Insertion Time

The term insertion time is used to describe the length of time which is required to rearrange a subcritical mass of fissile material into a prompt critical mass. This is one of the three main requirements in a nuclear weapon design to create a working fission atomic bomb. The need for a short insertion time with plutonium is the reason why the implosion method was chosen for the first plutonium bomb, while with uranium-235 it is possible to use a gun design.

The basic requirements are:

  • To start with a subcritical system
  • To create a super prompt critical system
  • To make the change between these two states in a length of time (insertion time) which is shorter than the time between the random appearance of a neutron in the fissile material through spontaneous fission or by other random processes.
  • Also at the right moment in time, neutrons must be injected into the fissile material to start up the fission process. This can be done by several methods.
    • Alpha emitters such as polonium or plutonium-238 can be rapidly combined with beryllium to create a neutron source.
    • Boosted fission weapon where a D-T reaction is caused by the heating of the implosion. This creates the neutrons required for the start up of the device.
    • Neutrons can be generated using an electrostatic discharge tube, this tube uses the D-T reaction.

Famous quotes containing the word time:

    Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.
    Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986)