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On This Day… The First Thermonuclear Test

Written by: George Chittenden : 10 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 1st Nov, back in 1952 when the first test of a full-scale thermonuclear device was carried out. The test was codenamed Ivy Mike. It was detonated by the United States on the island of Elugelab in Enewetak Atoll, in the Pacific Ocean, as part of Operation Ivy. It was the first full test of the Teller–Ulam design, a staged fusion device. It produced a yield of 10 megatons and the bomb weighed an unbelievable 82 tons.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, the Mike device was not suitable for use as a deliverable weapon; it was intended as an extremely conservative proof of concept experiment to validate the concepts used for multi-megaton detonations.

The device

The device

The fireball created by the explosion had a maximum radius of 2.9 to 3.3 km. The mushroom cloud rose to an altitude of 17 km in less than 90 seconds. One minute later it had reached 33 km, before stabilizing at 41 km. The top eventually spread out to a diameter of 161 km with a stem 32 km wide.

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