Talk:History of nuclear weapons

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Former good article History of nuclear weapons was one of the good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
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Pakistan Nuke?[edit]

Does anyone have any evidence that Pakistan has exploded a fusion (hydrogen) bomb? I can find references only to fission bombs. DJ Clayworth 18:35, 28 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Roadrunner: Actually one of India's devices was thermonuclear. Initially I didn't think so either, but I checked and there are several references, e.g. DJ Clayworth 19:00, 28 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Surely the Einstein Letter deserves a mention here. DJ Clayworth 19:22, 28 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Absolutely. And Buckminster Fuller, who was the first to actually explain to Einstein how his theory implied the potential for an atom bomb. This was in the very early 30s apparently. There were a couple of prominent female physicists involved in Germany before the war, and then England, before the nuclear work was moved to the US (for security in case the UK was invaded). It was Leo Szilard and Edward Teller who prevailed on Einstein to write the letter, which he later regretted.

You got yourself a job. DJ Clayworth 19:44, 28 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Possible Edit[edit]

Hey, how about this for an ending sentence:

"Although the origins of nuclear weapons were originally shrouded in deep secrecy, it is fairly clear to most sane people how this history will end: with a *REALLY BIG BOOM* and then no sound at all. At least not that we hear."

Information Removal[edit]

Maveric, I removed your sentence:

US President Dwight D. Eisenhower then on October 30, 1953 formally approved the top secret document National Security Council Paper No. 162/2, which stated that the United States' arsenal of nuclear weapons must be maintained and expanded to counter the communist threat. rwearfgrrew rety6yt6ht werhtrtwrthwrt rwrthgbdghrtfbyjhgb Not because I disagreed with it, but because in the place you put it, it implies that Eisenhower's document ended MAD, when in fact it was part of the doctrine (or predated it?). I added a sentence noting the arsenal increase through the cold war years. DJ Clayworth 18:27, 31 Oct 2003 (UTC)


you might want to talk about how some scientists were intially worried about "atmospheric ignition", which somehow the nitrogen of the atmosphere would begin to burn due to an atomic blast and the entire world would be burned up. they made some calculations that showed this impossible, but you have to wonder what aws in the back of their mind at Trinity

They proved to themselves it wouldn't happen. see LA-602 online link and discussion at Manhattan project.

Therefore, not worth mentioning here. 22:48, 21 Mar 2005 (UTC)

My plans for this article[edit]

I've been editing this article for a little while now, and I feel I ought to write down what I thought it ought to be lest I get hit by a bus or just never get around to finishing it. Basically, I want this to be a coherent chronological narrative (a "history"), not a collection of disconnected issues as it was before. I also would like if a number of color pictures were developed for each section which clearly show the main figures (Oppenheimer, Teller, etc.), main concepts (weapon design, fallout), and iconic images (first mushroom clouds, bombed Hiroshima), preferably in color where possible.

The narrative form I have in mind is:

  1. Pre-history (1930s physics and politics)
  2. World War II, creation and use
  3. International control debate, Russia get the bomb
  4. Hydrogen bomb debate, creation, implications
  5. Testing, MAD, new delivery mechanisms
  6. Detente, treaties, relaxations
  7. Star Wars, Reagan, "Cold War II"
  8. End of the Cold War: stockpiles, problems, questions
  9. Proliferation (will backtrack a bit), "war on terror", nuclear weapons in the Post-Cold War

