Friday, 9 July 2010

New types of atomic weaons

Meanwhile, the world’s military were developing other forms of nuclear weaponry. The neutron bomb was developed by the USA in the 1970s. This was a form of fusion weapon, which resulted in a small explosion, but a huge outburst of neutron radiation. In practical terms this means that a neutron bomb would leave buildings standing, but kill the humans in them. Its prime military use would be as an anti-tank weapon as it would kill the crews of tanks over a wide area and so halt any large scale armored offensive.

Another form of nuclear weapon is the salted bomb. This is a fission bomb that has been wrapped in a thick layer of metal, such as zinc or cobalt. The metal jacket would be pulverized to dust by the blast, and would absorb the radiation from the blast at the same time. The heaviness of the metal would ensure that the fine dust fell in a relatively restricted area around the blast, where its radioactivity would remain for months or years. Effectively it would render an area of land uninhabitable for a long period of time.

A variation on this weapon is to wrap radioactive material around a conventional bomb that then sprays the radioactive material around. This is known as a dirty bomb. It would have a much less widespread and less deadly impact than a salted bomb, but could quite easily render several blocks of a city uninhabitable unless costly and complicated cleaning up operations were carried out promptly.

This is an extract from World Atlas of Weapons by Rupert Matthews

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