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AIRCRAFT MUNITIONS - THE COBALT BOMB



 
 
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  #1  
Old August 29th 03, 01:29 AM
Garrison Hilliard
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Default AIRCRAFT MUNITIONS - THE COBALT BOMB


(A forwarded message)

Weapons of Total Destruction

Many might remember the Neutron bomb which, when exploding, leaves
buildings and roads intact while showering life on earth with lethal doses
of neutron radiation. This way an enemy can kill
all life within a zone and take possession of a city and all of its
content. Dreadful, is it not, but not
the Doomsday weapon conceived of in 1950 - the Cobalt Bomb.

In the light of the current talks in China with North Korea, let us
reflect on the awesome power of destruction we have brought into existence.

The Cobalt Bomb is capable of wiping out life on earth. It explodes and
emits long-lasting and lethal gamma radiation, the most energetic radiation
in the electromagnetic spectrum. Has the Cobalt Bomb been constructed? If it
has, then it is part of a classified arsenal of weapons, but who would want
to
unleash a weapon of such destructive power that none who inhabit the earth
would survive? Perhaps only those who can take refuge in a deep underground
Ark.

From the Encarta Encyclopedia...

"The Hydrogen Bomb or H-bomb, weapon deriving a large portion of its
energy from the nuclear fusion of hydrogen isotopes. In an atomic bomb ,
uranium or plutonium is split into lighter elements that together weigh less
than the original atoms, the remainder of the mass appearing as energy.
Unlike this fission bomb, the hydrogen bomb functions by the fusion, or
joining together, of lighter elements into heavier elements. The end product
again weighs less than its components, the difference once more appearing as
energy. Because extremely high temperatures are required in order to
initiate fusion reactions, the hydrogen bomb is also known as a
thermonuclear bomb. The first thermonuclear bomb was exploded in 1952 at
Enewetak by the United States, the second in 1953 by Russia (then the USSR).
Great Britain, France, and China have also exploded thermonuclear bombs, and
these five nations comprise the so-called nuclear club"nations that have the
capability to produce nuclear weapons and admit to maintaining an inventory
of them. The three smaller Soviet successor states that inherited nuclear
arsenals (Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus) relinquished all nuclear
warheads, which have been removed to Russia. Several other nations either
have tested thermonuclear devices or claim to have the capability to produce
them, but officially state that they do not maintain a stockpile of such
weapons; among these are India, Israel, and Pakistan. South Africa's
apartheid regime built six nuclear bombs but dismantled them later.

The presumable structure of a thermonuclear bomb is as follows: at its
center is an atomic bomb; surrounding it is a layer of lithium deuteride (a
compound of lithium and deuterium, the isotope of hydrogen with mass number
2); around it is a tamper, a thick outer layer, frequently of fissionable
material, that holds the contents together in order to obtain a larger
explosion. Neutrons from the atomic explosion cause the lithium to fission
into helium, tritium (the isotope of hydrogen with mass number 3), and
energy. The atomic explosion also supplies the temperatures needed for the
subsequent fusion of deuterium with tritium, and of tritium with tritium
(50,000,000 and 400,000,000, respectively). Enough neutrons are produced in
the fusion reactions to produce further fission in the core and to initiate
fission in the tamper.

Since the fusion reaction produces mostly neutrons and very little that is
radioactive, the concept of a 'clean' bomb has resulted: one having a small
atomic trigger, a less fissionable tamper, and therefore less radioactive
fallout . Carrying this progression further would result in the suggested
neutron bomb, which would have a minimum trigger and a nonfissionable
tamper; there would be blast effects and a hail of lethal neutrons but
almost no radioactive fallout; this theoretically would cause minimal
physical damage to buildings and equipment but kill most living things. The
theorized cobalt bomb is, on the contrary, a radioactively "dirty bomb
having a cobalt tamper. Instead of generating additional explosive force
from fission of the uranium, the cobalt is transmuted into cobalt-60, which
has a half-life of 5.26 years and produces energetic (and thus penetrating)
gamma rays. The half-life of Co-60 is just long enough so that airborne
particles will settle and coat the earth's surface before significant decay
has occurred, thus making it impractical to hide in shelters. This prompted
physicist Leo Szilard to call it a "doomsday device since it was capable of
wiping out life on earth."

