How a hydrogen bomb works: North Korea’s new device could yield a devastating blast thousands of times more powerful than Hiroshima or Nagasaki

Monday, September 4, 2017
By Paul Martin

North Korea on Sunday claimed to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb causing an underground blast
Experts concur that it was an ‘advanced’ nuclear weapon roughly five times larger than the Nagasaki nuke
Thermonuclear weapons, also known as hydrogen bombs, have no theoretical upper limit on yield
The 100-kiloton blast detected in North Korea’s latest test is within range of both H-bombs and regular nukes

4 September 2017

North Korea claimed on Sunday to have successfully tested an hydrogen bomb, but what exactly makes an H-bomb different from an atom bomb?

Hydrogen bombs, or H-bombs, are thermonuclear weapons – a more advanced and powerful form of nuclear bomb.
The earliest nuclear weapons, including those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were fission bombs that split atoms into pieces.

While these nuclear weapons – known atom bombs – primarily use fission to create energy, thermonuclear H-bombs use both fission and fusion.

They work in a two-stage process, by using an initial fission reaction to trigger a fusion reaction, smashing the nuclei of atoms together in the same nuclear process that powers the sun.

The result of the thermonuclear design is a devastating blast that can be thousands of times more powerful than traditional atomic bomb designs, which have an upper yield limit of about 500 kilotons.

Thermonuclear weapons can additionally use the fusion reaction to trigger a second fission reaction, with no theoretical upper limit on yield. The largest weapon ever tested was a Russian device with a 50,000 kiloton yield.

The US first tested a hydrogen bomb in 1952, with a 1,000 kiloton yield. H-bombs have never been used in war.

Experts believe the latest North Korean device exploded with a 100 kiloton yield, which could be within the yield range of either traditional atomic or thermonuclear weapons.

Either way, it seems clear the test was of a powerful nuclear weapon capable of destroying swaths of a city.

‘We have nothing to cause us to doubt that this was a test of an advanced nuclear device,’ one US intelligence official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The US official said, however, that it would take some time to complete a thorough analysis of the size of the blast and type of device detonated.

Top US military officials responded to the North Korean test by alluding to the possibility of ‘total annihilation’ for the secretive regime.

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