North Korea announced Wednesday that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.
If true, it now possesses something much more powerful than the weapons it has tested in the past.
The nuclear age is has entered its eighth decade, and while relatively few nations possess the power, the potential consequences of North Korea upping its nuclear game from a basic atomic bomb to a hydrogen bomb has caught the world’s attention.
A quick lesson in fission versus fusion
If Pyongyang has mastered the technology, it has made a major step forward in its nuclear capabilities.
The plutonium-based atomic weapons it tested up until this point were powerful enough — the United States dropped such weapons on Japan to end World War II — but a hydrogen bomb ups the ante many times over.
Atomic bombs use a process called fission. They split plutonium and/or uranium into smaller atoms in a chain reaction that releases massive amounts of energy.
The A-bombs dropped by American forces on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 killed more than 200,000 people.