The Never-Tested Doomsday Bomb
From Bill Hamilton

Weapons of Total Destruction
Many might remember the Neutron bomb which, when exploding, leaves buildings and roads intact while showering life on earth with lethal doses of neutron radiation. This way an enemy can kill
all life within a zone and take possession of a city and all of its content. Dreadful, is it not, but not
the Doomsday weapon conceived of in 1950 - the Cobalt Bomb.
In the light of the current talks in China with North Korea, let us reflect on the awesome power of destruction we have brought into existence.
The Cobalt Bomb is capable of wiping out life on earth. It explodes and emits long-lasting and lethal gamma radiation, the most energetic radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum. Has the Cobalt Bomb been constructed? If it has, then it is part of a classified arsenal of weapons, but who would want to
unleash a weapon of such destructive power that none who inhabit the earth would survive? Perhaps only those who can take refuge in a deep underground Ark.
From the Encarta Encyclopedia...
"The Hydrogen Bomb or H-bomb, weapon deriving a large portion of its energy from the nuclear fusion of hydrogen isotopes. In an atomic bomb , uranium or plutonium is split into lighter elements that together weigh less than the original atoms, the remainder of the mass appearing as energy. Unlike this fission bomb, the hydrogen bomb functions by the fusion, or joining together, of lighter elements into heavier elements. The end product again weighs less than its components, the difference once more appearing as energy. Because extremely high temperatures are required in order to initiate fusion reactions, the hydrogen bomb is also known as a thermonuclear bomb. The first thermonuclear bomb was exploded in 1952 at Enewetak by the United States, the second in 1953 by Russia (then the USSR). Great Britain, France, and China have also exploded thermonuclear bombs, and these five nations comprise the so-called nuclear club"nations that have the capability to produce nuclear weapons and admit to maintaining an inventory of them. The three smaller Soviet successor states that inherited nuclear arsenals (Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus) relinquished all nuclear warheads, which have been removed to Russia. Several other nations either have tested thermonuclear devices or claim to have the capability to produce them, but officially state that they do not maintain a stockpile of such weapons; among these are India, Israel, and Pakistan. South Africa's apartheid regime built six nuclear bombs but dismantled them later.
The presumable structure of a thermonuclear bomb is as follows: at its center is an atomic bomb; surrounding it is a layer of lithium deuteride (a compound of lithium and deuterium, the isotope of hydrogen with mass number 2); around it is a tamper, a thick outer layer, frequently of fissionable material, that holds the contents together in order to obtain a larger explosion. Neutrons from the atomic explosion cause the lithium to fission into helium, tritium (the isotope of hydrogen with mass number 3), and energy. The atomic explosion also supplies the temperatures needed for the subsequent fusion of deuterium with tritium, and of tritium with tritium (50,000,000 and 400,000,000, respectively). Enough neutrons are produced in the fusion reactions to produce further fission in the core and to initiate fission in the tamper.
Since the fusion reaction produces mostly neutrons and very little that is radioactive, the concept of a 'clean' bomb has resulted: one having a small atomic trigger, a less fissionable tamper, and therefore less radioactive fallout . Carrying this progression further would result in the suggested neutron bomb, which would have a minimum trigger and a nonfissionable tamper; there would be blast effects and a hail of lethal neutrons but almost no radioactive fallout; this theoretically would cause minimal physical damage to buildings and equipment but kill most living things. The theorized cobalt bomb is, on the contrary, a radioactively "dirty bomb having a cobalt tamper. Instead of generating additional explosive force from fission of the uranium, the cobalt is transmuted into cobalt-60, which has a half-life of 5.26 years and produces energetic (and thus penetrating) gamma rays. The half-life of Co-60 is just long enough so that airborne particles will settle and coat the earth's surface before significant decay has occurred, thus making it impractical to hide in shelters. This prompted physicist Leo Szilard to call it a "doomsday device since it was capable of wiping out life on earth."
