Anything relating to “nuclear” tends to strike fear in the hearts of most people. Most people don’t have a clear understanding of what “nuclear” means and human nature is to fear what isn’t understood. As someone who has worked at length in the nuclear power industry, I have a very healthy respect for the awesome power nuclear energy can provide. I also have an understanding of the devastation that power can cause when turned into a weapon. Yes, like most people, I fear nuclear war. My fear is not based on ignorance however; it’s based on knowledge available to anyone willing to seek it.
If there is one singular thing leaders of nations with a nuclear arsenal can never joke about, it’s the use of that arsenal. I am not exaggerating when I say these weapons can end civilization as we know it and there is nothing funny about that. In my opinion, any leader who makes light of using such weapons of mass destruction is wholly unfit to lead.
Let’s put some things into perspective. I think we can all agree the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II were pretty powerful and extremely devastating. The explosive yield of Little Boy, the bomb used on Hiroshima was about 15 thousand tons or 0.015 megatons. Fat Man, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki was a little bigger at about 21,000 tons or 0.021 megatons. Little Boy killed about 80,000 people instantly and more than 100,000 additional lives were lost in the aftermath. These two bombs decisively ended the war in Japan.
This was all back in 1945 and if there’s one thing Americans are really good at, it’s making things bigger! Today’s nuclear weapons yield an explosion anywhere from 1 kiloton to 1.2 megatons. These weapons are substantially larger and more powerful that those used on Japan and we have almost seven thousand of them!
When an atomic weapon detonates, its destructive capability isn’t limited to just the physical devastation resulting from the force of the blast. Nuclear weapons blast dust and particulates into the atmosphere and leave behind plumes of radioactive material. The radioactive plume can be carried on the wind and deposited hundreds or thousands of miles away. The dust can stay in the upper atmosphere and drive down temperatures on the Earth’s surface (not a realistic solution to the end of global warming in my opinion). If enough atomic bombs are detonated, it could devastate crops by blocking the sun and plunging the planet into a near ice age. There’s also that whole radiation sickness to contend with. When the dust finally settles, it won’t matter who started it, there won’t be a civilization left to pick up the pieces.
A nuclear war isn’t just a war between two sides. A nuclear war is global and no single nation however great has the right to decide the fate of the world.
“Except for fools and madmen, everyone knows that nuclear war would be an unprecedented human catastrophe.” – Carl Sagan