The Terrifying Power of Nuclear Weaponry

Shelby Rogers

nuclear[Image Courtesy of RealLifeLore]

Throughout history, the idea of nuclear weapons have scared many. When you realize the scale of modern versions, nuclear warheads get even more terrifying.

Nine countries have an estimated 15,000 nuclear weapons. Two countries - the United States and Russia - keep 1,800 of those weapons on "high alert status."

Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, and the bomb exploded with an energy of 15 kilotons of TNT. Since the US's first Trinity test, 2,475 weapons have been detonated around the world.

They Keep Getting Bigger

The two bombs detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the only two ever detonated in history. However, building larger nuclear weapons have become a new priority.

As previously stated, Hiroshima only detonated 15 kilotons of energy. (We say "only" because Hiroshima's impact looks tiny by comparison to the following weapons.)

Nagasaki released 21 kilotons, and for much of the public, that's where our concept of nuclear impact stops.

nagasaki[Image Courtesy of Charles Levy/WikiMedia Creative Commons]

The largest weapon America has in her arsenal is the B83 bomb, which can release 1.2 megatons. One megaton is 1,000 kilotons. That's 80 Hiroshimas in one bomb.

And they keep getting bigger. The Castle Bravo, the largest bomb ever tested by the United States, emits a 15 megaton blast. That's the equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs.

The Soviet Union detonated the largest bomb ever with the Tzar Bomba. The detonation, which occurred in 1961, was equivalent to 3,333 Hiroshima blasts. That's 50 megatons of power. The blast nearly destroyed the plane which dropped the bomb, and shook windows as far away as Finland.

As massive as the Tsar Bomba was, it only represented a small-scale version of what could happen.

The Soviets planned a bomb with twice the power as the Tsar Bomba. It would have produced a 100 megaton blast.

Designer Alex Wellerstein created Nukemaps with which you can detonate your own theoretical bomb and see the impact. He used Google Maps to accurately scale any size bomb (both real and theoretical) and its impact on the world. For example, Nukemaps shows the Tsar Bomba would take out most of Manhattan on initial impact.

Although the idea is unpopular with many countries, dismantling nuclear weapons can be done. South Africa once possessed six nuclear weapons. However, the post-apartheid government dismantled all six in 1993. This makes South Africa the only country to have nuclear weapons and willingly get rid of them.

For more information, including more in-depth discussion about the scale of nuclear weapons, check out the video below.