The idea of the cobalt bomb originated with Leo Szilard who publicized it in Feb. 1950, not as a serious proposal for weapon, but to point out that it would soon be possible in principle to build a weapon that could kill everybody on earth. To design such a theoretical weapon a radioactive isotope is needed that can be dispersed world wide before it decays. Such dispersal takes many months to a few years so the half-life of Co-60 is ideal.
The Co-60 fallout hazard is greater than the fission products from a U-238 blanket because
many fission-produced isotopes have half-lives that are very short, and thus decay before the fallout settles or can be protected against by short-term sheltering;
many fission-produced isotopes have very long half-lives and thus do not produce very intense radiation;
the fission products are not radioactive at all.
The half-life of Co-60 on the other hand is long enough to settle out before significant decay has occurred, and to make it impractical to wait out in shelters, yet is short enough that intense radiation is produced.
Initially gamma radiation fission products from an equivalent size fission-fusion-fission bomb are much more intense than Co-60: 15,000 times more intense at 1 hour; 35 times more intense at 1 week; 5 times more intense at 1 month; and about equal at 6 months. Thereafter fission drops off rapidly so that Co-60 fallout is 8 times more intense than fission at 1 year and 150 times more intense at 5 years. The very long lived isotopes produced by fission would overtake the again Co-60 after about 75 years.
Zinc has been proposed as an alternate candidate for the "doomsday role". The advantage of Zn-64 is that its faster decay leads to greater initial intensity. Disadvantages are that since it makes up only half of natural zinc, it must either be isotopically enriched or the yield will be cut in half; that it is a weaker gamma emitter than Co-60, putting out only one-fourth as many gammas for the same molar quantity; and that substantially amounts will decay during the world-wide dispersal process. Assuming pure Zn-64 is used, the radiation intensity of Zn-65 would initially be twice as much as Co-60. This would decline to being equal in 8 months, in 5 years Co-60 would be 110 times as intense.
Militarily useful radiological weapons would use local (as opposed to world-wide) contamination, and high initial intensities for rapid effects. Prolonged contamination is also undesirable. In this light Zn-64 is possibly better suited to military applications than cobalt, but probably inferior to tantalum or gold. As noted above ordinary "dirty" fusion-fission bombs have very high initial radiation intensities and must also be considered radiological weapons.
No cobalt or other salted bomb has ever been atmospherically tested, and as far as is publicly known none have ever been built. In light of the ready availability of fission-fusion-fission bombs, it is unlikely any special-purpose fallout contamination weapon will ever be developed.
The British did test a bomb that incorporated cobalt as an experimental radiochemical tracer (Antler/Round 1, 14 September 1957). This 1 kt device was exploded at the Tadje site, Maralinga range, Australia. The experiment was regarded as a failure and not repeated.
Well, let us hope that Doomsday Weapons are never built. With enough H-Bombs, we could come
close to a D-Weapon. A Doomsday weapon would not be just a WMD, but a WTD (Weapon of Total Destruction).
Now that efforts for non-proliferation of these nuclear weapons are underway, and with more countries trying to get into the nuclear party, the doomsday cloud looms once again. Let us hope no nation anywhere on earth, threatens humanity with such WTDs.
"The world we've made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking" -- Albert Einstein.
Bill Hamilton
Executive Director
Skywatch International, Inc.
Fiat Lux et Veritas
My God, what a steaming load of manure!!! The amount of Cobalt that would be required to cover the earth would be in the tons. Don't you people even take a minute to read these articles before posting them? Surface of the Earth: 5.1 x 10^8 km^2 Even if one gram of Cobalt covered one square kilometer, this means you would need 5.1 x 10^5 Kg of Cobalt. Taking the surface of the land mass only - 1.48 x 10^8 km^2, you would be required to deliver 1.48 x 10^5 Kg of Cobalt. Roughly 33.6 tons. Are you people kidding? Do you think that stuff grows on trees?




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