Nuclear and other weapons of mass Destruction

 Nuclear and other weapons of mass Destruction

(Summary of TMH book on Science and Technology for UPSC CSE preparations)

1 . What are WMDs ? What are their lethal effects? 100 words
They are weapons of mass destruction. They include nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Nuclear weapons kill by the effects of heat, blast, radiation and radioactive fallout. The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed an estimated 200,000 people. Biological and toxin weapons kill by using pathogens to attack cells and organs in human bodies, although they can also be used to target crops and livestock on a massive scale.

Some are contagious and spread rapidly, while others like anthrax and ricin infect and kill only those who are directly exposed. Toxins are poisons produced by biological organisms. Some like the botulinum toxin are lethal even in microscopic amounts.

Chemical weapons kill by attacking the nervous system and lungs, or by interfering with the body’s ability to absorb oxygen. Persistent agents can remain in a target environment for over a week.

2 .When and where we’re the first nuclear weapons used?
The first nuclear weapons were used by the Americans on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in august 1945. One was named Little Boy

3 . What is the  Basic Fission Weapon design?
In fission weapons, a mass of fissile material (enriched uranium or plutonium) is assembled into a supercritical mass (the amount of material needed to start an exponential nuclear chain reaction) either by shooting one piece of subcritical material into another, or by compressing a subcritical mass with chemical explosives, at which point neutrons are injected and the reaction begins.

4. What are Fusion Bombs?
They are also known as H-bombs. They utilize the Teller-Ulam design, in which a fission bomb is detonated in a specially manufactured compartment adjacent to a fusion fuel. The gamma and X-rays of the fission reaction compress and heat a capsule of tritium, deuterium, or lithium dueteride starting a fusion reaction.

5. Name the main methods of Detonation of Atomic Bombs.
The main methods of detonation of atomic bombs are gun method and implosion method.

6 . What s the Implosion technique?
This method is utilized in a spherically shaped weapon. The outer part of the sphere consists of a layer of closely fitted and specially shaped lenses, which are composed of high explosives (HE) and designed to concentrate the blast towards the centre of the bomb. Each section of the explosive is equipped with a detonator, which in turn is wired to all other segments. An electrical impulse explodes all the chunks of high explosive simultaneously, resulting in a detonation wave that converges towards the core of the weapon.

7. What are Fissile Materials?
The basis of a nuclear weapon is U-235 or Pu-239. The acquisition of fissile material in sufficient quantity is the most formidable obstacle in the production of nuclear weapons. The minimum mass of fissile material that can sustain a nuclear chain reaction is called a critical mass. The critical mass of the compressed fissile material deceases as the inverse square of the density achieved. Since critical mass decreases rapidly as density increases, the implosion technique can make do with less nuclear material than the gun-assembly method.

8. What are Uranium Isotopes? What is enriching Uranium?
The fissile U-235 isotope accounts for only 0.7% of natural uranium; the remainder is composed of the heavier isotope U-238. Huge gaseous –diffusion plants are used to separate the two. The gas is pumped through barriers that have millions of tiny holes, through which the lighter molecules, which contain U-235 atoms pass by diffusion at a slightly greater rate than the heavier molecules, which contain U-238. After passing through thousands of barriers, the gas is highly enriched in the lighter isotope: U-235.

9. What is Plutonium? How is it produced? 499
U-238 can be converted into fissile material by bombardment with neutrons. This transforms it into a new species of element. U-238 captures a neutron to become U-239, which undergoes disintegration to form neprunium-239 or plutonium-239. Pu-239, like U-235 undergoes fission after the absorption of a neutron and can be used as bomb material.

10. What are non-strategic nuclear weapons?
In general, non-strategic nuclear weapons refers to weapons with a tactical role in the battlefield and that are not intended for use against an enemy’s nuclear missiles or population centres. They include short range nuclear missiles, artillery shells and nuclear mines.

11. What are Thermonuclear weapons?
Thermo-nuclear or fusion weapons involve the fusing together of the nuclei of isotopes of light atoms such as hydrogen. Of the 3 isotopes of hydrogen, the 2 heaviest, deuterium and tritium combine most readily to form helium.

12. What is a Neutron Bomb?
The enhanced radiation fusion bomb, also called the neutron bomb, does not release long lasting radioactive fission products. However, the larger number of neutrons released in thermo-nuclear reactions is known to induce radioactivity in materials, within a relatively small area around the explosion. Thus, it can be used as a tactical weapon as it can do serious damage to tanks and armored vehicles, without producing radioactive fallout over a larger area.

