A thermonuclear weapon, or fusion weapon, is a second-generation nuclear weapon design which affords vastly greater destructive power than first-generation atomic bombs. Modern fusion weapons consist essentially of two main components: a nuclear fission primary stage (fueled by uranium-235 or plutonium-239) and a separate nuclear fusion secondary stage containing thermonuclear fuel: the heavy hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium, or in modern weapons lithium deuteride. For this reason, thermonuclear weapons are often colloquially called hydrogen bombs or H-bombs.
The first full-scale thermonuclear test was carried out by the United States in 1952; the concept has since been employed by most of the world's nuclear powers in the design of their weapons. The design of all modern thermonuclear weapons in the United States is known as the Teller–Ulam configuration for its two chief contributors, Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam, who developed it in 1951 for the United States, with certain concepts developed with the contribution of physicist John von Neumann. Similar devices were developed by the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France, and China.
As thermonuclear weapons represent the most efficient design for weapon energy yield in weapons with yields above 50 kilotons of TNT (210 TJ), virtually all the nuclear weapons of this size deployed by the five nuclear-weapon states under the Non-Proliferation Treaty today are thermonuclear weapons using the Teller–Ulam design.
Thermonuclear Weapon in The Hot War
In June 1952, as World War III raged, the United States successfully tested the first hydrogen bomb on Eniwetok in the South Pacific. President Harry Truman ordered that the H-bomb be used against Omsk a few days later when intelligence confirmed Joseph Stalin was there. The attack succeeded in killing Stalin.
Thermonuclear Weapon in Southern Victory
Towards the end of the Second Great War, the theoretical possibility of a weapon even more powerful than the superbomb based on the nuclear fusion of hydrogen became apparent to U.S. and Confederate physicists alike. Confederate physicist Henderson V. FitzBelmont discussed this theoretical "sunbomb" with U.S. General Abner Dowling after the war was over; FitzBelmont told Dowling that he knew for a fact that U.S. physicists were already working on it. While FitzBelmont didn't think such a bomb would be built within five years, he was certain they'd exist within twenty-five.