The nuclear weapon was devised to be used against Japan in 1945, which played a major role in ending World War II but at a great cost. Since then the world’s most powerful countries are struggling (perhaps with each other) to devise their own nuclear weapons. Here are the fascinating yet horrifying facts about nuclear weapons.
Lake Chagan (or Lake Balapan) in Kazakhstan was created from the Chagan nuclear tests in January 1965, to see the if the nuclear explosions would be suitable for creating reservoirs. The Chagan test was the first and remains the biggest among all nuclear detonations.
To add, the US Department of Energy has earmarked $11.5 billion for nuclear security.
According to some analysts, a nuclear war may happen inevitably. Even if the risk is very minimal each year no one can rule out the possibility of a nuclear war. Russia is keen to reclaim its superiority, India and Pakistan are still having tense relations with each other, and the unpredictable North Korean regime has issued several war threats — and all of them are armed with nuclear weapons.
The American military chiefs began to fret when the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik in 1957, because it meant that the Soviets emerged as being more technologically superior. So in order to outlast the Soviets in the space race, the American military came up with a secret plan: to set off a bomb on the moon. This is known as Project A119. However, it was soon abandoned, and we can only be thankful that it was.
The SIOP, simply put, is the US general strategic war plan which involves the use of nuclear weapons. The first SIOP was approved and implemented during the early 1960s as their bid to work out a more systematic approach to different targets for possible nuclear strikes in the country.
The SIOP gave the US President a variety of targeting options, and depicted launch strategies and target positions where the nuclear weapons would be launched.
The Mark 54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition or SADM is so small that it can be fitted into a suitcase — it is a definition of “small but terrible.” It has a yield of only 1 kiloton (a unit of explosive power which is equal to a thousand tons of TNT), or just one-sixteenth of that of the 1945 atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan — but still powerful by any means.
On July 9, 1962, the United States came up with an operation with the code name Operation Starfish Prime, perhaps compensating for their dimming hopes of trying to detonate a nuclear bomb on the moon.
The US sent a Thor rocket to very high altitudes. At 30,000 to 35,000 feet off the ground the Thor released a powerful H-bomb which detonated at 11 pm in Honolulu, Hawaii. The explosion turned out to be more powerful that expected. The blast illuminated the night sky and emitted glows of blue, red and green. However, the Starfish Prime also caused the electromagnetic pulse which disrupted electrical services 1,445 kilometers (898 miles) away. The telephone service, burglar alarms, and satellites went haywire as a result of the airborne explosion.
The atomic bomb that exploded in Hiroshima in 1945 is not even the most powerful nuclear bomb. The biggest and most powerful bomb ever developed goes to what is known as the “Tsar Bomba” which was detonated by the Soviet Union in 1961. It weighed a hefty 27,000 kilograms, and yielded 50 megaton TNT (over three times that of Hiroshima bomb “Little Boy”). The bomb was so powerful that it even required a specialized Soviet heavy bomber to transport it.
The nuclear bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War are horrifying enough. But these are mere fireworks compared to the bombs of today.
Compare this: Hiroshima’s “Little Boy” had 16 kilotons, which means it detonated with the force of 16,000 tons of high explosives. Nowadays, such weapons are seen as tactical nuclear weapons developed for battlefield use. Weapons of today are measured in millions of tons of high explosives. It means that they are over thousands of miles more to those of the nuclear weapons used during World War II.
2,500 of those bombs are currently in storage at a military base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That’s good news. The not-so-good news is that over a thousand bombs are carried by the Trident submarines in the depths of the world’s oceans, while 500 are kept in arsenals which are ready to be dropped in many countries like Russia, Syria, Iran and North Korea.
Back in 1987, the US and USSR came to a mutual agreement to reduce their nuclear depositories by as much as 80%. This led to a surplus of uranium and plutonium, both of which were recycled in nuclear reactors for commercial energy.
Currently, the US and Russian weapons carry around 2,000 tons of uranium (12x the yearly production from mines). So in the end, it’s good to hear that the materials meant for warfare are being used instead to supply the world’s energy.
While all nuclear weapons are quite a scare, there’s one nuclear ammunition that is clearly the most fearsome of them all — the neutron bomb. It may not create explosions as huge as most bombs. However, the neutron bomb is designed to release massive amounts of radiation which can annihilate anyone near and around it but otherwise leave buildings and any infrastructure unscathed.
While nuclear bombs are widely regarded as warfare weapons, they can also be considered for other uses. During the Cold War era, the US and Soviet Union were thinking of ways of changing their nuclear armory for civilian uses. The US hatched up a project code named Operation Plowshare and the “father of hydrogen bomb,” Dr. Edward Teller, was one of the project’s most vocal supporters.
Teller had observed that nuclear weapons had the potential of carving out enormous holes. So he went on to draft several proposals which fortunately were never put into effect. For example, he proposed to create harbors by blasting off land, as well as make underground explosions to create wells in which to store potable water. Even during his time people were already aware of radiation’s dangerous effects but they seem to have been oblivious about it.
Dr. Teller even thought about creating another route (by detonating a nuclear bomb, of course) which linked the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, because he thought that the Panama Canal was rather small.