----

The idea of the cobalt bomb originated with Leo Szilard who publicized it
in Feb. 1950, not as a serious proposal for weapon, but to point out that it
would soon be possible in principle to build a weapon that could kill
everybody on earth. To design such a theoretical weapon a radioactive
isotope is needed that can be dispersed world wide before it decays. Such
dispersal takes many months to a few years so the half-life of Co-60 is
ideal.

The Co-60 fallout hazard is greater than the fission products from a U-238
blanket because

many fission-produced isotopes have half-lives that are very short, and
thus decay before the fallout settles or can be protected against by
short-term sheltering;

many fission-produced isotopes have very long half-lives and thus do not
produce very intense radiation;
the fission products are not radioactive at all.

The half-life of Co-60 on the other hand is long enough to settle out
before significant decay has occurred, and to make it impractical to wait
out in shelters, yet is short enough that intense radiation is produced.

Initially gamma radiation fission products from an equivalent size
fission-fusion-fission bomb are much more intense than Co-60: 15,000 times
more intense at 1 hour; 35 times more intense at 1 week; 5 times more
intense at 1 month; and about equal at 6 months. Thereafter fission drops
off rapidly so that Co-60 fallout is 8 times more intense than fission at 1
year and 150 times more intense at 5 years. The very long lived isotopes
produced by fission would overtake the again Co-60 after about 75 years.

Zinc has been proposed as an alternate candidate for the "doomsday role".
The advantage of Zn-64 is that its faster decay leads to greater initial
intensity. Disadvantages are that since it makes up only half of natural
zinc, it must either be isotopically enriched or the yield will be cut in
half; that it is a weaker gamma emitter than Co-60, putting out only
one-fourth as many gammas for the same molar quantity; and that
substantially amounts will decay during the world-wide dispersal process.
Assuming pure Zn-64 is used, the radiation intensity of Zn-65 would
initially be twice as much as Co-60. This would decline to being equal in 8
months, in 5 years Co-60 would be 110 times as intense.

Militarily useful radiological weapons would use local (as opposed to
world-wide) contamination, and high initial intensities for rapid effects.
Prolonged contamination is also undesirable. In this light Zn-64 is possibly
better suited to military applications than cobalt, but probably inferior to
tantalum or gold. As noted above ordinary "dirty" fusion-fission bombs have
very high initial radiation intensities and must also be considered
radiological weapons.

No cobalt or other salted bomb has ever been atmospherically tested, and
as far as is publicly known none have ever been built. In light of the ready
availability of fission-fusion-fission bombs, it is unlikely any
special-purpose fallout contamination weapon will ever be developed.

The British did test a bomb that incorporated cobalt as an experimental
radiochemical tracer (Antler/Round 1, 14 September 1957). This 1 kt device
was exploded at the Tadje site, Maralinga range, Australia. The experiment
was regarded as a failure and not repeated.

Well, let us hope that Doomsday Weapons are never built. With enough
H-Bombs, we could come
close to a D-Weapon. A Doomsday weapon would not be just a WMD, but a WTD
(Weapon of Total Destruction).

Now that efforts for non-proliferation of these nuclear weapons are
underway, and with more countries trying to get into the nuclear party, the
doomsday cloud looms once again. Let us hope no nation anywhere on earth,
threatens humanity with such WTDs.

"The world we've made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done
thus far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking" --
Albert Einstein.

Bill Hamilton


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  #2  
Old August 29th 03, 09:22 AM
Keith Willshaw
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Posts: n/a
Default


"Garrison Hilliard" wrote in message
...

(A forwarded message)

Weapons of Total Destruction

Many might remember the Neutron bomb which, when exploding, leaves
buildings and roads intact while showering life on earth with lethal doses
of neutron radiation. This way an enemy can kill
all life within a zone and take possession of a city and all of its
content. Dreadful, is it not, but not
the Doomsday weapon conceived of in 1950 - the Cobalt Bomb.


Yes we know , Stanley Kubrick called the movie version
Dr Strangelove

Keith


 




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