BOMBS OR NATURE?

Stephen Williams

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Representatives from South Korea and the United States meet to discuss a plan of action in regard to North Korea’s alleged testing of a hydrogen bomb. Photo by MCT campus

On New Year’s Day 2016 North
Korea told the world that it had suc-
cessfully developed a hydrogen bomb.
The bomb was allegedly detonated
underground at 10 a.m. and released
10-14 kilotons of TNT, which was
less than what was released when Hi-
roshima and Nagasaki were bombed.
The explosion sent a shock wave
through South Korea and Japan in the
form of a 5.3 magnitude earthquake.
How dangerous are hydrogen
bombs? The “Little Boy” bomb
dropped on Hiroshima released 13-18
kilotons of TNT, while the Nagasaki
atomic bomb released 10-22 kilotons
of TNT. An average hydrogen bomb
carries the force of 40 kilotons of
TNT, and some are capable of reach-
ing 50 kilotons of TNT or more. No
matter what size or how much force
it carries, a hydrogen bomb is able to
wipe cities clean from Earth.
Even though North Korea’s hy-
drogen bomb caused less damage than
what a hydrogen bomb is tradition-
ally capable of, it was still cause for
concern for the world’s leaders. Now
North Korea has a thermonuclear
weapon that’s able to hit all of Asia,
most of Europe and half of North
America. North Korea’s ability to hit
the United States and its allies sent
the U.N. Security Council in a rush to
send troops to South Korea.
“I don’t think North Korea’s hy-
drogen bomb will pose as a major
threat, I’m not concerned. But if it
was another country that has the
technology, then that would be a big-
ger threat,” sophomore Bonnie Smith
said.
Many foreign leaders are skeptical
of whether or not the hydrogen bomb
test was actually conducted. Some
believe North Korea’s statement was
simply to promote fear or to show that
North Korea isn’t weak. According to
CNN, many tests say that North Ko-
rea’s bomb test was never conducted.
“It’s hard to see convincing evi-
dence of Kim’s claim, which he be-
lieved was the first North Korea had
made regarding possessing a hydro-
gen bomb,” head of Asia program at
Chatham House John Nilsson-Wright
said.
This isn’t the first time North Korea
has supposedly tested a nuclear weap-
on. On Oct. 6, 2006, North Korea test-
ed an atomic bomb that yielded one
kiloton. On May 25, 2009, another
atomic bomb was detonated that re-
leased four kilotons of TNT. The last
confirmed atomic bomb detonation
initiated by North Korea occurred
Feb. 12, 2013, and released 7
kilotons. All three of the atomic
bombs were tested at the same location,
Punggyeri, the test site near North
Korea’s capital city Pyongyang.
“It’s possible that North Korea has an
atomic bomb, but it’s unlikely. But it
does pose a threat to everyone because
honestly we are unsure about what they
want to do with it,” sophomore Ariel
Martin said.
The difference between an atomic bomb
and a hydrogen bomb is whether a
process of splitting or combining atoms
is used. In an atomic bomb, very large
atoms (usually uranium or plutonium), are
split in the nucleus to release two smaller
nuclei. These nuclei then hit other nuclei
in an atom, splitting the nuclei in half. Each
nucleus splitting creates a large amount of
heat and pressure. Once the energy builds
up too much (sometimes in a matter of
four to six nanoseconds), the energy
is released in a tremendous
pressure wave that flattens anything
within a five mile radius. The process
of the atoms splitting is called fission.
Thermonuclear bombs, or hydro-
gen bombs, are made differently from
atomic bombs. Hydrogen bombs use
the process of fusion, or atoms comb-
ing, to create the explosion. Thermo-
nuclear bombs use the elements hy-
drogen, tritium, deuterium or lithium
deuteride to detonate. The fusion pro-
cess starts as a spark igniting when the
bomb hits the ground. The sparks re-
lease heat, which causes the atoms in-
side the element to combine together.
When the atoms inside the element
combine together, more energy is re-
leased than when an atom splits. This
is why hydrogen bombs are more de-
structive than atomic bombs.

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