This arrangement would make the article more chronologically accurate, thematically useful, and end it in a way which it would be easy to add further developments to (which are likely to take place in the area of proliferation more than anything else). I've already done the first five and will try to find the time to work on the others at some point, but it may have to wait until I have a substantial break (it takes me a number of hours to write each section from scratch). If anyone else wants to take a crack at this, or suggest alternative arrangements, I'm more than happy with that. --Fastfission 22:04, 8 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Sounds like the article will be very interesting. I don't really have the writing talent or the organizational skills to be of much help, but I know a little about the subject and so I hope I'll be able to contribute extra detail here and there. I don't have any suggestions off the top of my head but I'll be reading eagerly as the article evolves! TomTheHand 04:09, Mar 9, 2005 (UTC)
I like this outline. I'm planning a parallel piece on the history of the UK nuclear weapons program. I'll be preparing it in collaboration with my mother, Lorna Arnold, author of the official history of the subject. Geoffarnold 14:08, Apr 10, 2005 (UTC)
This looks like a really thorough and useful article. But what about a mention of the widespread anti-nuclear movement in the eighties, especially in the United States? I've skimmed the top 30 results for "nuclear" on wikipedia and found next to no mention of this movement, except briefly under nuclear disarmament. mennonot 22:14, 9 May 2005 (UTC)
I agree completely on this. There ought to be an entire article devoted to Public reactions to nuclear technology as well (I think separating the weapons and power reactions is somewhat difficult if not methodologically impossible -- they both often act as proxies for one another) which would trace reactions from the 1890s until the present (I know 1890s might feel a bit back but I think Spencer Weart made in good point in Nuclear fear to stress that much of the groundwork for the 20th century reactions was set in the 19th century reactions to the discovery of radium and x-rays and the like). So yes, I agree completely. (If I only had more time to work on this in depth!) --Fastfission 23:34, 9 May 2005 (UTC)
Might I suggest having it be 1 Prelude: Physics and politics in the 1930s; 2 From Los Alamos to Hiroshima; etc. instead of 1 History 1.1 Prelude: Physics and politics; 1.2 From Los Alamos to Hiroshima; etc.? I find it odd for there to be a topic called "History" in an article called "History of nuclear weapons.... --Snaxe920 01:25, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

I think trhe article would benifit from removing some of the more emotional language, and adding data on arms reduciton and limitation talks. RIght now the US history seems to end with Reagan appearing to restart the cold war, and neglects both START and the fall of the USSR- events that occurred 20 years ago! 16:15, 3 August 2007 (UTC)

Gun triggered fission bomb[edit]

The picture of it is wrong A gun trigger bomb is a bit more complex than that I found a better description in the How Stuff Works book Dudtz 7/21/05

It isn't "wrong", it's just simplified. It isn't supposed to be an actual representation of the weapon used, it is just an illustration of a concept. And anyway, what makes you think the How Stuff Works book is correct anyway? Do you think they have access to secret blueprints? Gimme a break! --Fastfission 19:42, 21 July 2005 (UTC)

Modern mini nukes?[edit]

I noticed there's no discussion about post cold-war development of (relatively) low yield bombs.

Well, it's not completed, yet, but beyond that, there hasn't been a lot of post cold-war development of relatively low yield bombs. Are you talking about the discussions as to whether things like the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator should be developed? (It has not been developed) Or are you talking about suitcase nukes (whose status is uncertain but unlikely)? Or something else? --Fastfission 12:04, 27 September 2005 (UTC)

error or not[edit]

In the section "Nuclear strategy and the knot of war," the second sentence doesn't seem to make sense. To wit:

> Throughout the 1950s and the early 1960s a number of trends were enacted between the U.S. and the USSR as they both endeavored in a tit-for-tat approach to disallow the other power from acquiring nuclear supremacy.

Should the word 'trends" be "treaties" ? Or is this talking about something else ?

I'm not sure what I meant there (I assume I wrote that) but treaties is not correct. I think I really just meant "different policies" but it's rather puzzling to me at the moment. --Fastfission 03:24, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

Chinese nuclear program[edit]

This article does not mention Chinece nuclear project. I think it is a serious failure not to include information on when every of nuclear wepons states acquiered the weapon. I won't contribute the info because I don't have it, I came to this article in hope to find it and am really dissapointed :-) --Dijxtra 22:33, 16 January 2006 (UTC)

I agree completely. One of my goals was to add information about other programs into the proliferation section, but I never really got around to it. But it should definitely be in there. --Fastfission 02:47, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
GlobalSecurity.orgRobotbeat 22:55, 6 February 2006 (UTC)


This article says that the US team didn't have any russians. Primary evidence from the War Department ( states that "Dr. Kistiakowsky, the impulsive Russian, threw his arms around Dr. Oppenheimer and embraced him with shouts of glee." —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) .

