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Nuclear Weapons

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A small, portable detector for finding concealed nuclear weapons and materials, developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.
Photo: Argonne National Laboratory Web site.


A nuclear weapon is a device which derives its explosive energy from fission or a combination of fission and fusion processes. The energy is produced by splitting the nucleus of an atom, resulting in a sustained chain reaction. Most modern nuclear weapons use a combination of the two processes to create higher energy yields in smaller bombs. These weapons are the most deadly ever invented, but also the most difficult to manufacture or acquire. Production requires a significant technical infrastructure and financial investment: Obtaining weapons-grade nuclear material is difficult and production facilities are necessarily large and highly visible. At the end of the 20th century, only two nuclear weapons had ever been employed operationally, those detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in August 1945. These two bombs resulted in a combined fatality total of 105,000 human beings. Since then tens of thousands of nuclear weapons have been built, many of them a thousand times more powerful than the two used in 1945, and many of these are ready to use at any time. Today, eight countries in the world have these weapons and three others are actively pursuing nuclear programs. At least three dozen nations are technically capable of producing nuclear weapons. This proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction is today considered the single most serious threat to global security. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear weapons restrains their spread. In 1995 this agreement was extended indefinitely by the treaty members, and was considered a major victory in international efforts to combat proliferation.

This bibliography provides an overview of reference and research materials on this topic, with an emphasis on materials available in the Library of Congress and the World Wide Web. A related title in the series is Chemical and Biological Warfare, 03-1. Not intended as a comprehensive bibliography, it is designed -- as the name Tracer Bullet implies -- to put the reader “on target.”



Bull, Stephen. Nuclear, thermonuclear, “atomic” weapons. In his Encyclopedia of military technology and innovation. Westport, Conn., Greenwood Press, 2004. p. 192-193.
   U24.B85 2004 <SciRR>

Invention and Discovery: Atomic Bombs and Fission.
   Last changed April 1997. Accessed June 1, 2007.

The Nature of an Atomic Explosion. In The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Chapter 11.
   The Lillian Goldman Law Library in Memory of Sol Goldman. New Haven, Conn.
   URL: (Accessed June 1, 2007)



Subject headings used by the Library of Congress, under which works on nuclear weapons can be located in Library catalogs, include the following:

Highly Relevant

   May be subdivided geographically, e.g., NUCLEAR WEAPONS--KOREA (NORTH), NUCLEAR WEAPONS--RUSSIA (FEDERATION).







Lambers, William. Nuclear weapons. 4th ed. United States, W. Lambers, 2006. 175 p.
   U263.L36 2006

Langford, Roland E. Introduction to weapons of mass destruction: radiological, chemical, and biological. Hoboken, NJ, Wiley-Interscience, 2004. 394 p.
   Bibliography: p. 347-365.
   U793.L36 2004 <SciRR>



Beckman, Peter R., and others. Nuclear weapons, nuclear states, and terrorism. 4th ed. Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY, Sloan Pub., 2007. 393 p.
   Includes bibliographical references.
   Rev. ed. of The nuclear predicament: nuclear weapons in the twenty-first century.3rd ed. c2000.
   U263.N7523 2007 <SciRR>

Ferguson, Charles D., William C. Potter, Amy Sands, and others. The four faces of nuclear terrorism. New York, Routledge, 2005. 376 p.
   Bibliography: p. 337-362.
   HV6431.F43 2005 <SciRR>

Garrison, Dee. Bracing for Armageddon: why civil defense never worked. Oxford, New York, Oxford University Press, 2006. 242 p.
   Includes bibliographical references.
   UA947.G35 2006




Atomic bomb scientists: memoirs, 1939-1945: interviews with Werner Karl Heisenberg, Paul Harteck, Lew Kowarski, Leslie R. Groves, Aristid von Grosse, C.E. Larson. Conducted and edited by Joseph J. Ermenc. Westport, Conn., Meckler, c1989. 385 p.
   QC774.A2A86 1989

Badash, Lawrence. Scientists and the development of nuclear weapons: from fission to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1939-1963. Atlantic Highlands, NJ, Humanities Press, 1995. 129 p.
   U264.B34 1995

De Groot, Gerard J. The bomb: a life. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard, 2005. 397 p.
   U264.D43 2005
   Bibliography: p. 370-375.

