Hurricane exploded in the hold of a frigate
|Test site||Montebello Islands, Western Australia|
|Number of tests||1|
|Max. yield||25 kilotonnes of TNT (100 TJ)|
|Next test series||Operation Totem|
Operation Hurricane was the test of the first UK atomic device on 3 October 1952. A plutonium implosion device was detonated in the lagoon between the Montebello Islands, Western Australia, just over three years after the Soviet Union detonated a similar plutonium implosion device in August 1949.
Several key British scientists had worked on the Manhattan Project and after returning to the UK worked on the British atom bomb project, so unsurprisingly the weapon had a close similarity to the Fat Man (the device used against Nagasaki) weapon, although the McMahon Atomic Energy Act of 1946 prevented any British access to the US design data. The design used a hollow core, unlike The Gadget tested at Trinity. This increased the expected yield of the bomb to 30 kilotons, although the actual yield was closer to 25 kilotons. The bomb core used 7 kg of plutonium produced mainly at Windscale (now Sellafield) in Cumbria with a low Pu-240 content of only 2%.
Pu-240 is an unavoidable contaminant of Pu-239 produced by irradiation of uranium in a thermal reactor; its effect in a bomb core is to increase the risk of a "fizzle" or pre-detonation. The only way to keep it within acceptable limits at that time was to limit the time the reactor fuel was exposed in the reactors. The Canadian Chalk River plant supplied 5 kg of plutonium by April 1952, and by August 1952 the Windscale plant had supplied 18 kg. No records exist to show whether any of the Canadian material was used in the Hurricane test device; more than one fissile core was prepared for the trial, each to a different design.
To test the effects of a ship-smuggled bomb (a threat of great concern to the British at the time), Hurricane was exploded inside the hull of HMS Plym (a 1,370-ton River class frigate) which was anchored in 12 metres (39 ft) of water, 350 metres (1,150 ft) off Trimouille Island. The explosion occurred 2.7 metres (8 ft 10 in) below the water line, and left a saucer-shaped crater on the seabed 6 metres (20 ft) deep and 300 metres (980 ft) across.
|Name||Date and time||Location||Elevation + height [note 1]||Delivery, [note 2]
Purpose [note 3]
|Device||Yield [note 4]||Fallout||References||Notes|
|Hurricane||3 October 1952
|Montebello Islands, West Australia||0 - 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in)||Barge,
|American Mark 3 design, levitated pit||25 kt||Unknown||||Exploded in the hold of the HMS Plym (a 1,370 short tons (1,240 t) River class frigate).|
- Elevation is the ground level at the point directly below the explosion relative to sea level; height is the additional distance added or subtracted by tower, balloon, shaft, tunnel, air drop or other contrivance.
- Atmospheric, airdrop, balloon, gun, cruise missile, rocket, surface, tower, and barge are all disallowed by the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
- Include weapons development, weapon effects, safety test, transport safety test, war, science, joint verification and industrial/peaceful, which may be further broken down.
- Estimated energy yield in tons, kilotons, and megatons. A ton of TNT equivalent is defined as 4.184 gigajoules (1 gigacalorie).
- The National Archives, London, ES 1/11.
- "British nuclear test Operation Hurricane - secret reports to Winston Churchill and civil defense data obtained". Internet Archive. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
- Cathcart, Brian (1994). Test of Greatness: Britain's Struggle for the Atom Bomb. Cambridge, UK: John Murray.
- Cooper, Malcolm B.; Lokan, Keith H.; Williams, Geoffrey A. (November 1, 1983). The Radiological Status of the Monte Bello Islands: May 1983 (PDF) (Technical report). Yallambie, VIC, Australia: Australian Radiation Laboratory. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
- Norris, Robert S.; Burrows, Andrew S.; Fieldhouse, Richard W. (1994). Nuclear Weapons Databook, Vol. 5: British, French, and Chinese Nuclear Weapons. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
- Yang, Xiaoping; North, Robert; Romney, Carl (August 2000). CMR Nuclear Explosion Database (Revision 3) (Technical report). SMDC Monitoring Research.
- Bird, Peter (1989) Operation Hurricane Worcester: Square One Publications. ISBN 1-872017-10-X First published: 1953.
- AWE history
- Original AWE page available from archive.org
- British nuclear weapons testing in Australia
- Operation Hurricane - Ministry of Supply made documentary
- Better quality extract from the same video of the Hurricane Nuclear Test
- Atomic Forum
- Britain's Nuclear Weapons-From MAUD to Hurricane
- Operation Hurricane by National Archives of Australia - Vimeo
- Declassified AWRE reports and National Archives files on Operation Hurricane's scientific and civil defence implications