  • Huh, I never noticed that, and am not sure how that snuck in there. Yeah, they had at least one Russian (albeit a White Russian refugee); I have no idea why that line is there anyway. --Fastfission 02:35, 22 May 2006 (UTC)
  • Oh, you know what, it is just poorly worded. The "it" doesn't refer to the people working on the project, it refers to the spies for Russia in the project (none were Russians). I'll fix that. --Fastfission 02:38, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

US to Further Nuclear Proliferation[edit]

I'm not sure if this is the correct place for this, but would it be correct to add in information from:

I'm not quite sure how to cite things, so I'm putting this here. If this is even the place to put things like this. Sorry for what may be deviant from normal procedure.

Possibly, though not under the heading of nuclear proliferation. The replacement of old warheads has nothing to do with proliferation. On the other hand, the article does seem lacking in the recent history, and I think the aging of nuclear arsenals is an important topic. TomTheHand 15:32, 20 June 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, the article still needs a lot of work towards the end of it. The effect of the end of the Cold War on the arsenals of the Cold War powers is totally neglected (security issues in Russia, aging controversies in the US) much less a good discussion of the post-post-Cold War's approach (fear of rogue states, etc.). --Fastfission 00:57, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

South Africa[edit]

I edited this section to state that the VELA system detected the so-called "tell-tale" intense double flash of light which is produced by an in-atmosphere nuclear explosion. I have referenced this; I can also try to find a reference for the double flash phenomenon, but you will have to add it to my user page, which is ReeToric - I just hadn't signed in when I made the edit --ReeToric 00:30, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

GA Re-Review and In-line citations[edit]

Note: This article has a very small number of in-line citations for an article of its size and currently would not pass criteria 2b.
Members of the Wikipedia:WikiProject Good articles are in the process of doing a re-review of current Good Article listings to ensure compliance with the standards of the Good Article Criteria. (Discussion of the changes and re-review can be found here). A significant change to the GA criteria is the mandatory use of some sort of in-line citation (In accordance to WP:CITE) to be used in order for an article to pass the verification and reference criteria. Currently this article does not include in-line citations. It is recommended that the article's editors take a look at the inclusion of in-line citations as well as how the article stacks up against the rest of the Good Article criteria. GA reviewers will give you at least a week's time from the date of this notice to work on the in-line citations before doing a full re-review and deciding if the article still merits being considered a Good Article or would need to be de-listed. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us on the Good Article project talk page or you may contact me personally. On behalf of the Good Articles Project, I want to thank you for all the time and effort that you have put into working on this article and improving the overall quality of the Wikipedia project. Agne 20:22, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

Reasons for GA Delisting[edit]

This article's GA status has been revoked because it fails criterion 2. b. of 'What is a Good Article?', which states;

(b) the citation of its sources using inline citations is required (this criterion is disputed by editors on Physics and Mathematics pages who have proposed a subject-specific guideline on citation, as well as some other editors — see talk page).

LuciferMorgan 21:47, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Anglo Hate?[edit]

Why are the nationalities of the scientists given when they are not British, but when the scientists are British it is kept hidden? It would be nice to have some consistency.

Agreed, except quite a few (Frisch, Peirls, Fuchs) were refugees in Britain from the Nazis, Hugo999 (talk) 07:13, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Frisch, Peirls, Fuchs all took up British Nationality. You have to look around quite a bit to find the not-inconsiderable amount of UK and Commonwealth scientists involved, e.g., Tuck, Oliphant, Penney, Chadwick, etc. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:21, 22 June 2009 (UTC)
Is it known what these people did and when? And what went on at Aldemaston, Woomera etc?JFB80 (talk) 07:47, 19 January 2011 (UTC)

Thin Man & Baruch Plan[edit]

Have amended to say that the idea of a Plutonium Gun bomb was not abandoned "soon" but in fact not until April 1944, see Thin Man nuclear bomb. And the implosion or Fat Man bomb was already under development, but low priority - until it was needed to use the plutonium being produced. In August 1945 there was plenty of plutonium (well, enough for several bombs) but only enough uranium for one bomb - until Dec 45 according to Kenneth Nichols, who tends to be overlooked, but was 2IC to Groves (Farrell was Groves' executive officer) and was in charge of the production facilities.

And the Baruch Plan was said to be a half-hearted attempt by which American commentators? By Bertrand Russell, but he was originally against its rejection by Stalin, it was later that he was for unilateral nuclear disarmament by Britain/the West Hugo999 (talk) 07:13, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Image copyright problem with Image:NikitaKhrushchev.jpg[edit]

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"English Navy" does not exist. It should read 'British Navy'[edit]

In the opening section can be found the statement:

"In 1934 the idea of chain reaction via neutron was proposed by Leó Szilárd, who patented the idea of the atomic bomb. The patent was transferred in secret to England's navy in 1936."

