North Korea carried out its strongest ever nuclear test, claimed to be a thermonuclear device or a Hydrogen Bomb on 3rd September 2017. The sixth nuclear test conducted by the ‘rogue nation’ generated a seismic reading of 6.3 magnitude which indicates its yield could be about 100 kilotons. The nuclear bomb which struck Hiroshima was only a 15 kiloton device.
North Korea further proclaimed that they could install a compact version of the bomb on its Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile HAWSONG-14, whose trial was successfully concluded in July 2017. With a range of 10,000 km, these missiles can carry out a nuclear strike on many parts of USA.
What is a Hydrogen Bomb? How is it different from the Atomic bomb?
- A hydrogen bomb is a thermonuclear device based both on fission, which is splitting up of an atom and fusion, which is coming together of two atomic nuclei. Stars produce energy through fusion.
- The Atomic bomb, on the other hand, is a fission based device only. Nuclear power plants produce energy through fission.
- Hydrogen bombs are more powerful, more efficient and more destructive than atomic bombs.
How does Hydrogen bomb works:
- With the application of high temperature and pressure, the nuclei of two hydrogen isotopes Deuterium and Tritium can fuse creating massive amounts of energy.
- But as both are gases and are hard to store, with tritium being very short in supply, scientist use a solid compound called lithium-deuterate, as the chief thermonuclear material.
- A fission reaction is carried to produce tritium from lithium and also brings about the release of X-rays which generate high temperatures and pressures to start fusion.
- A hydrogen bomb is thus a 2 stage device- In the first stage, Plutonium 239 goes through a fission process releasing X-rays. This primary explosion detonates the second device within the warhead.
- In the second stage, the heat generated through fission exerts a pressure on lithium deuterate. The compression waves produced to cause the Plutonium rod to start fission and release neutrons.
- This neutron combines with lithium to form tritium. The high temperatures and pressure kick-start a fusion reaction.
- The neutrons released from the fusion reaction cause fission to start in Uranium 238 tamper and shield which creates even more energy. The bomb explodes.
- This whole process takes place in a fraction of a second and causes a devastating effect.
North Korea Nuclear Programme:
- It has been expanding its nuclear programme to create an active nuclear deterrence against its enemies. Active deterrence suggests a certainty in retaliation if attacked.
- Since the Korean war 1950-53, North Korea has perceived a greater US intervention in the Korean peninsula. Its alliance with South Korea and joint exercises are seen as threats of invasion to topple the regime.