cover image: Nuclear weapons: a beginner’s guide to the threats Contents


Nuclear weapons: a beginner’s guide to the threats Contents

11 Apr 2024

The enormous explosion arises as a small amount of matter is converted into energy as defined by the famous equation e = m x c2 where e is the energy of the explosion (measured in joules), m is the mass of the material converted to energy (in kg) and c is the speed of light (which is 300 million metres per second). [...] The usual way of measuring the size of the explosion created by a nuclear weapon – called the ‘yield’ – is to compare it with an amount of the common explosive TNT. [...] [14] The overall number of warheads continues to decline as the USA and Russia dismantle retired weapons, but the number of ‘operational’ warheads – those assigned to military forces – rose in 2022 for the first time since the end of the Cold War. [...] Because of the enormous levels of harm and injury that a nuclear weapon can create – and indeed is designed to create - through its means of delivery and targeting, any use of even a single nuclear weapon is widely regarded as a crime against humanity and would breach a raft of humanitarian standards because of the disproportionate and unacceptable harm its use would cause. [...] Levels of global casualties Once you take into account that there are 48 of the Russian missiles and 96 of the US missiles used in the examples above – and that both the US and Russia together have around 1800 warheads deployed – it becomes clear that use of even a very small fraction of the available arsenals could easily devastate all large urban areas in Russia, the US, Europe and many other co.



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