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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 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.

o Alpha emitters such as polonium or plutonium-238 can be rapidly combined with beryllium to create a neutron source.

o 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.

o Neutrons can be generated using an electrostatic discharge tube, this tube uses the D-T reaction.

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