DeVolpi, A. Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois.
Last reviewed:August 2018
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- Conceptual design
- Explosion effects
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A device for suddenly producing an explosive neutron chain reaction in a fissile material such as uranium-235 (235U) or plutonium-239 (239Pu). An atomic bomb derives its destructive potency from the rapid release of nuclear energy brought about by the fission of heavy atomic nuclei. In a wider sense, any explosive device that derives its energy from nuclear reactions can be considered to be an atomic bomb; this broader definition encompasses not only the foregoing fission weapon, but also a fusion weapon (which gets its energy largely from fusion reactions of heavy hydrogen isotopes) and a fission–fusion weapon (which derives its energy from both fission and fusion). Because an atomic bomb derives its energy from nuclear reactions, it is properly called a nuclear explosive or nuclear weapon (Fig. 1). See also: Hydrogen bomb; Nuclear explosion; Nuclear fission; Nuclear fusion; Nuclear reaction; Plutonium; Uranium
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