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The Demon Core was a 6.2-kilogram (14 lb) subcritical and spherical mass of plutonium measuring 89 millimetres (3.5 in) in diameter.

During an experiment Louis Slotin was holding two half-spheres of beryllium (a neutron reflector) around the core with a screwdriver when he slipped and it went supercritical. He quickly smacked it with his hand and died shortly after from the burst of radiation.

I can't find straight info but I was wondering if this configuration was enough to cause a nuclear explosion had Slotin not smacked it?

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Supercritical does not equal explosion. Just some material heating up very rapidly. The short answer is no, Slotkin could not have caused an explosion. All nuclear explosion devices require fissionable material to be brought into a critical configuration VERY rapidly (like in thousandths or millionths of a second). Anything slower than that results in superheating goop, which is very deadly and radioactive, but will not explode.

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  • $\begingroup$ Is that necessarily true? Wouldn't it be possible to have a subcritical arrangement and then bring in a reflector or moderator rapidly enough to trigger an explosion? . $\endgroup$ – Martin Beckett Jan 15 '18 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ From wiki: "Since explosives detonate at typically 7–8 km. per sec., or 7–8 meters per ms, a 1 ms delay in deton. from one side of a nuclear weapon to the other would be longer than the time the deton. would take to cross the weapon. The time precision and consistency of EBWs (0.1 microsecond or less) are enough time for the detonation to move 1 millimeter at most, and for the most precise commercial EBWs this is 0.025 usecond and about 0.2 mm variation in the deton. wave. This is sufficiently precise for very low tolerance applications such as nuclear weapon explosive lenses." $\endgroup$ – Jiminion Jan 16 '18 at 20:09

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