In 1936 there was no such thing as England's Navy. It should read, "Britain's Royal Navy" or the "British Navy" or even the "navy of the United Kingdom" but not "England's navy" which does not exist. England is not a sovereign nation, but a constituent country in the United Kingdom. This may be a minor point but it is still incorrect and should be changed to improve the quality of the article.

Antarctic-adventurer (talk) 10:15, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

Has since been amended, so all OK now. Antarctic-adventurer (talk) 06:18, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Veteran claims USA dropped a third nuclear bomb in Iraq, in 1991.[edit]

Full text on the link: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:03, 14 October 2008 (UTC)

That's the most amusingly dumb conspiracy theory I've heard so far. -- (talk) 20:40, 12 August 2009 (UTC)


China is the only one of the nuclear weapons states to have guaranteed the non-first use of nuclear weapons. What does this mean? It seems to be saying that China: 1. Has promised not to use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. and 2. Is the only country to have made such a promise. (talk) 05:08, 20 November 2008 (UTC)

Properties of U238[edit]

The article states: "When the nucleus of uranium-235 absorbs a neutron, it undergoes nuclear fission, splitting into two "fission products" and releasing energy and 2.5 neutrons on average. Uranium-238, on the other hand, absorbs neutrons but does not split, effectively putting a stop to any ongoing fission reaction."

My understanding is that U238 is fissionable but not fissile -- meaning that U238 atoms will split in the presence of fast neutrons, but U238 fissions won't release enough additional neutrons to sustain a nuclear chain reaction.

I believe that one technique for increasing the yield of a U235-based fission bomb is to place a U238 tamper around the U235 core. Fast neutrons from the U235 chain reaction will split some of the U238 atoms and release additional energy. (talk) 22:38, 4 July 2009 (UTC)

first sentence?[edit]

What's with the first sentence?

"The history of the nuclear weapons chronicles the development of nuclear weapons."

Isn't this sentence both awkward and superfluous? (talk) 20:50, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

Spanish atomic bomb[edit]

If somebody wants to start an article on the Spanish atomic bomb, you can start from La dehesa nuclear. --Error (talk) 23:08, 25 April 2011 (UTC)

Who was the first to say that smashing a piece of uranium...[edit]

Who was the first ot say that smashing a piece of uranium causes a nuclear explosion? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:04, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

Overall Critique of the From Los Alamos to Hiroshima Section[edit]

The article on the History of the Nuclear Weapon is overall well written, but lacks insight and details, which results in a factual, yet boring article. A more specific example of this occurs in the section of From Los Alamos to Hiroshima. This section should be the most detailed and creative part of the article, since this is the birth place of one of the most influential inventions ever discovered. This of course is hard to achieve though because there is so much wealth of knowledge on this subject it is not only hard to synthesize, but summarize as well. The resulting effect is a fact packed article section focusing more on dropping names, places, terms, and concepts rather than context to help the reader better understand.

The overall content of the section is extremely informative, but this restrains the fluidity and readability of the article. While it is important to state the facts, it is useless if the reader becomes lost, confused, or overwhelmed after reading each paragraph. The chronological order of facts is often interrupted by fact bytes of information that are relevant, but poorly inserted into the article. For example, the article goes from a brief description of nations coming together to embark on this project to a large factoid on the different isotopes of uranium and their properties back to scientists determining materials for an atomic bomb. While all three of these paragraphs are necessary the order and content is debatable. First off there is a large gap of missing history between nations agree to work together to discussing details of how to use different elements. This issue is addressed two paragraphs later talking about preliminary tests to discover these elements and how they can be used. Also the lack of focus on the development of plutonium as an element of us for an atomic bomb is troubling seeing how it becomes the focus point later on in the article. It is almost as if the uranium bomb is explained in detail, but then the article decides to talk about how the plutonium bomb was built and used without regard to the science behind plutonium that was given to uranium. The article also goes off on an unnecessary tangent about the German nuclear energy project and war in Europe when the focus should be on the development on the two types of nuclear weapons. The content is abundant, but the execution is lacking.

