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Micro-fission Explosions and Controlled Release of Thermonuclear Energy


THE possibility of igniting a thermonuclear micro-explosion by a laser pulse has recently attracted great interest as a result of the proposal to lower the energy requirements by imploding a T-D thermonuclear pellet with a laser pulse of proper shape, thereby increasing its density by a factor of 104 over the solid density1. If this concept of high density compression is applied to a fissionable pellet, consisting of 235U, 233U or 239Pu, very small critical masses become possible. These critical masses can be further reduced by surrounding the fissionable pellet with a neutron reflecting material to be compressed, together with the pellet, to high densities. Finally, if this neutron reflecting material consists of thermonuclear material such as T-D, the fission chain reaction rising in the critical pellet will ignite a small thermonuclear explosion in the neutron reflector. The fission chain reaction rises at a much faster rate than for solid densities (such as in atomic bombs) because of the greatly increased densities. The release of thermonuclear neutrons in the reflector will accelerate the fission chain reaction to an even higher speed whereby the heating of the thermonuclear material is accelerated in return, resulting in even more thermonuclear neutrons.

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  1. 1

    Nuckolls, J., Wood, L., Thiessen, A., and Zimmerman, G., Nature, 239, 139 (1972).

  2. 2

    Glasstone, S., and Edlund, M. C., Elements of Nuclear Reactor Theory (Van Nostrand, New York, 1955).

  3. 3

    Winterberg, F., Phys. Rev., 174, 212 (1968).

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