How Destructive Are Today’s Nuclear Weapons?

France’s Licorne nuclear bomb test at Mururoa Atoll on 3 July 1970, which yielded 914 kilotons. (Image: CTBTO via Flickr/CC BY 2.0
France’s Licorne nuclear bomb test at Mururoa Atoll on 3 July 1970, which yielded 914 kilotons. (Image: CTBTO via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Since World War II around 2,000 nuclear weapon tests have been carried out, and an estimated 125,000 nuclear bombs have been made.

The very first nuclear weapon exploded was the Trinity Test in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. That bomb’s power was equal to 20,000 tons of TNT, and it covered an area of five square miles with radioactivity.

A month after Trinity, the U.S. military dropped two nuclear bombs on Imperial Japan. First, Hiroshima was destroyed by “Little Boy,” then “Fat Man” did the same to Nagasaki.

In total, it’s estimated that over 100,000 people were killed by the bombs. Just six days after the Nagasaki bombing Japan surrendered, and the Second World War was over.

Combined, the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki had the power of 36,000 tons of TNT. Today, the smallest strategic nuclear weapons that the U.S. and Russia possess have the explosive power equal to 100,000 tons of TNT.

Watch footage that was posted by atomcentral of the Trinity Test here:

Four years after the war, the Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test explosion. The UK (1952), France (1960), and China (1964) followed, says the Arms Control Association (ACA).

In 1961, the Soviets exploded the biggest nuclear bomb that has ever been tested. With a 58 megaton yield, the Soviets’ “Tsar Bomba” was designed to be 3,000 times more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Japan’s two cities.

The Tsar Bomba had a thermal radiation radius of 45.7 miles (73.3 km). Nagasaki and Hiroshima each had a thermal radiation radius of 1.54 miles (2.48 km).

The U.S. didn’t respond to the Tsar Bomba by trying to build something bigger, but they did have one type that was half that size. The U.S. mainly focused on building more nuclear weapons.

In 1962 the U.S. also detonated a nuclear weapon in space, which had an explosive yield of 1.45 megatons, which is around 100 times more powerful than what was dropped on Hiroshima.

By the time the Cold War came to an end in the early 1990s, as the TestTube News video below says, the U.S. had an estimated 3.8 billion tons worth of nuclear weapon yield.

Watch the TestTube News video to find out how powerful today’s nuclear weapons are:

With the Cold War ending, both the U.S. and Russia have agreed to reduce and limit their nuclear weapon stockpile, but still there’s room for improvement.

The ACA noted:

The U.S. and Russia now hold around 15,000 nuclear weapons all together. Seven other nations are also in possession of nuclear arms, i.e. China has 260, India and Pakistan have around 120 each, while the U.K. has 225 says the ACA. Then you have some rogue states desiring nuclear weapon capabilities — such as Iran and North Korea.

But, what do you think might have happened if nuclear weapons were never invented? See how history might have unfolded if that was the case in this video from AlternateHistoryHub:

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