bomb, Nucleus.
A nuclear bomb based on the concept of releasing energy through the fission (splitting) of heavy elements such as U 235 or Pu 239. See; Fission.
The probability that a nucleus will split (fission) when an additional neutron is added to the nucleus. See; Fission.
A general term for the complex mixture of substances produced as a result of nuclear fission. A distinction should be made between these and the direct fission products or fission fragments which are formed by the actual splitting of the heavy-element nuclei. Something like 80 different fission fragments result from roughly 40 different modes of fission of a given nuclear species (e.g., uranium-235 or plutonium-239). The fission fragments, being radioactive, immediately begin to decay, forming additional (daughter) products, with the result that the complex mixture of fission products so formed contains over 300 different isotopes of 36 elements.
Caused by the reflex glance toward the intense light given off by a nuclear explosion. Its effects can range from permanent blindness to retinal burns to temporary visual loss.
A burn caused by excessive exposure (of bare skin) to thermal radiation. See; Thermal Radiation.
Nuclear fusion is a type of nuclear reaction in which two atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus, releasing energy. For a fusion reaction to take place, the nuclei, which are positively charged, must have enough kinetic energy to overcome their electrostatic force of repulsion. Thermonuclear fusion of deuterium and tritium will produce a helium nucleus and an energetic neutron. This is one basis of the Hydrogen Bomb, which employs a brief, uncontrolled thermonuclear fusion reaction. A great effort is now under way to harness thermonuclear fusion as a source of power. See; Hydrogen Bomb, Thermonuclear.
A nuclear bomb based on the fusing or burning of light elements. Fusion bombs use fission bombs for ignition See; Fusion, Fission, Fission Bomb.
The Gadget was built to test the implosion design. It was placed atop a 100 foot tower and detonated at 5:29:45 am on July 15, 1945. It had a yield of 19 kilotons See; Trinity Test, Manhattan Project.
The electromagnetic radiation of high frequency emitted from nuclei when they decay from excited states, similar to but with higher energy than X-rays. See; Gamma Rays.
Electromagnetic radiations of high energy photons, originating in atomic nuclei and accompanying many nuclear reactions. They can penetrate deeply into body tissue and many materials. Shielding against gamma radiation requires thick layers of dense materials, such as lead. Gamma rays are potentially lethal to humans. See; Photon.
A method of isotope separation in which heavy, gaseous atoms or molecules are separated from light ones by centrifugal force.
A nuclear reactor in which gas is the coolant and graphite is the moderator. See; Reactor.
A method of isotope separation based on the fact that gas atoms or molecules with different masses will diffuse through a porous barrier at different rates. The method is used to separate uranium-235 from uranium-238. It requires large plants and significant amounts of power. See; Site X.
Ground Based Interceptor (GBI)
The missile intercept of the proposed U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system, the GBI will intercept incoming ballistic missile warheads outside the earth's atmosphere (exo-atmospheric) and collide with the incoming ballistic missile, thereby destroying the missile.
The point on the surface of land vertically below or above the center of a burst of a nuclear (or atomic) weapon; frequently abbreviated to GZ. For a burst over or under water the corresponding term is surface zero (SZ). Surface zero is also commonly used for ground surface and underground bursts.
A device in which two or more pieces of fissionable material, each less than a critical mass, are brought together very rapidly so as to form a supercritical mass which can explode as the result of a rapidly expanding fission chain reaction. See; Critical Mass, Supercritical.