Friday, February 3, 2017

Nuclear Superpowers and the Impact of Nuclear War - Part Two

In part one of this posting, I examined the more than ample nuclear weapon stockpile that exists decades after the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia signed agreements that would have seen the nuclear threat diminish.  It is quite apparent that both nations still have massive inventories of weapons that are capable of scorching the entire globe, making it uninhabitable for many decades.  In the second part of this two part posting, I will look at the damage that can be done by a nuclear weapon with a yield of 300 kilotons, a yield that is roughly average for the current arsenal of both nations. 

Thanks to Nukemap, we can see what kind of damage can be done by a modest surface-bursted nuclear weapon  with the aforementioned yield of 300 kilotons or 23 times the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  Here is a key which explains the effects radii for each bomb:

Here's what would happen if the bomb targeted Times Square in New York City:

Estimated fatalities would be over 1.03 million with over 870,000 injured.

Here is a look at the fallout plume using a 15 mph wind from the southwest:

Here's what would happen if the bomb targeted downtown Los Angeles:

Estimated fatalities would be over 230,000 with over 350,000 injured.

Here's what would happen if the bomb targeted Red Square in Moscow:

Estimated fatalities would be over 275,000 with over 750,000 injured.

Here's what would happen if the bomb targeted downtown Toronto:

Estimated fatalities would be over 205,000 with over 210,000 injured.

Here's what would happen if the bomb targeted central London, United Kingdom:

Estimated fatalities would be over 280,000 with over 660,000 injured.

Let's close this portion with a look at what damage would be done to New York City if we increased the yield to 1000 kilotons (1 megaton):

Estimated fatalities would be over 1.53 million with over 1.37 million injured.   A yield of this size could be achieved using a single weapon or a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (or MIRV) equipped with a missile payload that contains several warheads that can be independently controlled to hit several targets in a small area.     

very heavily redacted 2012 Congressional report on the strategic nuclear forces of Russia which was released under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the Federation of American Scientists contains the following key paragraph:

"Stability in the strategic nuclear relationship between the United States and the Russia Federation depends upon the assured capability of each side to deliver a sufficient number of nuclear warheads to infect unacceptable damage on the the other side, even with an opponent attempting a disarming first strike.  Consequently, the only Russian shift in its nuclear forces that could undermine the basic framework of mutual deterrence that exists between the United States and the Russian Federation is a scenario that enables Russia to deny the United States the assured ability to respond against a substantial number of highly valued Russian targets following a Russian attempt at a disarming first strike..." (my bold)

That's a pretty scary "maybe" given the current deteriorating diplomatic situation between the United States and the Russian Federation.  It becomes particularly pertinent given that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently set their Doomsday Clock to two and a half minutes to midnight from three minutes to midnight in 2016, it's highest level since 1953 despite this:

...and, in part, because of this:

In closing and on a personal note, I just finished reading Nevil Shute's 1957 novel, "On the Beach".  This post-apocalyptic novel looks at what remains of the world after a global nuclear holocaust, following the lives of the few survivors who remain in Australia until radiation overtakes what remains of life.  This novel should be on the must-read list for all politicians of all political parties in all nations that have a nuclear weapon stockpile with the hopeful aim of getting them to realize that nuclear brinkmanship is a no-win situation for humanity, themselves and their loved ones included.  


  1. We should just use one on The City of London, as Gaddafi had proposed.

  2. Unfortunately, there are two Generals, with precedence and power over everyone in the world, that could shatter any hopes and all of those calculations:
    1- The general Error, both man´s or machine one.
    2- the incredible general by name "arrogance"