Nuclear weapons, nuclear explosions and the latest concepts in nuclear technology are being discussed in great detail now-a-days.  The reason could be attributed to the nuclear explosions conducted by India and Pakistan during May, 1998.  The nuclear scenario in South Asia is hot.  In the meanwhile, nuclear scientists are busy in discovering the new technologies in nuclear science.  Let us discuss a few latest concepts.

It is quite amazing to imagine that the sizes of nuclear bombs of the future could be equal to the size of a tea cup.  They could weigh, at the most, one kilogram.  They could be very cheap.  They could be carried to the desired site with the help of small missiles and artillery systems.  Therefore, we have now arrived at a new concept in nuclear bomb technology which claims small is beautiful.   These are the fourth generation nuclear weapons with a yield equivalent to one to ten tons of trinitrotoluene.  They are lethal but are not restricted under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).


The CTBT does not allow any nuclear explosions.  However, it allows the micro-explosions with a yield of up to ten tones.  The Fourth Generation Nuclear Weapons (FGN weapons) could be used as weapons but not for mass destruction.  Note that a conventional nuclear device is 10, 00,000 times more powerful than the conventional weapon.  The FGN is only 1, 000 times more powerful than the conventional weapon system.  Dr. Andre Gsponer, a nuclear physicist at the independent science centre in Geneva, Switzerland has been actively involved in FGN weapons projects.  Mr. Gsponer states that FGN weapons would be able to fill the gaps between the conventional and nuclear weapons.


The five masters of the universe – The USA, China, Germany, the UK and France have a decisive edge in the FGN weapon technology.  But Mr. Gsponer feels that more nations could join for the development of FGN weapons as they are cheap, manageable and do not attract any CTBT provisions for complete ban.


The other area of nuclear explosion is the thermonuclear device.  A thermonuclear device is different from the other conventional nuclear weapons.  A conventional nuclear device is based on the concept of nuclear fission in which a heavy isotope breaks up into two smaller isotopes of comparable atomic masses when the mother isotope is bombarded by high speed rays of extremely high energy levels.  The fission or the breaking up of the heavy nucleus into two lighter nuclei releases energy.  The bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fission devices.  A thermonuclear device is one in which two lighter nuclei combine to form a heavy nucleus.  For example, in the sun, the two atoms of hydrogen are combining to form one molecule of helium.  The process takes energy in the form of heat and pressure in the initial stages.  However, when the fusion process takes place, there is a release of tremendous amount of heat energy, light and radioactive rays.  That is the sole reason why the sun has been generating energy on its own for several billion years and would continue to do so in future as well.


The keen and progressive nations of the world are working on the FGN weapons as well as on the thermonuclear devices.  It must be pointed out that India has already acquired the thermonuclear technology in May, 1998.


The FGN weapons could use either the fusion duel or the fission fuel.  The yield generation mode in the fission process is the sub-critical mode which is not forbidden under the CTBT.  Sub-critical burns are not suitable for making high-yield weapons but are ideal for a yield of one to 100 tons.


For this type of explosive, the suitable technique is the usage of magnetic compression for increasing the density of the fissile material and a very small amount of anti-matter to initiate the critical burn.  While the anti-matter and lasers would be used as igniters, the main charge could be deuterium-tritium pallets of 0.5 cm size and these would be compressed by a factor of 1, 000.  Japanese scientists have been able to achieve the maximum compression of these pallets by increasing the density to 600 times to that of the original density.


Further, the other vital player in this technology is the laser.  Some nations have developed super lasers by increasing their intensification.  The minimum cost of the super laser if US$1 million.


The world has not been able to define what constitutes a nuclear explosion. However, the CTBT allows the micro-explosions with a yield of ten tons.  According to the CTBT draft, these are not nuclear explosions in technical parlance.


The former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral David Jeremiah stated at a conference on Molecular Nano Technology – The battlefield of the future will be dominated by smart weapons that will allow us to reduce wholesale destruction and the tremendous expenditure of ordinance.  The goal is finer precision, more selectivity, less need for mass.  He further stated that big nukes are of lesser importance.  Therefore, he emphasized upon the slimming of the nuclear technology and the resultant derivation of the FGN weapons.  Admiral Jeremiah also stated that these slim weapons had greater potential to radically change the balance of power.


CTBT is just an instrument for legitimizing the possession and perfection of nuclear weapons by the nuclear states.  But we really do not know what is going on in the laboratories around the world.  FGN weapons could be utilized against the enemy whereas a nation would think at least for ten times before she uses a major nuclear option against any country.  The development and usage of full-fledged nuclear weapons is costly, morally agonizing and technically difficult.  The usage of slim nuclear devices like the FGN weapons is cheaper and morally acceptable.  However, it is technically out of reach for most of the nations.  Experts state that this technology could be acquired by many non-weapon states in the times to come.


The FGN weapons and the super laser laboratories have added a new dimension to the nuclear weapon scenario; the small and slim nuclear missiles which pose another real threat to the only living planet in our part of the universe.  We pray that good sense may prevail and this deadly technology may be diverted towards peaceful applications of nuclear energy.



Like it on Facebook, Tweet it or share this article on other bookmarking websites.

No comments