5 Facts About Nukes That Will Blow Your Mind

Nuclear weapons remain a threat to global security and indeed all life on planet Earth. We run down five points you should know about the nine-country nuclear arsenal club.

1. Upgrading

Every nation with a nuclear-weapons capability is or will be modernising its arsenal. Some argue that modernisation of nuclear weapons breaches the spirit of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, but that is unlikely to stop any country from upgrading its stockpile.

The UK intends to upgrade its fleet of nuclear submarines which carry missiles capable of delivering nuclear payloads.

Meanwhile the US could spend over US$1 trillion if it decides to upgrade its entire nuclear arsenal, which includes missiles stationed strategically in other countries such as Turkey.

2. Stockpiles

Nine countries own approximately 9,000 military-controlled nuclear weapons, according to the BBC. These are deployed on land or sea, while others are kept in storage. Of those deployed, 1,800 can be fired with short notice. These figures do not include the ‘retired’ nuclear weapons.

A CNBC report puts the total figure at 14,500 nukes, with the US and Russia owning most of them. Allowing for those that have been ‘retired’, supposedly 5,050, there is still a chilling discrepancy in the figures.

Who knows for sure what the real number of nuclear-capable weapons are? The Arms Control Association estimates 15,000, summarising ownership as 90 percent US (6,550) and Russia (6,850), a total of 13,400.

The remaining 1,600 belong to France (300), China (280), the UK (215), Pakistan (145), India (135), Israel (80) and North Korea (15).

3. North Korea

North Korea is the latest entrant into the nuclear club, and a worrying one at that. It is the only country in the world to carry out nuclear weapons testing in the 21st century.

If that were not alarming enough, their technology seems to be improving with the range of their latest missiles reportedly big enough to launch a strike on the continental US.

4. Sign Here

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not yet come into effect, despite being open for signatures since 1996. Obviously North Korea is not one of the 183 signatories, 166 of whom have also ratified the treaty.

In order to come into force, the treaty must be ratified by 44 specified countries. Eight of these have yet to do so: China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, Egypt, North Korea and the United States of America.

5. Biggest Bombs

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, ending the Second World War, were fission bombs that set off a chain reaction. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT, while the Nagasaki bomb equated to 1.2 million tons of TNT, 80 times more powerful than Hiroshima.

The largest nuclear bomb ever detonated was by the Soviet Union in 1961 – not a typo, it was in 1961. The Tsar Bomba had a 50-megaton equivalent yield of TNT. Again, not a typo. That is 50 million tons of TNT, 3,333 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Thankfully the dark days of the Cold War are behind us. But with today’s technology it would take only five modern nukes to plunge the planet into a nuclear winter.

Did you just shudder? We certainly did.

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