Nuclear Explosions!

Wed 8th May 2019 at 18.30 - 20.00

Apparently they are not all the same. Peter Rodell explains more.

The speaker at our club meeting at Barrow Golf Club on Wednesday 8th May was our own club member Rotarian Peter Rodell. As a former worker in the nuclear industry his talk was about nuclear explosions and his opening slide of the tragic accident at Fukashima Power Plant in Japan following a tsunami caused by a massive undersea earthquake in March 2011 seemed to confirm that view.

President Colin & Rtn Peter


Naively, I thought that nuclear explosions were precisely that until Peter told us that they are actually hydrogen gas explosions, the hydrogen formed by the reactors zirconium reacting with water, they used sea water at Fukashima in a vain attempt to cool the reactors and generated a cloud of hydrogen which quickly ignited. Paradoxically one reactor despite having no fuel in it also exploded but that was thought to be because hydrogen gas had leaked from an adjacent reactor through pipework.
Fukushima explosion
Peter then moved into Dr Strangelove territory, being appropriately dressed in dark glasses and waving a piece of pile rod ominously he then talked about bombs.
We learnt that Little Boy, the bomb the Americans dropped on Hisroshima with devastating consequences was a very simple affair of two pieces of uranium 235 blasted against each other by a conventional explosive. He told us that the radioactive content was no more that a 2lt water bottle and yet that produced a 15kTon explosion (equivalent if I noted correctly to 15 million tons of TNT!). The bomb flattened a huge area and over 100,000 lost their lives, some as a direct consequence of the explosion but many from the after effects of radiation. Peter told us that the bombs themselves, if they had exploded in the atmosphere would not have given off a lot of radiation, but because they were at or near ground level, the dust and dirt thrown up into the atmosphere became contaminated with dire results over time. A few days afterwards, Fat Man a plutonium bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, although that was larger, equivalent  to 20 kTon and weighed 8 tons it only contained 6kg of plutonium . That resulted in slightly less losing their lives, but resulted in Japan’s unconditional surrender, something they had been invited to do after an equally devastating carpet bombing campaign of many of their major cities.
Hiroshima Bomb
We were then told about the USA’s development of hydrogen bombs and the megaton “Ivy Mike” and then Neutron bombs and Russia’s Tsar Bomba equivalent to 50,000 Kton  (over 3000 times bigger that the Hiroshima Bomb).
Thankfully we do have robust controls in place for our nuclear deterrents, but  should a Dr Strangelove character exist the consequences could be horrendous which reminds me I must renew my subscription to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, no on second thoughts the Campaign for Real Ale, it might be better to drink myself to death before Dr S gets his act together !  
President Colin thanked Peter for the immense amount of work he had put into his presentation and then asked the club members to respond in the usual way.