Nuclear Weapons FAQ (NWFAQ) Organization

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This is a complete listing of the decimally numbered headings of the Nuclear Weapons Frequently Asked Questions, which provides a comprehensive view of the organization and contents of the document.


1.0         Types of Nuclear Weapons
1.1         Terminology
1.2         U.S. Nuclear Test Names 
1.3         Units of Measurement
1.4         Pure Fission Weapons
1.5         Combined Fission/Fusion Weapons
1.5.1       Boosted Fission Weapons
1.5.2       Staged Radiation Implosion Weapons
1.5.3       The Alarm Clock/Sloika (Layer Cake) Design
1.5.4       Neutron Bombs
1.6         Cobalt Bombs

2.0         Introduction to Nuclear Weapon Physics and Design
2.1         Fission Weapon Physics
2.1.1       The Nature Of The Fission Process
2.1.2       Criticality
2.1.3       Time Scale of the Fission Reaction
2.1.4       Basic Principles of Fission Weapon Design     Assembly Techniques - Achieving Supercriticality   Implosion Assembly   Gun Assembly     Initiating Fission     Preventing Disassembly and Increasing Efficiency
2.2         Fusion Weapon Physics
2.2.1       Candidate Fusion Reactions 
2.2.2       Basic Principles of Fusion Weapon Design     Designs Using the Deuterium+Tritium Reaction     Designs Using Other Fuels

3.0         Matter, Energy, and Radiation Hydrodynamics
3.1         Thermodynamics and the Properties of Gases
3.1.1       Kinetic Theory of Gases
3.1.2       Heat, Entropy, and Adiabatic Compression
3.1.3       Thermodynamic Equilibrium and Equipartition
3.1.4       Relaxation
3.1.5       The Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution Law
3.1.6       Specific Heats and the Thermodynamic Exponent
3.1.7       Properties of Blackbody Radiation
3.2         Properties of Matter
3.2.1       Equations of State (EOS)
3.2.2       Condensed Matter
3.2.3       Matter Under Ordinary Conditions
3.2.4       Matter At High Pressures     Thomas-Fermi Theory
3.2.5       Matter At High Temperatures
3.3         Interaction of Radiation and Matter
3.3.1       Thermal Equilibrium
3.3.2       Photon Interaction Mechanisms     Bound-Bound Interactions     Bound-Free Interactions     Free-Free Interactions   Bremsstrahlung Absorption and Emission   Scattering Thomson Scattering Compton Scattering
3.3.3       Opacity Laws
3.3.4       Radiation Transport     Radiation Diffusion     Radiation Heat Conduction   Linear Heat Conduction   Non-Linear Heat Conduction
3.4         Hydrodynamics
3.4.1       Acoustic Waves
3.4.2       Rarefaction and Compression Waves
3.4.3       Hydrodynamic Shock Waves     Classical Shock Waves     Detonation Waves     Linear Equation of State for Shock Compression
3.5         Radiation Hydrodynamics
3.5.1       Radiative Shock Waves
3.5.2       Subcritical Shocks
3.5.3       Critical Shock Waves
3.5.4       Supercritical Shock Waves
3.5.5       Radiation Dominated Shock Waves
3.5.6       Thermal Waves with Hydrodynamic Flow
3.6         Shock Waves in Non-Uniform Systems
3.6.1       Shock Waves at an Interface     Release Waves   Free Surface Release Waves in Gases   Free Surface Release Waves in Solids   Shock Waves at a Low Impedance Boundary     Shock Reflection   Shock Waves at a Rigid Interface   Shock Waves at a High Impedance Boundary
3.6.2       Collisions of Moving Bodies     Collisions of Bodies With Differing Impedance
3.6.3       Collisions of Shock Waves
3.6.4       Oblique Collisions of Moving Bodies
3.7         Principles of Implosion
3.7.1       Implosion Geometries
3.7.2       Classes of Implosive Processes
3.7.3       Convergent Shock Waves     Convergent Shocks With Reflection
3.7.4       Collapsing Shells     Shell in Free Fall     Shell Collapse Under Constant Pressure
3.7.5       Methods for Extreme Compression
3.8         Instability
3.8.1       Rayleigh-Taylor Instability
3.8.2       Richtmyer-Meshkov Instability
3.8.3       Helmholtz Instability