13 . What are Dirty Bombs?
Nuclear terrorists may seek to make radiological weapons or dirty bombs. Using radioactive substances, stolen from research labs or hospitals, they could simply detonate a conventional explosive surrounded by such material, or release it directly as a gas or powder.
14 . Describe the Blast effects of Nuclear Weapons. 502
The very rapid expansion of the bomb materials produces a high pressure pulse, or shock wave, that moves rapidly outward from the exploding bomb. In air, this shock wave is known as the blast wave because it is equivalent to and is accompanied by powerful winds of much greater than hurricane force. The damage radius increases with the power of the bomb approximately in proportion with its cube root.

15 . What are the Thermal effects of Nuclear Weapons?
The very high temperatures attained in a nuclear explosion result in a formation of a fireball. A flash of thermal radiation is emitted from the fireball and spreads out over a larger area, but with steadily decreasing intensity. The thermal radiation falling on exposed skin will cause flash burns.

16 . What is penetrating radiation?
Besides heat and blat, a nuclear bomb also releases penetrating nuclear radiation or nuclear fall out. The nuclear fall out spreads far beyond the area immediately attacked and causes immense havoc. People affected by it develop radiation sickness. Nuclear radiation consists of two types: prompt radiation which affects the people in whose area te bomb explosion takes place. They are affected by burns. This spread over several square kms. There is another radiation which tavels far and wide and affect people. Radio activity continues over the bomb debris and remains for many years.

17.  What is the Atoms for Peace Programme? Describe the work done at BARC in this connection
Under the Atoms for Peace programme, India acquired a Cirus 40MWt heavy water-moderated research reactor from Canada and purchased from the U.S the heavy water required for its operation.

The implosion system or peaceful nuclear explosion used in the ‘Smiling Buddha’ was designed to compress the core to twice its normal density. The lenses that were developed used an RDX-TNT mixture as the fast explosive, with barato9l (barium nitrate and TNT) used as the slow explosive. Most of this work was done at BARC.

18 . Describe the 1998 tests 100 words
India refrained from nuclear testing for 24 years and resumed it in 1998 with a series of nuclear explosions known as Operation Shakti. On May 11 1998, India tested 3 underground devices at Pokhran followed by 2 more tests on May 13, 1998.

Based on seismic data, the U.S estimated the yield of the thermo-nuclear test in the range of 12-25 KT, as opposed to 43-60 KT yield claimed by India. This lower yield caused skepticism about India’s claims to have a detonated a thermo-nuclear device.

The fissile materials used in these tests were completely indigenous. Further, the fabrication of fissile materials to suitable shapes was also performed by BARC. These tests were fully contained with no release of radioactivity in the atmosphere. The tests conducted during May 1998 provided critical data to develop a valuable database for the validation of our capability in the design of nuclear weapons.

19 .What is India’s stand in regard to Nuclear Weapons? 100 words/506

Subsequent to the tests the Government stated that India would henceforth observe a voluntary moratorium and refrain from conducting underground nuclear test explosions. It has also indicated willingness to move towards a de jure formalization of this declaration. The basic obligation of the CTBT was thus met: to refrain from undertaking nuclear test explosions.

India also participated in negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. The basic objective of this treaty is to prohibit future production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons.

India has maintained effective export controls on nuclear materials as well as related technologies even though we are neither a party to the NPT nor a member of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. India is committed to non-proliferation and maintaining of stringent export controls to ensure that there is no leakage of our indigenously developed know-how.

India has in the past conveyed its concerns on the inadequacies of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. It has explained that the country was not in a position to join because the regime did not address our country’s security concerns.

20 .  Why did India resume testing on 1998?
Pakistan is believed to have started its nuclear program soon after India’s peaceful detonation of 1974. India then announced further tests in 1998 and Pakistan followed suit.

21 . Comment on the nuclear capacity of Pakistan in 100  words.  / 507
Pakistan’s nuclear program is based primarily on highly enriched Uranium (HEU). The country’s primary enrichment plant is located at the Dr.A.Q.Khan Research laboratories in Kahuta, while other experimental enrichment sites are at Sihala and Golra Sharif. In addition to producing HEU, Pakistan is attempting to obtain weapons-grade plutonium by extracting it from spent reactor fuel.

The Pakistan institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH) IN Rawalpindi houses Pakistan’s experimental reprocessing plant which can extract 10-20 kg of plutonium per year. Pakistan is also working on a plutonium reprocessing plant near Chashma.

To feed its reprocessing plants, Pakistan has built with clandestine Chinese assistance, a 40MW heavy water reactor at Khushab. This is Pakistan’s only source of plutonium-bearing spent fuel that is not under international safeguards.


22 . What purpose do  enriched uranium, plutonium and  tritium serve? 507
They serve as fissile materials and are required in the production of nuclear bombs.

23 . What is India’s no first use policy? How ha Pakistan responded to it?
India has declared a no first use policy, but not Pakistan. Both support the goal of concluding a multilateral fissile material cut off treaty. Both countries are maintaining a moratorium on nuclear testing, but neither has yet signed the CTBT.

