Nuclear weapons are the most powerful and destructive technology ever created. From the first notion that nuclear technology could be harnessed to create a bomb, massive amounts of time and energy (as well as government funding) have been invested in further increasing the destructive yield of nuclear weapons. The process of development was carried out independently by governments worldwide. Despite the segregation of groups of scientists and secrecy surrounding their discoveries, design strategies and problems remained basically the same in all development projects with similar solutions being realized more or less concurrently. The first and most basic fission bomb quickly evolved to produce higher and higher yields. Through discoveries and modifications, nuclear technology evolved to eventually produce fission-fusion weapons, which are what compose most of the nuclear arsenal today. Further development, ironic as it may seem, is highly unnecessary and unlikely (except, perhaps, to increase efficiency) due to the ridiculous power wielded in every modern thermonuclear weapon.
The popular modern threat of nuclear weapons is the possibility of terrorist groups acquiring the materials to produce bombs. 'Lo-tech' nuclear weapons are feasible and would seem highly desirable for such groups to possess. The home enthusiast might even flirt with the idea of creating his or her own nuclear arsenal. Assuming one could obtain 10-20kg of highly enriched fissionable material, this may not be such a romantic idea after all. There are a number of things anyone must know about nuclear weapons, however, before declaring themselves a nuclear power.
Fission Weapons (Atomic Bombs)
Fission weapons, or "Atomic Bombs", are based on nuclear fission. Nuclear fission occurs when the nuclei of certain isotopes of heavy elements (such as uranium or plutonium) capture neutrons. The result is that the nuclei become unstable and break apart into two smaller nuclei. This process converts...