4.0         Engineering and Design of Nuclear Weapons
4.1         Elements of Fission Weapon Design
4.1.1       Dimensional and Temporal Scale Factors
4.1.2       Nuclear Properties of Fissile Materials
4.1.3       Distribution of Neutron Flux and Energy in the Core     Flux Distribution in the Core     Energy Distribution in the Core
4.1.4       History of a Fission Explosion     Sequence of Events   Initial State   Delayed Criticality   Prompt Criticality   Supercritical Reactivity Insertion   Exponential Multiplication   Explosive Disassembly     The Disassembly Process     Post Disassembly Expansion
4.1.5       Fission Weapon Efficiency     Efficiency Equations   The Serber Efficiency Equation Revisited   The Density Dependent Efficiency Equation   The Mass and Density Dependent Efficiency Equation   The Mass Dependent Efficiency Equation   Limitations of the Efficiency Equations     Effect of Tampers and Reflectors on Efficiency   Tampers   Reflectors     Predetonation
4.1.6       Methods of Core Assembly     Gun Assembly   Single Gun Systems   Double Gun Systems   Weapon Design and Insertion Speed   Initiation     Implosion Assembly   Energy Required for Compression   Shock Wave Generation Systems Multiple Initiation Points Explosive Lenses Advanced Wave Shaping Techniques Cylindrical and Planar Shock Techniques Explosives Detonation Systems   Implosion Hardware Designs Solid Pit Designs Levitated Core Designs Thin Shell (Flying Plate) Designs Shock Buffers Cylindrical Implosion Planar Implosion     Hybrid Assembly Techniques   Complex Guns   Linear Implosion
4.1.7       Nuclear Design Principles     Fissile Materials   Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)   Plutonium Plutonium Oxide   U-233     Composite Cores     Tampers and Reflectors   Tampers   Reflectors Moderation and Inelastic Scattering Comparison of Reflector Materials   Combined Tamper/Reflector Systems
4.1.8       Fission Initiation Techniques     Modulated Beryllium/Polonium Initiators     External Neutron Initiators (ENIs)     Internal Tritium/Deuterium Initiators
4.1.9       Testing     Nuclear Tests     Hydrodynamic Tests     Hydronuclear Tests
4.2         Fission Weapon Designs
4.2.1       Low Technology Designs     Gun Designs     Implosion Designs
4.2.2       High Efficiency Weapons
4.2.3       Low Yield Weapons     Minimum Size     Minimum Fissile Content
4.2.4       High Yield Weapons
4.2.5       Special Purpose Applications     Thermonuclear Primaries (Triggers)     Earth Penetrating Warheads
4.2.6       Weapon Design and Clandestine Proliferation     Clandestine Weapons Development and Testing     Terrorist Bombs
4.3         Fission-Fusion Hybrid Weapons
4.3.1       Fusion Boosted Fission Weapons
4.3.2       Neutron Bombs ("Enhanced Radiation Weapons")
4.3.3       The Alarm Clock/Layer Cake Design
4.4         Elements of Thermonuclear Weapon Design
4.4.1       Development of Thermonuclear Weapon Concepts     Early Work     The Ignition Problem     The Classical Super     The Teller-Ulam Design
4.4.2       Schematic of a Thermonuclear Device
4.4.3       Radiation Implosion     The Role of Radiation     Opacity of Materials in Thermonuclear Design     The Ablation Process   The Ablation Shock     Principles of Compression   Purpose of Compression   The Fermi Pressure   Efficient Compression     Ignition   Fission Spark Plugs   Shock Heating Induced Ignition     Burn and Disassembly
4.4.4       Implosion Systems     Techniques for Controlled Implosion   Release Waves   Standoff Gaps   Compartmented Radiation Cases   Modulated Primary Energy Production   Multiple Staging   Selection of Pusher Materials     Radiation Containment and Transport   Radiation Case   Radiation Channel     Avoiding Fuel Preheating
4.4.5       Fusion Stage Nuclear Physics and Design     Fusionable Isotopes     Neutronic Reactions     Fusion Fuels   Pure Deuterium   "Dry" Fuels (Lithium Hydrides) Enriched Lithium Deuteride Natural Lithium Deuteride   Speculative Fuels     Fusion Tampers   Fissionable Tampers   "Clean" Non-Fissile Tampers   "Dirty" Non-Fissile Tampers
4.5         Thermonuclear Weapon Designs
4.5.1       Principle Design Types     Early Designs     Modular Weapons     Compact Light Weight Designs     Two Chamber Designs     Hollow Shell Designs     High Yield and Multiple Staged Designs
4.5.2       "Dirty" and "Clean" Weapons
4.5.3       Maximum Yield/Weight Ratio
4.5.4       Minimum Residual Radiation (MRR or "Clean") Designs
4.5.5       Radiological Weapon Designs
4.6         Weapon System Design
4.6.1       Weapon Safety     Safeties and Fuzing Systems

