How Powerful, Widespread Is Fallout From a Nuclear Bomb?
- Six months after Russia went to war in Ukraine, experts describe what would happen with a nuclear strike, which is unlikely.
- Modern nuclear bombs can destroy entire cities and cause third-degree burns nearby.
- But the strength of the explosion depends on the size of the bomb and how it was detonated.
Russian troops attacked Ukraine in February with missile strikes and shelling, triggering a dramatic escalation in the conflict in the region.Russia has started thousands of missiles Since the attack began, a senior U.S. defense official said at a news conference on Friday.
At least 5,500 civilians According to the latest tally by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, millions of Ukrainians have fled the country as refugees killed in the fighting.
On August 24, the Ukrainians marked six months of Russia’s horrific invasion of the country.
Security experts hope the conflict will not expand to include other countries or turn into a full-blown world war. In a speech on Tuesday, President Joe Biden said the United States had “no intention to fight Russia,” but added: “The United States and its allies will defend every inch of NATO.” A military alliance of countries, but Ukraine is not a part of.
Experts told Insider that a nuclear strike is unlikely, but not entirely implausible.
“I hope it doesn’t escalate, and I think there’s a good chance it won’t escalate, but as long as nuclear-armed states clash with each other, the risk is real,” said EU director Tara Drozdenko. . The Global Security Initiative for Concerned Scientists told Insider.
“Ukraine does not have nuclear weapons, so the risk of a nuclear war in this situation is that if somehow the conflict escalates to a NATO country or the United States,” she added. “This increases the risk of nuclear confrontation because some NATO countries have nuclear weapons.”
The United States has about 5,500 nuclear weapons, while Russia has about 6,000. Federation of American ScientistsDrozdenko said that the explosive yield of US nuclear weapons is usually equivalent to about 300 tons of TNT, while Russian nuclear weapons tend to vary from 50 to 100 tons to 500 to 800 tons, although each country has more powerful nuclear weapons.
“Modern weapons are 20 to 30 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Drozdenko said, adding: “If the US and Russia fired everything they had, it could be a civilization. The end event.”
Death, starvation, radiation poisoning, and third-degree burns
A single nuclear weapon could easily destroy an entire city, Kathryn Higley, a professor of nuclear science at OSU, told Insider.
“It’s really hard to say, ‘Well, this city will survive and that city won’t,'” she added. “It’s very, very dependent on the size of the weapon, what the terrain is like, where it detonates, who’s upwind and who’s downwind.”
When the nuclear bomb hits, it sets off a flash of light, a huge orange fireball and a shockwave of collapsed buildings. The man at the center of the explosion (300 kiloton bomb within half a mile) can be killed instantly, while others nearby can suffered third degree burnsA 1000 kiloton nuclear explosion can produce third degree burns 5 miles away, second degree burns 6 miles away, and first degree burns 7 miles away. An AsapScience estimate. People 53 miles away may also be temporarily blinded.
“Assuming you’re in a city and you’re far enough from the center of the blast that you’re not exposed to a lethal dose of radiation — you’re likely to be injured by a falling building or get third-degree burns to a large part of your body,” De “Across the United States, there are not enough empty burn beds to respond to a single nuclear attack on a city in the United States,” Rozdenko said, adding.
Nuclear explosions also produce clouds of dust and sand-like radioactive particles that are dispersed into the atmosphere — known as nuclear fallout. Exposure to this fallout can cause radiation poisoning, which can damage human cells and prove fatal.
Fallout blocks sunlight, causing a dramatic drop in temperatures and shortening the growing season for important crops. Drozdenko said crop yields could change dramatically over the decades, which would lead to famine in some places.
About 300,000 people could die if nuclear weapons hit Washington, D.C.
If a 300-kiloton nuclear weapon were to strike a city the size of Washington, D.C., many residents would not be able to survive, and some nearby would face devastating damage.
“The lethal dose of radiation will cover most of the city and a little bit into Virginia,” Drozdenko said. “The heat, the heat, will go all the way to parts of Maryland and a little further out to Virginia. state, everyone in the area will suffer third-degree burns.”
Drozdenko estimates that a single nuclear weapon could kill about 300,000 people in the Washington area and injure many more. Multiple weapons could kill millions, she said, depending on the number of bombs dropped and the power of the explosion.
“The bigger the weapon, the bigger the radius,” she said.
The consequences of a nuclear bomb also depend on how a country chooses to detonate it.
If the weapon hits land, the explosion will produce more radioactive fallout as dust and other materials are thrown into the atmosphere. But if a country detonated a bomb in mid-air, the shockwaves would bounce off the ground and amplify each other, Drozdenko said, leading to greater damage.This ‘airburst’ could also send radioactive material Up to 50 miles into the atmosphereaccording to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Countries rely on simulations and weapons tests to predict these effects, but it is difficult to know how a modern nuclear attack would play out in real life.
“This has no precedent at all in history,” Drozdenko said, adding: “The only time nuclear weapons were used in conflict was World War II.”