Images in this article are more supplemental then contributing. This is appropriate for this article topic since more detailed images that would actually help explain the technology behind a nuclear weapon would belong to a more detailed article focused on exactly that topic. With that being said images of Oppenheimer, physics machines, and atomic bombed sights help given the reader context, which as mentioned before is needed. The basic diagram of how the two types of bombs are modeled and work are simple enough to be understood with a glance, but no too complicated to belong in another article. The enriched uranium depiction is the only image that should be taken out due to its lack of contribution to the overall purpose of showing the history of the nuclear weapon as well as the lack of a plutonium picture shows an off-balance of content. There is little to change here and it is appropriate to only have a few pictures since it is more important to have facts rather than pictures for this historical topic.

The use of sources, or more appropriately lack of use of sources is the most glaring error in this article section. Obviously almost every sentence is a fact that can be cited or referenced, yet there is only three citations and no other references. This should be corrected with every sentence having a source to prove accuracy and correctness like most other Wikipedia articles have.

Improvements can be made to any article. Other than the ones already mentioned with editing for clarity and citing facts, the biggest change that would improve this article would be the addition of context. The article has too much focus on the science and not the history. This can best be achieved through incorporating Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb. This book is one of the best example of interweaving science and history. Addition to the article from this text would make a more enjoyable entry that would include a more human aspect behind the history. Examples would include how the scientist took bets on how big the explosion would be and whether they would destroy the whole world, or how the study on the plutonium bomb was considered a punishment, but then became the preferred method for the bomb. The article does not need to be re-done, but instead added to so it comes across to the reader in a better fashion.

Overall this section suffices the goal to be factual and informative, but as a piece of writing it fails on many levels. It does not lack in facts and each sentence holds multiple statements that are informative. This writing style though hinders how it is presented to the reader and results in the overall effect of teaching being blunt. With proper editing and more context and leading sentences added to this section, the article would not only be extremely informative, but would convey concepts better to the reader, leaving them with a better understand of the topic at the end instead of a cluttered view.

HIST406-11110658146AdamLauer (talk) 11:00, 4 October 2011 (UTC) Adam Lauer (04 October 2011)

Interesting thing about the dating in the Physics and politics in the 1930s.[edit]

It said that "In 1934 the idea of chain reaction via neutron was proposed by Leó Szilárd, who patented the idea of the atomic bomb." but in the "Timeline of nuclear weapons development" wikipedia thing, it says that in 1933 "Leó Szilárd realizes the concept of the nuclear chain reaction." Just want to point it out.

Link below, or to the side, is the link to the timeline:

After the Pakistan-India Nuclear Race[edit]

The article ends seems to "end" with the Pakistan-India Nuclear Race. How come there isn't a section about the Disarmament of Libya and the North Korean nuclear tests? Soffredo (talk) 02:51, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

Nazi nuclear bomb schematic fake[edit]

"Historians claim to have found a rough schematic showing a Nazi nuclear bomb."

IMHO the schematic is obviously post-war, as it carries the name "Plutonium". This was coined by Seaborg & Co. in 1942 and kept secret until after the war. Weizsäcker predicted Element 94, but called it Eka-Rhenium.


I had to clean up an embarassingly large number of errors where the term "russia" was used inappropriately where "Soviet Union" was meant.

FFS people, learn the difference! There were no "Russian" nuclear weapons before 1991. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:36, 16 May 2014 (UTC)

Fallout diagram[edit]

I just don't understand what that diagram is showing, what the yellows are supposed to be, nor do I get why the caption should specify it's about a "retaliatory" attack on the USA - surely fallout behaves the same way, regardless of who bombed whom first? --Dweller (talk) 11:55, 15 September 2014 (UTC)

I think the diagram is meant to show one possible fallout pattern of a nuclear attack on US ICBM silos. The caption note makes no sense as there is no point attacking empty silos, so it would be the aftermath of a pre-emptive rather than retaliatory attack. It probably would be more useful in the counterforce article. I don't see that it tells us anything about the history of nuclear weapons, so I am going to remove it. TwoTwoHello (talk) 10:53, 16 September 2014 (UTC)
Seems a good idea. --Dweller (talk) 13:04, 16 September 2014 (UTC)