5.0         Effects of Nuclear Explosions
5.1         Overview of Immediate Effects
5.2         Overview of Delayed Effects
5.2.1       Radioactive Contamination
5.2.2       Effects on the Atmosphere and Climate     Harm to the Ozone Layer     Nuclear Winter
5.3         Physics of Nuclear Weapon Effects
5.3.1       Fireball Physics     The Early Fireball     Blast Wave Development and Thermal Radiation Emission 
5.3.2       Ionizing Radiation Physics     Sources of Radiation   Prompt Radiation   Delayed Radiation
5.4         Air Bursts and Surface Bursts
5.4.1       Air Bursts
5.4.2       Surface Bursts
5.4.3       Sub-Surface Bursts 
5.5         Electromagnetic Effects
5.6         Mechanisms of Damage and Injury
5.6.1       Thermal Damage and Incendiary Effects     Thermal Injury     Incendiary Effects     Eye Injury
5.6.2       Blast Damage and Injury
5.6.3       Radiation Injury     Units of Measurement for Radiation Exposure     Types of Radiation     Prompt Radiation Emission From Nuclear Explosions     Acute Radiation Sickness   Acute Whole Body Exposure Effects   Acute Localized Tissue Exposure   Fetal Injury     Chronic Radiation Exposure   External Exposure   Internal Exposure   Cancer   Genetic Effects   Cataracts

6.0         Nuclear Materials
6.1         Production of Isotopes
6.1.1       Isotopic Enrichment     Electromagnetic Separation     Gaseous Diffusion     Thermal Liquid Diffusion     Gas Centrifuge Separation     Aerodynamic Separation     AVLIS (atomic vapor laser isotope separation)     Chemical Exchange     Distillation     Electrolysis
6.1.2       Transmutation
6.2         Fissionable Materials
6.2.1       Uranium (U)     U-235   U-235 Isotope Enrichment     U-238     U-233     Depleted Uranium
6.2.2       Plutonium (Pu)     Plutonium Metallurgy     Plutonium Toxicity     Plutonium Production     Pu-238     Pu-239     Pu-240     Pu-241     Pu-242     Weapon Grade Plutonium    Reactor Grade Plutonium    Denatured Plutonium
6.2.3       Thorium (Th)
6.2.4       Other Fissile Elements     Protactinium     Neptunium     Americium     Californium
6.3         Fusionable Materials
6.3.1       Hydrogen Isotopes     Deuterium (D)     Tritium (T)
6.3.2       Lithium (Li)
6.4         Other Materials
6.4.1       Beryllium (Be)
6.4.2       Polonium (Po)

7.1         Nuclear Weapon Treaties
7.2         Declared States
7.2.1       United States of America     Current Nuclear Forces     Existing Weapon Infrastructure     Planned Nuclear Forces
7.2.2       Russia     Current Nuclear Forces
7.2.3       Britain     History of British Nuclear Weapon Development     History of the British Nuclear Weapon Stockpile     The Current British Nuclear Weapon Stockpile     British Nuclear Installations
7.2.4       France     History of French Nuclear Weapon Development     History of the French Nuclear Weapon Stockpile     The Current French Nuclear Weapon Stockpile     French Nuclear Installations
7.2.5       China
7.3         Suspected States
7.3.1       India
7.3.2       Iran
7.3.3       Israel
7.3.4       Libya
7.3.5       North Korea
7.3.6       Pakistan
7.4         States Formerly Possessing or Pursuing Nuclear Weapons
7.4.1       Argentina
7.4.2       Brazil
7.4.3       Iraq
7.4.4       South Africa
7.4.5       South Korea
7.4.6       Sweden
7.4.7       Switzerland
7.4.8       Taiwan
7.4.9       Algeria
7.4.10      Other Former Soviet States    Ukraine    Kazakhstan    Belarus
7.5         Other Nuclear Capable States
7.5.1       Australia
7.5.2       Canada
7.5.3       Germany
7.5.4       Japan
7.5.6       Netherlands

8.0         The First Nuclear Weapons
8.1         The First Atomic Bombs
8.1.1       The Design of Gadget, Fat Man, and "Joe 1" (RDS-1)     The Pit     The Neutron Initiator     The Reflector/Tamper     The Pusher/Neutron Absorber Shell     The High Explosive Lens System
8.1.2       Trinity - The Gadget Test
8.1.3       Little Boy
8.1.4       Fat Man
8.1.5       Availability of Additional Bombs 
8.2         The First Hydrogen Bombs
8.2.1       Early Research on Fusion Weapons
8.2.2       Design and Testing of the First Fusion Weapons

9.0         Hiroshima and Nagasaki

10.0        Chronology For The Origin Of Atomic Weapons
10.1        Early History of Nuclear Weapons
10.2        The Discovery of Fission and Its Properties
10.3        Organizing to Investigate Atomic Weapons
10.4        Organizing to Develop Atomic Weapons
10.5        The Manhattan Project - The Work Begins in Earnest
10.6        Racing Against Victory - The Final Year

11.0        Questions and Answers

12.0        Useful Tables

13.0        Bibliography

14.0        Nuclear Weapons FAQ Change History