Dr. Ahmed G. Abo-Khalil

Electrical Engineering Department

Nuclear weapons ap

Nuclear fission weapons require a mass of fissile fuel that is prompt supercritical.

For a given mass of fissile material the value of k can be increased by increasing the density. Since the probability per distance traveled for a neutron to collide with a nucleus is proportional to the material density, increasing the density of a fissile material can increase k. This concept is utilized in the implosion method for nuclear weapons. In these devices, the nuclear chain reaction begins after increasing the density of the fissile material with a conventional explosive.

In the gun-type fission weapon two subcritical pieces of fuel are rapidly brought together. The value of k for a combination of two masses is always greater than that of its components. The magnitude of the difference depends on distance, as well as the physical orientation.

The value of k can also be increased by using a neutron reflector surrounding the fissile material

Once the mass of fuel is prompt supercritical, the power increases exponentially. However, the exponential power increase cannot continue for long since k decreases when the amount of fission material that is left decreases (i.e. it is consumed by fissions). Also, the geometry and density are expected to change during detonation since the remaining fission material is torn apart from the explosion.

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