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View Full Version : Can nuclear bombs set each other off?



Tornadoboy
10-03-2006, 09:24 PM
Just curious, this doesn't have to do with any WIP of mine but I've always wondered about this question and the answer might prove useful to other authors.
If one were to set off a nuclear bomb near another one, would that bomb also go off and contribute to the atomic blast or would it simply be vaporized? I do know merely blowing up a warhead from external means will not make it go nuclear and will only scatter its contents around the immediate area, because to cause an atomic blast detonation has to happen in a very specific way. This question came to me when I once heard a man describe the power of a comet strike as being equal to putting all the world's nuclear warheads in a big pile and setting them off at the same time, it got me wondering if such a thing would be technically possible.

rtilryarms
10-03-2006, 11:28 PM
Been a long time since I took physics but I believe the explosion of a nuclear weapon is actually like a small nuclear bomb detonating a larger one.


There were two types Fission and fusion, i think fission was used as a detonator for the fusion bombs or vice versa.

That might help you on further searching. i go by memory on this.

Tsu Dho Nimh
10-03-2006, 11:32 PM
They wouldn't. Although the vaporised bomb might add to the radioactivity.

It takes shaped charges to make a KABOOM.

Mac H.
10-04-2006, 01:47 AM
They SHOULDN'T, but perhaps might.

For example, a bomb going off gives a huge EM spike. This EM spike travels at the speed of light - faster than the shock wave.

So if the EM spike causes the control electronics to trigger the bomb accidentally, it would do it before the shockwave arrives to destroy the bomb.

Of course, the control electronics for a nuclear bomb would be designed to stop anything like that happening. However, it would be terribly difficult to know for sure. The ones sitting in US silos that have had billions of dollars invested in the control electronics, and are probably designed to stop it.

But what about the aging ones sitting in Russia? Or the ones that Israel made on their very limited budget? Or the ones that North Korea have made, but haven't tested yet?

Mac

MattW
10-04-2006, 03:09 AM
The fissile material in a bomb is usually in a sub-optimal shape, which is then rapidly collapsed to the right size and shape to achieve critical mass by precisely crafted shape charges.

One weapon might detonate another by electrical failure and subsequent second detonation (as said above), but one explosion will not cause a second one. The shape charges would not be set off, and the explosive force would not be directed well enough to create the necessary implosion.

PennStater
10-05-2006, 09:02 PM
They probably would. Today's nuclear weapons use hydrogen bombs (like used in Hiroshima) to detonate the uranium bomb. Kind of scary that that a mushroom cloud is only a detonator for the real bomb....

Kentuk
10-06-2006, 08:40 PM
Just curious, this doesn't have to do with any WIP of mine but I've always wondered about this question and the answer might prove useful to other authors.
If one were to set off a nuclear bomb near another one, would that bomb also go off and contribute to the atomic blast or would it simply be vaporized? I do know merely blowing up a warhead from external means will not make it go nuclear and will only scatter its contents around the immediate area, because to cause an atomic blast detonation has to happen in a very specific way. This question came to me when I once heard a man describe the power of a comet strike as being equal to putting all the world's nuclear warheads in a big pile and setting them off at the same time, it got me wondering if such a thing would be technically possible.

We know what Americans would say but of course American nukes were designed to be nuked but the Koreans? Must google the technical possibilities.

Kentuk

Tornadoboy
10-07-2006, 03:11 AM
We know what Americans would say but of course American nukes were designed to be nuked but the Koreans? Must google the technical possibilities.

Kentuk

Given how it went for them the last time they launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, I'd say they'd blow themselves up trying to move it out of the lab.

Jamesaritchie
10-07-2006, 06:09 AM
I can't imagine any possible way for it to happen with any nuclear weapon, and certainly not with a US, Russian, etc., nuclear weapon. An EM signal doesn't matter. Only a specifically coded signal can activate the electronics in any nuclear weapon, and this signal is so complex that it's essentially impossible for it to be created by accident. It's actually several long, complicated and coded signals, so the odds are on the order of many trillions to one against it ever happening by accident. If the wrong signal is received, nothing happens, and if a signal that's too strong makes it through the casing, everything just burns out and shuts down. But not even the pulse from a thermonuclear weapon is supposed to make it through the shielding on a nuclear bomb. The crucial electronics are Faradayed in so that no matter how strong an outside signal is, it's routed around anything crucial.

And, of course, a nuclear weapon is completely useless until it's armed, and this is a separate procedure from actually exploding the bomb.

And while a terrorist built weapon wouldn't have these safeguards, it still must have the coventional explosive inside detonated in a perfectly sequential and timed order, else you get nothing but a big bang from the conventional explosives. This is not an easy task, and is really the hardest part of building a nuclear weapon.