Nuclear Bombs Explained: how likely is nuclear war?

13th August 2015 By ,   2 Comments

 Nuclear Bombs Explained: How many are there in the world?

Nuclear Bombs Explained: Map of the world showing which countries have nuclear weapons

Nuclear Bombs Explained: Blue = NPT states (with nuclear weapons), Red = other states with Nuclear Weapons, Brown = Suspected of having weapons, Navy = NATO nuclear weapon sharing states, Green = Formally had nuclear weapons

There are around 15,000 nuclear bombs in the world. Who do these belong to, I hear you ask?

– NPT-designated nuclear weapon states (China, France, Russia,United Kingdom, United States)
– Other states with nuclear weapons (India, Pakistan, North Korea)
– Other states believed to have nuclear weapons (Israel)
– States formerly possessing nuclear weapons (Belarus, Kazakhstan,Ukraine, South Africa)

That sounds like a lot of weapons.

Nuclear Bombs Explained A Mark 28 thermo-nuclear bomb is downloaded from a B-52H Stratofortress aircraft during Exercise GLOBAL SHIELD '84.

Nuclear Bombs Explained; the cold war saw stockpiles of weapons

Yeah, but it could be a lot worse. In the early 1980s the number of Nuclear Bombs was around 70,000.

Countries were stockpiling weapons due to the “Cold War”. This was a war without actual fighting, with countries like the USA and Russia gradually building up their weapons stockpile; each daring the other to fight.

Eventually, the Cold War began to thaw out, and countries with Nuclear Bombs decided that making more was a really daft idea. So they signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the NPT countries listed above). The treaty aims to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and to eventually disarm and get rid of them altogether. Don’t hold your breath any time soon.

 

Hiroshima: the world’s first nuclear bomb

Recently the world marked the 70 year anniversary of the Hiroshima Bomb. This was the first nuclear weapon.

Should the Hiroshima bomb have been used?

Nuclear Bombs Explained The US Battleship USS California sinks in Pearl Harbor. Hiroshima Explained

Hiroshima Explained; the Americans had a score to settle after Pearl Harbor

An article by the Center for Strategic and International Studies explores the reasons why the bomb was used;

The Americans wanted to end the war as quickly as possible, and at the lowest cost (financially, as well as the cost of American lives). The USA had spent a ton of money the “Manhattan Project”, their top-secret project to design the nuclear bomb.

$1,889,604,000 had gone into the Manhattan Project. Given that this was in 1945, the build would have cost a lot more today. Not using the bomb would have meant all that $$$$ was wasted.

As well as this, the attack on Pearl Harbor meant that the USA really didn’t like Japan. In 1941 Japanese planes attacked the base at Pearl Harbor killing 2,000 Americans and destroying 20 ships and 200 airplanes. The next day America declared war on Japan and joined World War II. By the end of the war the US had a score to settle.

The Americans were also thinking about how the world would be after the war. The Soviet Union (now Russia) was becoming a dominant force in the world. Dropping the Hiroshima bomb was a sign of strength – don’t mess with us. It’s been claimed that impressing Russia was the real reason for dropping the bomb; others argue it was just an added benefit.

As the article says “weapons were created to be used”. What else would one do with a nuclear bomb?

However, there were alternatives. US generals believed that conventional bombing and using the navy to blockade Japan would have forced the country to surrender within months. The lives of Americans would have been at risk, but it would have saved the consequences of a nuclear attack.

 

 

Nuclear Bombs Explained: what are the chances of them being used now?

Nuclear Bombs Explained; a satellite radar dish

Nuclear Bombs Explained; satellite “early warning” systems have failed in the past

Higher than you might think.

Relations between Russia and the West have recently gone sour again, and countries like Iran are trying to get in on the nuclear act. Though the Cold War is now over, the USA and Russia still have hundreds of Nuclear Bombs on “hair trigger alert”. This means that the nuclear weapons could be deployed within minutes. So don’t make any sudden moves.

There have been several examples where errors by computers and humans have almost led to nuclear bombs being deployed. In 1979, a technician accidentally inserted a tape with a training exercise into the computer monitoring incoming threats. The computer showed an incoming Russian attack and the Americans nearly fired their weapons in retaliation.

In 1983 a Russian satellite mistook reflections from the sun as American missiles launching. And in 1995 the Russian warning system noticed the launch of a missile. The Russian President activated a device that would allow a launch of nuclear bombs. It turned out the “missile” was an US/Norwegian scientific rocket being sent up to study the Northern Lights. Norway had warned Russia about the experiment but the message had failed to get to the right departments. The world potentially nearly ended because a memo went to the wrong office.

 

Nuclear Bombs Explained: a nuclear war is now a possibility?

Nuclear War Explained: President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin sit awkwardly in silence

Nuclear War Explained: things are still tense between the USA and Russia

At the moment there is quite a lot of tension in the world. Note, we have zero intention of scare mongering, just a few things worth bearing in mind;

Russia has managed to p£$$ everyone off for taking an area of land called Crimea away from Ukraine. This has caused a drastic heightening of tensions between the USA and Russia. Because of this, Russia’s President Putin has lowered the bar for when Russia would use nuclear weapons.

Many experts now say that nuclear war with Russia is a possibility. A report from the London think-tank Chatham House states “the probability of inadvertent nuclear use is not zero and is higher than had been widely considered.”

Iran has just signed a deal to cut back on its nuclear activity. However countries like Israel still suspect they are up to no good and will “receive a sure path to nuclear weapons.” Why so suspicious, Israel?

China is worrying everyone by building military bases in the south China sea. It could be only a matter of time before someone decides to stand up to China.

And there are alarming reports that North Korea has an army of computer hackers that could cause havoc at the push of a button. Which is always good.

All these countries have (or at some point have been suspected to have) nuclear weapons. It’s unlikely these countries will be dropping a nuke any time soon – but all it would take is one country being pushed too far, again. So, are we heading for World War III? Let’s just hope world leaders learn from the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

Want to understand a bit more?

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is pushing to scrap the UK’s nuclear programme.

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2 Comments:

  1. […] 2006 North Korea announced it had tested a nuclear bomb. This was despite having joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in the 1980s. Similar announcements followed in 2009 and […]

  2. […] Nuclear weapons have a kitschy old-school feel. The threat of nuclear Armageddon is what our parents grew up with, not us. It is not something we tend to think about from day to day. We did some research, though, and were surprised to find the likelihood of nuclear war today is higher than we might think. […]

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