Gosling, Francis G. The Manhattan Project: making the atomic bomb. 2005 ed. Washington, U.S. Dept. of Energy, 2005. 115 p. (National security history series, v. 1)
   Bibliography: p. 106.
   "DOE/MA-0002 revised."
   QC773.3.U5G67 2005

Hughes, Jeff. The Manhattan Project: big science and the atom bomb. New York, Columbia University Press, 2002. 170 p.
   QC773.3.U5H84 2002

Krugler, David F. This is only a test: how Washington, D.C. prepared for nuclear war. New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. 248 p.
   Bibliography: p. 195-238.
   UA928.5.W3K89 2006

Living under the threat of nuclear war. Edited by Derek C. Maus. Detroit, Greenhaven Press, c2005. 143 p.    Bibliography: p. 134-137.
   U264.L578 2005

Loeber, Charles R. Building the bombs: a history of the nuclear weapons complex. 2nd ed. Albuquerque, N.M., Sandia National Laboratories, 2005. 266 p.
   Bibliography: p. 239-248.
   "SAND # 2005-5648 P"
   U264.L63 2005

Richelson, Jeffrey. Spying on the bomb: American nuclear intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea. New York, Norton, c2006. 702 p.
   Includes bibliographical references.
   UB271.U5R53 2006

United States nuclear tests: July 1945 through September 1992. Las Vegas, Dept. of Energy, Nevada Operations Office, 2000. 162 p.
   Bibliography: p. 153.
   "DOE/NV-209-REV 15."
   U264.3.U56 2000 <SciRR>

Wenger, Andreas. Living with peril: Eisenhower, Kennedy, and nuclear weapons. Lanham, Md., Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, c1997. 461 p.
   Bibliography: p. 439-454.
   UA23.W376 1997

Nuclear Security, Arms Control, and Nonproliferation

Avoiding nuclear anarchy: containing the threat of loose Russian nuclear weapons and fissile material. Graham T. Allison and others. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, c1996. 295 p. (CSIA studies in international security, no. 12)
   Includes bibliographical references.
   HV6431.A96 1996

Cirincione, Joseph, Jon B. Wolfsthal, and Miriam Rajkumar. Deadly arsenals: nuclear, biological, and chemical threats. 2nd ed. Washington, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, c2005. 490 p.
   Includes bibliographical references.
   U793.C57 2005

Diehl, Sarah J., and James Clay Moltz. Nuclear weapons and nonproliferation: a reference handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif., ABC-CLIO, c2002. 375 p.
   U264.D53 2002 <SciRR>

Nuclear security. Helen Cothran, book editor. San Diego, Calif., Greenhaven Press, 2001. 96 p.
   Bibliography: p. 90-91.
   U264.N81624 2001 <SciRR>

Nuclear weapons into the 21st century: current trends and future prospects. Edited by Joachim Krause and Andreas Wenger with the assistance of Lisa Watanabe. Bern, New York, Peter Lang, 2001. 252 p. (Studien zur Zeitgeschichte und Sicherheitspolitik = Studies in contemporary history and security policy, v. 8)
   U264.N828 2001

Strategy & Policy

Cimbala, Stephen J. First strike stability: deterrence after containment. New York, Greenwood Press, 1990. 213 p. (Contributions in military studies, no. 101)
   Bibliography: p. 197-199.
   U263.C484 1990

Cimbala, Stephen J. Military persuasion: deterrence and provocation in crisis and war. University Park, Penn., Pennsylvania State University Press, c1994. 307 p.
   Includes bibliographical references.
   U162.6.C57 1994

Gregory, Shaun. Nuclear command and control in NATO: nuclear weapons operations and the strategy of flexible response. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Eng., Macmillan Press; New York, St. Martin's Press, 1996.
251 p.
   Bibliography: p. 229-245.
   UA646.3.G74 1996

