H-bomb versus A-bomb: Understanding the difference

In a world more accustomed to talking about F-bombs than H-bombs, North Korea's claim that it has detonated one may have you asking what it is, and how it's different from an A-bomb.

See Full Article

Here's what you need to know about the nuclear bomb lingo that has fallen out of the conversation since the end of the Cold War:

Nuclear bombs:

Nuclear weapons create powerful explosions by splitting or fusing atoms' nuclei, releasing destructive amounts of energy.

The United Nations calls these bombs the "most dangerous" weapons in the world, and warns they have the possibility to kill millions, destroy cities and the environment, and cause "long-term catastrophic effects."

The A-bomb, or atomic bomb

The United States dragged the world into the age of nuclear weaponry in 1945, when it dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The effects were devastating. Together, the bombs killed some 200,000 people, destroyed the cores of the cities and left behind harmful radiation.

The blasts also launched a new age of weaponry, and led to a tense arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

How it works

A-bombs use fission, or atom splitting, to produce explosions.

The reaction is triggered by bombarding radioactive elements' nuclei with fast-moving neutron particles, the Union of Concerned Scientists, a U.S.-based group founded at MIT in 1969, says.

This initial splitting sends off secondary neutrons, triggering a chain reaction as they bombard other nearby nuclei, causing them to split as well.

Each successive reaction doubles the amount of neutrons and energy released, the union explains.

In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this amounted to explosions equivalent to 15 to 20 kilotons of TNT.

Atom bombs and North Korea

North Korea announced its first atomic bomb test in 2006. Since then, it has claimed to have tested two more A-bombs.

Each of these bombs has been about the same scale as those used on Japan in 1945.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Israel, India and Pakistan are also believed to possess atomic bombs.

The H-bomb/hydrogen bomb/thermonuclear weapons

First developed in the United States in the 1950's, the hydrogen bomb is a far more powerful form of nuclear weapon.

Also known as the "superbomb," experts say hydrogen bombs can create explosions 1,000 times more powerful than those created by atom bombs. And there is potential to develop H-bombs even more powerful than that.

H-bombs have never actually been used during a war, but the U.S., Russia, France, the U.K., and China are all known to possess these powerful weapons.

How it works

Rather than fission, H-bombs use fusion, or the fusing of atomic nuclei to create massive explosions.

The Union of Concerned Scientists breaks the process down into three separate reactions, which happen almost simultaneously:

First, there is a chemical explosion which forces atoms inwards, compressing them into a dense "plutonium pit."

Second, a neutron generator sends neutron particles into the pit to set off a fission chain reaction, splitting nuclei to create a "primary" explosion.

Then, the high temperature and pressure caused by the primary explosion triggers a fusion reaction, causing atomic nuclei to fuse and set off the final, massive explosion.

According to the union, the U.S. has used this technology to create warheads with explosive yields of several hundred kilotons.

H-bombs and North Korea

A key feature of the hydrogen bomb is its size.

It is possible to make hydrogen bombs small enough to fit on a missile warhead, which means that if North Korea can master this technology, it could be able to launch the bombs overseas.

"That the bomb can become compact is the characteristic," Tatsujiro Suzuki, a professor at the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University, told The Associated Press. "This means North Korea has the U.S. in mind in making this H-bomb announcement."

With files from The Associated Press



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Vancouver could become 'mixed reality' hub: Microsoft president

    Tech & Science CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- Microsoft president Brad Smith says Vancouver could become a hub for "mixed reality" or virtual reality technology that merges with the physical world. Smith says the estimated revenue for mixed reality video games, including both hardware and software, is expected to top $12 billion by 2025. Source
  • Microsoft president pushes Vancouver-Seattle tech corridor despite NAFTA doubt

    Tech & Science CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- The president of Microsoft is pushing to make a Vancouver-Seattle technology corridor a success, despite the uncertainty around cross-border trade posed by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Brad Smith was in Vancouver on Wednesday to promote the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, an agreement signed by British Columbia and Washington state that aims to grow high-tech industries and strengthen collaboration across the region. Source
  • Canada relatively unscathed as cyberattack continues to spread

    Tech & Science CBC News
    As a cyberattack continued to spread among nations and corporations on Wednesday, the identity and motives of the attackers remain a mystery. Ports, hospitals and banks around the globe have been hit by a version of ransomware being called ExPetr, similar to Petya but with a different functionality. Source
  • How artificial intelligence is taking on ransomware

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Twice in the space of six weeks, the world has suffered major attacks of ransomware -- malicious software that locks up photos and other files stored on your computer, then demands money to release them. Source
  • Petya vaccine is a ransomware fix, but 'not a silver bullet'

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A defence has been found against the so-called Petya virus attempting to cripple Microsoft Windows-based networks across the globe, although experts say it must be applied to each computer individually and will not kill the bug altogether. Source
  • Carcass of right whale being towed to P.E.I. to determine cause of death

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NORWAY, P.E.I. - The Canadian Coast Guard and Fisheries and Oceans hope to beach a dead right whale on a Prince Edward Island shore today in an effort to learn what has killed at least six of the endangered mammals in recent weeks. Source
  • Canada's top court backs order for Google to remove firm's website from global searches

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a B.C. court ruling that ordered Google to remove the website of a company from its global search results. "The appeal is dismissed and the worldwide interlocutory injunction against Google is upheld," wrote the court in its decision issued Wednesday morning. Source
  • New made-in-China navy destroyer launches in Shanghai

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING -- China's increasingly powerful navy launched its most advanced domestically produced destroyer on Wednesday, at a time of rising competition with other naval powers such as the United States, Japan and India. The first 10,000-ton Type 055 entered the water at Shanghai's Jiangnan Shipyard on Wednesday morning, the navy said in a statement. Source
  • Increasingly wild weather could lead to rising air travel costs

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Be prepared to pay more for airfare if climate change continues to alter weather patterns, increasing the frequency and severity of storms, say climate change and airline industry experts. Daniel Scott, a climate professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, said travellers should also expect more flight delays and cancellations amid recurring snowstorms, thunderstorms and bouts of freezing rain. Source
  • Cambodian conservationists find rare cache of crocodile eggs

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Wildlife researchers in Cambodia say they've found a clutch of eggs from one of the world's most endangered crocodiles, raising hopes of its continuing survival in the wild. The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society said Wednesday that its researchers, along with Fisheries Administration employees and local residents, had found six eggs of the Siamese Crocodile in the southern province of Koh Kong as they were exploring for tracks, signs and dung of the…