24. Describe in 50 words Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear activities.507
The Pakistan nuclear scientist A.Q.Khan has been at the center of an illicit international supplier network involving both import and export of nuclear technology and equipment. It is believed that Khan originally stole centrifuge designs from Europe and established Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program for bombs. With nuclear assistance to North Korea, Libya and Iran, Pakistan has emerged as the most crucial node for the nexus of terrorism and WMD proliferation.

25 . What. Is PTBT?
The Partial Test Ban Treaty, signed in 1963, banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater and space. However, neither France nor China, both nuclear weapon states, signed the PTBT.

26 .What is NPT of 1968? Why has India not signed it even while practically adhering to it?
The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed in 1968. Under this, non-nuclear weapon states were prohibited from possessing, manufacturing or acquiring nuclear weapons. India has not signed the NPT because it felt that the N5 were not prepared to discuss comprehensive nuclear disarmament, but were only looking for ways to protect and safeguard their own nuclear superiority by ensuring that nuclear weapons remained out of reach for most of the world.


27. What is India’s attitude to the CTBT  1996?
According to India, the final text of the CTBT was not a comprehensive ban but merely a ban on nuclear explosive testing. It also lacked a definitive commitment to nuclear disarmament. The kernel of India’s objections is that it divides the world into nuclear haves and have- nots, and places India permanently among the have-nots.

28 . Summarize India ‘s objections to the CTBT 200  words / 509
According to India, the final text of the CTBT was not a comprehensive ban but merely a ban on nuclear explosive testing. It also lacked a definitive commitment to nuclear disarmament. The kernel of India’s objections is that it divides the world into nuclear haves and have- nots, and places India permanently among the have-nots.

India has drawn a distinction between 3 issues—horizontal and vertical proliferation, and disarmament. Horizontal proliferation refers to the spread of existing nuclear technology to new or threshold countries such as India, Pakistan and Israel. Vertical proliferation refers to upgrading and further development of more sophisticated weaponry by the existing nuclear powers. Disarmament, refers to the dismantling of existing nuclear weapons by the 5 nuclear weapon states (N5).

The most significant feature of CTBT is that it essentially addresses only the first goal- horizontal proliferation. India felt that the N5 were not prepared to discuss comprehensive nuclear disarmament but were merely looking for ways to protect and safeguard their own nuclear superiority

29 . What is CTBTO? What have been its objectives and problems ? 510

In order to monitor compliance with the CTBT, a global verification regime is being established. The establishment of the International Monitoring System (IMS) poses engineering challenges unprecedented in the history of arms control, with many stations in remote, inaccessible areas. Over 100 stations are already transmitting data.

The system uses 4 verification methods. Seismic, hydroacoustic, and infrasound stations are employed to monitor the underground, underwater and atmosphere environments respectively. Radionuclide stations can detect radioactive debris from atmospheric explosions or vented by underground or underwater nuclear explosions.

The global verification regime of the CTBT is already partly operational. It has a network of 321 monitoring stations and 16 radionuclide laboratories.

30. What is biological warfare? Summarize in 50 words the weapons of biological warfare.
Biological warfare involves the deliberate cause or spread of disease by biological agents, used as a weapon. Such weapons have the potential to cause immense human harm, panic and societal disruption. These weapons can be divided several ways. One way is to consider the type of agent that causes the disease, such as bacteria, viruses or toxins. Another is to look at the effects, such as a disease that can be transmitted between humans (contagious) or only affects those that are directly exposed to the biological agent.

A third way is to look at the symptoms. For example, some diseases might normally lead to death while others might incapacitate their victims or lead to changes in behavior.

31 . What is the Geneva Protocol on Biological warfare?
It is a protocol (agreement) for the prohibition of the use of asphyxiating gas and bacteriological methods of warfare. It was signed in 1925 and entered into force in 1928. It also commits the parties to exert every effort to induce other states to accede.

32 . What are Chemical weapons? Name some of the main types. 100 words/ 512
Chemical weapons refers to the use of ‘poison’ in warfare. The main types of chemical weapons are – nerve agent : highly lethal, kills in very small dosages, like sarin ,soman.

Blistering agent: causes acid burns and blisters on the body, damages eyes. If inhaled, it severely damages the lungs, which often results in death, like mustard sulphurous gas, lewisite.

Asphyxiating agent: causes damage to the lungs, like phosgene, mustard gas.

Psychotomimetic agent: causes a hallucinatory effect similar in kind to that of LSD, like BZ.

Incapacitating agent: relies on irritant and toxic effects to incapacitate a person temporarily, like tear gas.