Quester, George H. Nuclear first strike: consequences of a broken taboo. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. 159 p.
   Includes bibliographical references.
   U263.Q47 2006


Weapons Effects

The Effects of nuclear weapons. Compiled and edited by Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan. Prepared and published by the U.S. Dept. of Defense and the U.S. Dept. of Energy. 3rd ed. Washington, U.S. Dept. of Defense, 1977. 653 p.
   Previous ed. entered under U.S. Defense Atomic Support Agency.
   Nuclear bomb effect computer (plastic disc) in pocket.
   Includes bibliographical references.
   UF767.E33 1977

The Medical implications of nuclear war. Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. Fredric Solomon and Robert Q. Marston, editors. Washington, National Academy Press, 1986. 619 p.
   Based on papers presented at a Symposium on the Medical Implications of Nuclear War held at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., Sept. 20-22, 1985 and organized under the auspices of the Institute of Medicine.
   Includes bibliographical references.
   RA648.3.M445 1986


Atomic audit: the costs and consequences of U.S. nuclear weapons since 1940. Stephen I. Schwartz, editor. Washington, Brookings Institution Press, 1998. 680 p.
   Bibliography: p. 625-652.
   U264.3.A874 1998 <SciRR>

Nuclear terms handbook. Washington, Office of Intelligence. Issued by Dept. of Homeland Security, Office of Science and Technology, 2003-
   QC772.N825 <SciRR Dict>

Nuclear test explosions: environmental and human impacts. Edited by Frederick Warner and Rene J. C. Kirchmann. Chichester, Eng., New York, Wiley, 2000. 275 p. (SCOPE report, 59)
   Includes bibliographical references.
   "Published on behalf of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) of the International Council of Science (ICSU).”
   U264.N81626 2000

Semler, Eric, James Benjamin, and Adam Gross. The language of nuclear war: an intelligent citizen's dictionary. New York, Perennial Library, c1987. 325 p.
   Bibliography: p. 319-325.
   U263.S44 1987 <MRR>

Weapons of mass destruction: an encyclopedia of worldwide policy, technology, and history. Eric A. Croddy and James J. Wirtz, editors. Santa Barbara, Calif., ABC-CLIO, c2005. 2 v.
   Includes bibliographical references.
   See especially v. 2. Nuclear weapons.
   U793.W427 2005 <SciRR>



Disseratations may be identified by using online resources or the following indexes located in the Main Reading Room. Consult any reference librarian about options. Some dissertations may be available in full text through electronic resources on public terminals at the Library of Congress

Comprehensive Dissertation Index. Supplement (1973- annual)

Digital Dissertations (1980- )
   Electronic format

Dissertation Abstracts International (1938- monthly)
   Z5053.D57 and Electronic format



Bright, Christopher John. "A portent of flaming doom": Nuclear antiaircraft arms, continental defense, and the Eisenhower era. Ann Arbor, Mich., UMI, 2006.
   UMI publication number AAT 3217542
   Collation of the original: 431 p.
   Thesis (doctoral) - The George Washington University.

Pomeroy, Steven Anthony. Echoes that never were: American mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, 1956-1983. Ann Arbor, Mich., UMI, 2006.
   UMI publication number AAT 3215735
   Collation of the original: 317 p.
   Thesis (doctoral) - Auburn University.

Rezelman, David. "Terror and mystery": The United States and nuclear fear, 1905-45. Ann Arbor, Mich., UMI, 2006.
   UMI publication number AAT 3233466
   Collation of the original: 314 p.
   Thesis (doctoral) - Temple University.



GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS can be identified and located by going to individual agency web sites, listed below in the section “Additional Information Sources,” or by searching the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, Government technical report access is described in the section “Technical Reports.” Older government publications may be identified by using the Government Reports and Monthly Catalog indexes; selected indexes and government publications are listed below.

