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Operation Ivy

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Operation Ivy

Operation Ivy was the eighth series of American nuclear tests. Its purpose was to help upgrade the U.S. arsenal of nuclear weapons in response to the Soviet nuclear weapons program. The two explosions were staged in late 1952 at Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific Proving Ground in the Marshall Islands.

The first Ivy shot, Mike, was the first successful full-scale test of a multi-megaton thermonuclear weapon ("hydrogen bomb") using the Teller-Ulam design. Unlike later thermonuclear weapons, Mike used deuterium as its fusion fuel, maintained as a liquid by an expensive and cumbersome cryogenic system. It was detonated on Elugelab Island yielding 10.4 megatons, almost 500 times the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. 8 megatons of the yield was from fast fission of the uranium tamper, creating massive amounts of radioactive fallout. The detonation left an underwater crater 6,240 ft (1.9 km) wide and 164 ft (50 m) deep where Elugelab Island had been. Following this successful test, the Mike design was weaponized as either the EC-16 or TX-16, but it was quickly abandoned for solid-fueled designs after the success of the Castle Bravo shot.

The second test, King, fired the largest nuclear weapon to date using only nuclear fission (no fusion nor fusion boosting). This "Super Oralloy Bomb" was intended as a backup if the fusion weapon failed. King yielded 500 kilotons, 25-40 times more than the nuclear weapons dropped during World War II.

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