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Understanding nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles

28-09-2017

Nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles need to be understood if the risks and challenges they entail are to be grasped. This understanding starts with two processes discovered in the last century – nuclear fission and nuclear fusion – that have the ability to release a significant quantity of energy from a very limited amount of matter. On the one hand, these reactions can be used to produce energy. Controlled nuclear fission is the process on which nuclear power plants are based. Nuclear fusion, ...

Nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles need to be understood if the risks and challenges they entail are to be grasped. This understanding starts with two processes discovered in the last century – nuclear fission and nuclear fusion – that have the ability to release a significant quantity of energy from a very limited amount of matter. On the one hand, these reactions can be used to produce energy. Controlled nuclear fission is the process on which nuclear power plants are based. Nuclear fusion, meanwhile, requires the ability to control a reaction that occurs at temperatures of millions of degrees. The control of nuclear fusion for energy production is the objective of the ITER project. On the other hand, uncontrolled nuclear fission and fusion reactions can be used to design nuclear weapons whose destructive power is far greater than traditional weapons. The first atomic bombs were produced and used during World War Two and based on nuclear fission. Since then, the design of nuclear weapons has been modified to include nuclear fusion reactions, leading to a sharp increase in the yield of nuclear bombs. The development of nuclear weapons requires mastery of technologies for the production of nuclear fuels (enriched uranium and plutonium), making access to these weapons limited. Advances in the production and design of nuclear weapons have made them smaller and suitable for mounting in the warheads of ballistic missiles. These missiles, whose functioning is similar to space rockets, can deliver their charge at a very long range (up to 15 000 km for intercontinental ballistic missiles).

Emerging Nuclear Energy Systems - Their Possible Safety and Proliferation Risks

15-11-1999

This study aims at identifying and assessing the safety and proliferation risks that new nuclear energy systems might pose, and making policy recommendations based on this assessment. The basic physical ideas within relevant nuclear research areas are outlined and their major research goals described, with special emphasis on projects within the Specific Programmes 'Nuclear Fission' and 'Thermonuclear Fission' of the Euroatom Fifth Framework Programme Criteria for the assessment of safety risks are ...

This study aims at identifying and assessing the safety and proliferation risks that new nuclear energy systems might pose, and making policy recommendations based on this assessment. The basic physical ideas within relevant nuclear research areas are outlined and their major research goals described, with special emphasis on projects within the Specific Programmes 'Nuclear Fission' and 'Thermonuclear Fission' of the Euroatom Fifth Framework Programme Criteria for the assessment of safety risks are described, and criteria for the assessment of proliferation risks are presented. The implications for EU policy making are then outlined.

Autore esterno

Annette Schaper (PRIF), Gerhard Schmidt (Öko-Institut) and Roland Bähr (Öko-Institut)

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