Government reports announcements and index (1946-1996)
   (See also NTIS index on microfiche in SciRR.)
   Z7916.G78 <SciRR>

Monthly catalog of United States government publications (1895-)
   Z1223.A18 <SciRR> & Electronic Format
   URL: (Jan. 1994-)

NTIS bibliographic database
   Index on microfiche (1964-)
   Uncataloged <SciRR> & Electronic Format

Scientific & technical information network (STINET) (1974-; Full text 1998-)



Detecting smuggled nuclear weapons: hearing before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, One Hundred Ninth Congress, second session, July 27, 2006. Washington, U.S. G.P.O., 2007. 93 p.
   KF26.J8747 2006a <LLRR>

Medalia, Jonathan. The Reliable Replacement Warhead program: background and current developments. Washington, Congressional Research Service. Updated Feb. 8, 2007.

Nuclear weapons: annual assessment of the safety, performance, and reliability of the nation’s stockpile. Washington, United States Government Accountability Office, 2007. 21 p.
   "GAO-07-243R annual assessment."
   Not in LC

Iran's political/ nuclear ambitions and U.S. policy options: hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations. Washington, U.S. G.P.O., 2007. 109th Congress, 2nd Session, May 17 and 18, 2006. 126 p.



Technical Reports are indexed and archived by several government clearinghouses and many are available online in full-text. For many reports in the LC Technical Reports Collection the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) index provides access. The LC Electronic Resources web page has an extensive list of both subscription and open-access indexes for identifying Technical Reports & Standards. With a few exceptions, most of the indexes are open-source. Database descriptions include details on coverage and availability of copies. For more information ask a reference librarian for assistance, or contact the Technical Reports Section.

Selected Technical Reports

Bunn, Matthew, and Anthony Wier. Securing the Bomb 2006. Cambridge, Mass., Washington, Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. July 2006.
   Commissioned by the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Wuest, Craig R. and others. Applying Science and Technology to Combat WMD Terrorism. Livermore, CA, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, May 5, 2006. UCRL-PROC-221144. SPIE Defense and Security Symposium, Orlando, FL, United States, Apr 07 - Apr 21, 2006.



Abstracting and Indexing Services services that index relevant journal articles and other periodical literature, conference papers and proceedings, government reports, as well as technical reports and other ‘grey literature,’ are listed below. Additional targeted search engines, online indexes and e-print archives are listed under the section “Additional Online Resources.” For the current status of LC online subscription indexes, go to web page (Selected open-source indexes are also listed on this web page.) For more information consult a reference librarian.

Abstracts in New Technologies and Engineering (1997- )
   Z7913.B7 <SciRR> & Electronic Format
   (See also Current Technology Index (1981-1997) and British Technology Index (1963-1981).

Air University Index to Military Periodicals (1949-1999)
   Z6723.U27 <SciRR> & Electronic Format
   URL: (1987- )

Applied Science & Technology Index (1913- )
   Z7913.I7 <SciRR> & Electronic Format

Cumulated Index Medicus (1960-1970)
   Z6660.I422 & Electronic Format

General Science Index (1978- )
   Z7401.G46 & Electronic Format

MEDLINE/PubMed (1965- )
   Electronic Format



Journals that are frequently good sources of articles on nuclear weapons technologies and related issues include the following:

Arms control today: a publication of the Arms Control Association. Washington, Arms Control Association. 1974-

Bulletin of the atomic scientists. Chicago, Atomic Scientists of Chicago, 1946-

Defense & security analysis. Basingstoke, Hants, Eng., Philadelphia, Carfax Pub., Taylor & Francis Ltd., c2002- (Mar. 2002)-

The Nonproliferation review. Monterey, Calif., Program for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute for International Studies, 1993-

Los Alamos research quarterly. Los Alamos, N.M., Los Alamos National Laboratory, 2002-



Selected materials in the Nuclear Weapons pamphlet box include journal and newspaper articles and other miscellaneous items of interest and are located in the Science & Business Reading Room.

Cirincione, Joseph. Controlling Iran’s nuclear program. Issues in science and technology, v. 22, Spring 2006: 75-82.

Delegitimizing nuclear weapons: the United States should take the lead in making the use of nuclear weapons unacceptable under any but the most extenuating circumstances. Issues in science and technology, v. 22, Spring 2006: 67-74.

