The Weapons Laboratories

  • Hugh Miall


Inside the warhead of every nuclear weapon, there lies a machined sphere of plutonium inside a larger sphere of beryllium and uranium. This is enclosed in an outer shell of conventional explosive, punctured by radially mounted detonators. Near these concentric spheres lies a truncated cone of lithium deuteride, the hydrogen part of the bomb. On detonation, the beryllium and uranium would be driven by the conventional explosive into the plutonium core, starting a chain reaction in the plutonium. The energy generated in the fission of the plutonium would then be focussed on to the lithium deuteride, raising its temperature to that of the sun and triggering a more powerful fusion reaction in the lithium deuteride. During the arming sequence, tritium and deuterium are pumped into the bomb, the precise amount controlling the device’s destructive yield.

Nuclear warheads Aldermaston Livermore The Ministry of Medium Machine-Building Wang Ganchang and the Chinese nuclear programme the CEA the influence of the nuclear scientists on government policy and on the test ban talks 


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Copyright information

© Hugh Miall 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hugh Miall
    • 1
  1. 1.LondonUK

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