What Would Happen If We Detonated All Nuclear Bombs at Once?



By: Anokhi Basavaraju, Journalist

Nuclear Weapon Invention

In August 1945, during World War II, The U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The worlds first atomic bombs killed a total of 120,000 people and more due to radiation exposure. Nuclear weapons started in 1938 Berlin, Germany, when nuclear physicists discovered nuclear fission. According to History.com, when an atom of radioactive material splits into lighter atoms, there’s a powerful release of energy. This lead to The Manhattan Project, the project that developed the first atomic bomb. The “Father of the Atomic Bomb,” was J. Robert Oppenheimer, and much of the project was done in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

The Most Powerful Bomb

The Tsar Bomba was enormous compared to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. It started with the nuclear arms race and at the time, the U.S. was the only possessor of nuclear weapons. During World War II, The Soviet Union stopped progress on nuclear weapons. But they went back to it thanks to spies like Klaus Fuchs who penetrated the British and American atomic weapons programs. According to the National World War II Museum, on August 29th, 1949, The Soviets tested their first atomic weapon. But The U.S. was already ahead with their Ivy Mike test. From there, The Soviets focused on creating a bomb with unimaginable power. Mityushikha Bay on Severny Island in the Arctic Circle was the place to test The Tsar Bomba. The bomb had a parachute attached to it to give the bomber time to escape the detonation. The bomb was 50 megatons, and the mushroom cloud was about 60 miles wide. It even shattered windows in Finland and Norway. The test could have resulted in the bomb yielding about 100 megatons, and the shockwave luckily didn’t touch the Earth. This ended with the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of August 5, 1963.

All the Nuclear Bombs

But what would happen if we detonated all nuclear bombs on Earth at once? Well it wouldn’t be pretty. According to the YouTube channel Kurzgesagt, there are currently 15,000 nuclear weapons on the planet. The U.S. and Russia have the largest amounts with both having around 7,000 nuclear weapons. Our 15,000 nuclear weapons is the equivalent of 15 Krakatoa volcanic eruptions. Just after we detonated all the bombs, a fireball 50 kilometers across destroys everything it touches, and every living thing burns. Then over the next few weeks, the pressure wave circles the entire Earth. And the mushroom cloud makes it up to the stratosphere. Next, radioactive material spreads around the planet killing almost everything. But humanity will go on. Let’s say humans wanted to mine all the uranium on Earth, which is around 35 million tons. We could build 10,000 Hiroshima bombs with that much uranium. And the Kurzgesagt video also states we could make bombs equivalent to 10 billion Hiroshima, and that would bring the extinction of human life. This pile would explode in a fireball, making a crater 100 kilometers across. Material is thrown into space and most of it comes raining down to Earth. This causes fire storms, and powerful earthquakes we have never seen. Sunlight is blocked by the hydrocarbons that made it into the atmosphere, this causes freezing temperatures everywhere. Some humans may have survived if their in places below the ocean surface. But all will go back to normal after a few million years. All of this is possible, but let’s hope we don’t do something that wipes out humanity.                 

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