Possible new agents: research on new ways of affecting the human brain to cause aggressiveness, sleepiness, fear or other emotions. (bio-regulators).

33.  Briefly explain the classification of chemical weapo s under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Schedule 1 chemicals include those that have been or can easily be used as chemical weapons and which have very limited, if any, uses for peaceful purposes. These chemicals are subject to very stringent restrictions.

Schedule2 chemicals include those that are precursors to, or in some cases can themselves be used as, chemical weapon agents, but which have a number of other commercial uses such as ingredients in pesticides.

34 . What means of delivery are adopted as WMD?
The first nuclear weapons were delivered by heavy, long range bombers. As nuclear weapons became smaller and lighter over time, a wider variety of aircraft could deliver them, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Other deployment options arose with the development of nuclear land mines, depth charges, artillery shells and air defense systems.

Both biological and chemical agents can be delivered via aerosols into the air or directly into a water supply. Even fleas, ticks and rodents are possible means for disseminating highly infectious biological agents, as demonstrated by Japan during the second world war.

35 . What are Missile technologies? 50  words
The greatest focus of WMD delivery systems has been on ballistic and cruise missiles , because of their capabilities to deliver such weapons over considerable distances, with increasing accuracy, with little warning and without risk to the pilots. Because of the difficulty of achieving accurate missile flight paths, most long range ballistic missiles that have been developed outside the technically advanced states are not considered suitable for the delivery of conventional warheads.

Missiles encompass a range of types, from ground, sea and air. There are cruise and ballistic missiles and they are often dual-use.

36. Classify Ballistic Missiles
Short range ballistic missiles (SRBM): range less than 1000 km.

Medium range ballistic missile (MRBM): range between 1000 and 2500 km.

Intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM): range between 2500 and 5000 km.

Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM): range over 5000 km.

Submarine-launched ballistic missile: these are distinguished not on the basis of range but of the launch platform being a submarine. This imposes stringent requirements for missile design.

37. What are Cruise missiles? Do they have an advantage?
Cruise missiles refers to unmanned self-propelled guided vehicle that sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path and whose primary mission is to place a special payload on a target.

Cruise missiles, or UAVs, may be more attractive than ballistic missiles owing to their lower cost, ease of acquisition, and better accuracy and reliability.

38. Mention some of the Cruise Missiles. What is India ‘s position regarding them?
The term cruise missiles covers several vehicles , from the Chinese Silkworm (HY-2), which has a range of less than 105 km, to the U.S Advanced Cruise Missile(ACM), which has a range of up to 3000 km. the most well known of the cruise missiles is the US Tomahawk used widely in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Around 40 states are known to have acquired or developed ballistic missiles, but most have only short range delivery capability. Fewer than a dozen states possess medium range missiles. In addition to the 5 nuclear armed NPT states, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea also have such capabilities.

39. Explain in 100 words  missile defences 515-516

While proponents of missile ‘shields’ highlight the specific threats of WMD-capable missiles, there are inherent risks that construction of such systems could provoke a destabilizing offence-defense spiral with regard to missiles, missile defense and outer space. Today, when states are seriously concerned about global terrorist threats, the expenditure of vast resources on missile defense has also been widely criticized as a waste of money, since terrorists have many ways of deploying WMD other than by missiles.

Ballistic missile defense systems are designed to detect attacking missiles; to track missiles; to discriminate between warheads and decoys; and to destroy attacking missiles. Since its withdrawal from the ABM (Anti-ballistic missile) treaty in 2002, the U.S.A has launched its National Missile Defense (NMD) program. The objective of the NMD program is to develop and maintain the option to deploy a cost effective, operationally effective, that will protect the U.S against limited ballistic missile threats.

40. Describe the ABM systems 517
An anti-ballistic missile (ABM) is a missile designed to counter ballistic missiles particularly long range, nuclear armed ICBMs. Only 2 ABM systems have previously been operational against ICBMs, the U.S safeguard system and the Russian A-35 anti-ballistic missile system. 3 shorter range tactical ABM systems are currently operational—the U.S Patriot, Navy Aegis Combat System and the Israeli Arrow.

41 . What are the three types of weapons  for use from space? 517
They are the space strike weapons, anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) and Ballistic missile defense (BMD) weapons.

42 . What are the WMD- related dangers from outer space? 518
The development of weapons designed to attack military satellites, which are used to monitor missile launches and compliance with arms control and disarmament treaties, poses grave dangers to international peace and security. The acquisition by one state of such weapons would inspire others to follow suit, leading to a new arms race.

43 . What is the current status of the outer space security regime? 518

The stationing of nuclear weapons or any other WMD in outer space or placement of such weapons in orbit are both prohibited under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST), but nuclear warheads or BMD interceptors launched from territorial bases are not prohibited, nor is the sub-orbital transit of outer space by nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles.

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