posted on Mar, 30 2006 @ 08:07 PM
Mushroom clouds don't mean nukes, so I have very little notion that it is a nuclear weapon. Any LARGE explosion gives a mushroom cloud.
To the best of my understanding of how nukes work, it would be impossible for any known type of nuclear weapon to be modified so as not to create
Fission weapons require free neutrons to create a chain reaction, therefore you get a large burst of gamma radiation from them.
Fusion weapons are typically initiated by fission explosions, because immense heat and pressure must be generated, and to do this efficiently requires
not just any fission explosion, but a specially engineered one.
You must set off a fission explosion at the core of a "hollow tube" if you will of fusable material, and then reflect the energy of this blast back
inward against the center of the device again. This is complicated.
So stage 1 of a fusion bomb is to make a long cylinder of plutonium go critical. Since the cylinder is an enefficient shape, you can't set this off
by conventional means. So we have to go back and add a step 0.
Step 0 is to set of a normal fission reaction somewhere outside of the actual fusion device- in one end of the bomb. The use of neutron reflective
casings will "bounce" the resulting neutrons from this explosion into the rod of plutonium, setting it all off very efficiently, since the chain
reaction is already in progress and the fission is starting from outside moving in, thus making step 1 possible.
Step 2 is for the fission explosion of step 1 to heat and compress the deuterium and lithium that are going to fuse (actually, free neutrons are going
to transmutate lithium into tritium- true lithium won't do it). To accomplish this, around the plutonium rod is a layer of lithium deuteride, and
around that is a heavy-metal casing, usually 238, which will do several things. A. It will begin to expand- every action yields an equal and opposite
reaction, so the outward pressure on this layer will create inward pressure on the lithium deuteride. B. You guessed it, some of that uranium will go
critical- not very efficiently. The pressure and heat will then cause fusion.
But with all this fission going on to make that possible, you run into the same problem as before- Gamma radiation.
Fusion weapons, as understood, use gamma radiation from a fission reaction to fuse lithium and deuterium.
Of course, on top of that, fission weapons release heavy radio-active isotopes which will linger and radiate after the initial explosion.
For this to be a top secret non-radiating nuclear weapon would require one of two things, the first of which is almost certainly impossible.
1. Find a fissile material which splits into two perfectly stable elements without releasing any free neutrons, and find a way to spontaneously split
it all at once with 100% efficiency. This would require a very compact device for the production of gamma rays, and a 100% effective reflector that
keeps them from escaping the weapon before detonation. To my knowledge, no such element exists, or likely can exist, and nor does the miracle device
to detonate it without a chain reaction.
2. Find a way to create fusion from a conventional explosion. If I understand correctly, this is what a Red Mercury bomb is supposed to do, if any
such thing even really exists. Even still, I think you need the "wonder gadget" to bombard the "mercury" (it's probably not mercury any more than
"tube alloys" were really alloy tubes) with radiation from a small, highly efficient, non fissile source.
All of that renders the nuke angle HIGHLY improbable.
It is more likely in my humble opinion that this is some kind of blast engineering experiment to be applied to nukes, but not using nukes in the
Even more likely perhaps is that we're experimenting with large conventional payloads for ballistic missiles, perhaps with the idea that we could use
them to thoroughly destroy/neutralize WMD without the stigma of using nuclear weapons.
In either case, but especially the second, this is basically the US cracking it's knuckles and glaring at Iran.