Ferguson, Charles D., and Lisa Obrentz. Make it or break it. Bulletin of the atomic scientists, v. 63, March/April 2007: 46-52.

Global nuclear stockpiles, 1945-2006. Bulletin of the atomic scientists, v. 62, July-Aug. 2006: 64-67.

Gusterson, Hugh. Understanding the Reliable Replacement Warhead. Bulletin of the atomic scientists, 26 March 2007:

The next nuke (Reliable Replacement Warhead). Nature, v. 442, July 6, 2006: 18-22.



International Organizations

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
   P.O. Box 100
   Wagramer Strasse 5
   A-1400 Vienna, Austria
   Tel: (+431) 2600-0
   Fax: (+431) 2600-7
      Originally the world´s "Atoms for Peace" organization in 1957 within the United Nations. It is a leading publisher in the nuclear field. Its scientific and technical publications,, cover fifteen subject areas. They include proceedings of major international conferences, as well as international guides, codes, and standards.

Nongovernmental Organizations

Arms Control Association
   1313 L Street, NW, Suite 130
   Washington, D.C. 20005
   Tel.: (202) 463-8270
   Fax.: (202) 463-8273
   Email: [email protected]
      Founded in 1971, ACA is a national nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies. Publishers of Arms Control Today. Web site resources include many links to Fact Sheets on a range of topics, such as Current U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces, and Current Strategic Nuclear Forces of the Former Soviet Union.

Center for Nonproliferation Studies
   460 Pierce Street
   Monterey, CA 93940
   Tel.: (831) 647-4154
   Fax: (831) 647-3519
   Email: [email protected]
      Located at the Monterey Institute of International Studies CNS is the largest nongovernmental organization in the United States devoted exclusively to research and training on nonproliferation issues. Publishers of , The Nonproliferation Review, The Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations & Regimes, and other periodicals and papers, as well as the WMD databases, in conjunction with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (see next).

Nuclear Threat Initiative
   1747 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 7th Floor
   Washington, D.C. 20006
   Fax: (202) 296-4811
   Email: [email protected]
      The Nuclear Threat Initiative is working to reduce the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and is co-chaired by Ted Turner and Sam Nunn. The Web site offers a number of resources, including the “Global Security Newswire,” daily news on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons terrorism and related issues; “Country Profiles,” overviews and in-depth profiles of selected countries' weapons programs; “Securing the Bomb,” comprehensive threat reduction budget data and program analysis; “Source Documents,” publications on nonproliferation issues by government agencies and non-governmental organizations; and “WMD411,” an information resource on the threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and a range of policy options to reduce these threats.

Archives & Information Repositories

Atomic Archive
   The National Science Digital Library
      See especially the section “Science” and subsection “Effects of Nuclear Weapons,”

The Nuclear Weapon Archive
   Current host is the Membrane Domain (as of March 2007).
      A major resource with information on history, weapons developments, arsenals, FAQ, reference articles, links, and more.

Nuclear Weapons
   Union of Concerned Scientists
      The leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world.

Nuclear Weapons Archive
   Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
      The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan international education and advocacy organization. It has consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and is recognized by the UN as a Peace Messenger Organization.

Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century
   Federation of American Scientists
      See especially the Nuclear Weapons Effects Calculator.



The swords of Armageddon: U.S. nuclear weapons development since 1945. Edited by Chuck Hansen. San Jose, Calif., Chukelea Publications, 1995. CD-ROM and User’s Guide.
   Disc includes a complete technical glossary, descriptions of weapons physics, postwar technological innovations in fission weapons design, a history of American thermonuclear weaponry, individual warhead histories, a history and description of warhead arming and fuzing techniques and equipment plus three detailed appendices summarizing the objectives and results of U.S. nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, warhead specifications, and typical nuclear weapons accidents between 1950 and 1981.
   Not in LC

Chun, Stephen B. T. Iran nuclear program: U.S. options. Bibliography. Maxwell AFB, Ala., Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center. March 2007.

Nuclear Files
   Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

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