atomic weapon

nuclear weapon

or atomic weapon or thermonuclear weapon

Bomb or other warhead that derives its force from nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, or both and is delivered by an aircraft, missile, or other system. Fission weapons, commonly known as atomic bombs, release energy by splitting the nuclei of uranium or plutonium atoms; fusion weapons, known as hydrogen bombs or thermonuclear bombs, fuse nuclei of the hydrogen isotopes tritium or deuterium. Most nuclear weapons actually combine both processes. Nuclear weapons are the most potent explosive devices ever invented. Their destructive effects include not only a blast equivalent to thousands of tons of TNT but also blinding light, searing heat, and lethal radioactive fallout. The number of nuclear weapons reached a peak of some 32,000 for the United States in 1966 and some 33,000 for the Soviet Union in 1988. Since the end of the Cold War, both countries have decommissioned or dismantled thousands of warheads. Other declared nuclear powers are the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel is widely assumed to possess nuclear weapons. Some countries, such as South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, and Iraq, have acknowledged pursuing nuclear weapons in the past but have abandoned their programs. Seealso Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty; Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.

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Critical Nuclear Weapon Design Information (CNWDI) is a U.S. Department of Defense category of TOP SECRET Restricted Data or SECRET Restricted Data that reveals the theory of operation or design of the components of a thermonuclear or fission bomb, warhead, demolition munition, or test device. Specifically excluded is information concerning arming, fuzing, and firing systems; limited life components; and total contained quantities of fissionable, fusionable, and high explosive materials by type. Among these excluded items are the components that DoD personnel set, maintain, operate, test or replace. The sensitivity of DoD CNWDI is such that access is granted to the absolute minimum number of employees who require it for the accomplishment of assigned responsibilities on a classified contract. Because of the importance of such information, special requirements have been established for its control.


In addition to other required markings, CNWDI material should be clearly marked, "Critical Nuclear Weapon Design Information-DoD Directive 5210.2 Applies." As a minimum, CNWDI documents shall show such markings on the cover or first page. Portions of documents that contain CNWDI shall be marked with an (N) or(CNWDI) following the classification of the portion. For example, TS(RD)(N) or TS(RD)(CNWDI).

Weapon Data

That portion of Restricted Data or Formerly Restricted Data that concerns the design, manufacture, or utilization (including theory, development, storage, characteristics, performance, and effects) of atomic weapons or atomic weapon components and nuclear explosive devices is called Weapon Data and it has special protection provisions. Weapon Data is divided into eight Sigma categories the protection of which is prescribed by DOE Order 5610.2, CONTROL OF WEAPON DATA. However, certain Weapon Data has been re-categorized as CNWDI.

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