In the post “Abandon All Hope of Surviving a New World War” , in a somewhat preaching like manner, I concluded the following:
“If Nuclear War happens, not a single human will survive.”
The idea behind this statement is that, when you know there is zero chance to survive — unless you are the suicidal type — you will probably abandon the idea of waging and voting for a nuclear war option.
This time, I will explain: WHY there is NO long-term survival chance for any human in the case of nuclear war, things we forget to consider and why “duck and cover” and other similar ideas are just a plain nonsense.
Currently, there are around 16,300 warheads in the World, with an average yield of 375 Kilotons of TNT per warhead; we can calculate that the total arsenal power is around 6,000 Megatons of TNT. That is enough to completely level all habitable areas on the planet. Definitely not enough to destroy the plant, but, surely, it could destroy the entire human race.
In nuclear war, there are the following effects, which would combine lead to human extinction:
- Blast - In the case of hydrogen (fusion) bombs, at the moment of explosion, the temperature of the core exceeds 100,000,000 degrees C (180,000,032 F). The thermal radiation created instantly evaporates everything within hundreds and thousands of meters from the impact. This will create a spherically-expanding shock wave. The blast wind may approach the speed of sound in air, knocking down the strongest of our buildings, even miles from the explosion. During the exchange of nuclear weapons from all dies involved, taking into account just this first effect, 1/3 of the whole population would vanish, and all major towns and cities would be destroyed. The automated exchange of war heads between countries could last from a few hours to several days.
- EMP - At the same time of the explosion, the weapons will create an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) that instantly fries any electronic equipment miles away from the epicenter. That means all computers, smart phones, radios, fridges, and also all modern cars (as they all now have on-board computers) will be instantly dead. Everything electronic you can imagine, even LED torches, will be fried. That means no transport, no communication (no TV, no radio, no internet, no video games), no electricity, no running water, no light (only classic light bulbs would survive), no fire brigades, no ambulance, no frozen food, no washing machines, no dishwashers, no cooking stoves, no electric heating, no pumps…
Radioactive poisoning - Those “lucky” to survive the blasts but caught outside of shelters will be burned by gamma radiation, and those who were in the vicinity of the radiation clouds will start dying a very painful death as a result of radiation poisoning.
As our hospitals and Emergency Medical Technicians are heavily dependent on electronics and with major infrastructure destroyed, those in need of medical help will not be able to get it.
Acid rains and radiation in the air will continue poisoning the air, water, and land. The radiation effect could last for months. Some would die from radiation poisoning and others from lack of food and drinking water.
During this period, another 1/3 would die, leaving 2 billion or fewer survivors scattered in underground bunkers and remote mountain areas.
Nuclear Winter – This comes next: after a few weeks or months, the amount of dust particles thrown into the stratosphere could cause global cooling, and the resulting ice age would last hundreds of years. During the nuclear winter, crops would not grow, creating an enormous food shortage.
Those who built bunkers, which provided a few months to a year of protection, would come out of their shelters just to find that everything is covered in radioactive snow. Those who did not have the luxury of having a mini nuclear reactor in their bunkers would die either because of cold or lack of food.
While some say that the current nuclear arsenal is not enough to cause global cooling, as the nuclear potential was significantly reduced during the era after the Cold War — the stockpile was significantly reduced from 68,000 (in 1985) — some scientific papers say that just 100 of the total 16,300 would be enough to create a mini ice age. Additionally, Russian development of nuclear weapons, like R-36M and RS-28 Sarmat — with yields measured in megatons — is a reminder that nuclear winter is not something we can easily rule out from this scenario.
Nuclear power plants – Most discussions about nuclear war usually end there, but what is easily forgotten while thinking about these scenarios is that there are 440 operational nuclear power plants in the world, mostly located in the Northern hemisphere.
Just the two nuclear disasters we had in the last two decades poisoned huge amounts of the earth and sea. We partially managed to contain those disasters, but, even now, people are still struggling to find any meaningful way to clean those sites and prevent future disasters. We are building structures like the Chernobyl sarcophagus. The Chernobyl explosion put 400 times more radioactive material into the Earth's atmosphere than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Some experts say that the land around Chernobyl will stay polluted and uninhabitable for humans for at least the next 10,000 years.
In addition to all nuclear power plants, there are 55 countries that operate 245 research reactors, and there are 180 nuclear reactors that power some 140 ships and submarines.
This brings the total number to around 600 Chernobyl-like nuclear reactors.
Now, imagine a combined nuclear disaster of all of them, without the ability to contain or prevent the future spread of radioactive fallout, as there wouldn’t be any humans or robots to fix the issue.
By the way, have you multiply 400 by 600? Resulting number represents how many time more than Hiroshima’s bomb radioactivity would be released into the atmosphere from nuclear power plants excluding those 16300 nuclear warheads.
Nuclear bombs, both fusion and fission, are quite efficient at burning fuel; considering long term effects, strange as it seems, in the case of war, nuclear power plants are more dangerous than nuclear weapons.
- Hydrogen gas explosion – As all current nuclear reactors are located near huge water reservoirs like lakes or seas, in order to provide enough coolant for the process, in the case of a nuclear meltdown, nuclear fuel rods experiencing extremely high temperatures could strip the hydrogen out of the ground water molecules, causing an underground buildup of hydrogen gas. What would follow are massive underground explosions almost equal to a nuclear bombs.
- Nuclear waste - We also have to consider 60 years of nuclear waste that is stored in waste management locations. Each year, nuclear power generation facilities worldwide produce about 200,000 m3 of low and intermediate-level radioactive waste, plus about 10,000 m3 of high-level waste, including used fuel designated as waste. Without management, and storage facilities structurally damaged by explosions, it would spread into the environment, contaminating the air and the underground water we use to drink and wash.
- Earthquakes and volcanoes – It is quite possible that the combined surface explosions and nuclear power plant explosions could trigger a number of earthquakes or volcanoes. And, in the case of triggering super volcanoes — like the one that sits under the Yellowstone National Park — this would add even more material into the atmosphere, causing an even longer ice age, further limiting the already slim chances of survival.
- Survival - During the next few months, remaining people would die of starvation and a lack of clean water. It is possible that cannibalism would be quite common. Radioactive pollution, exposure to elements, and diseases, all without access to modern health care and medicine — coupled with an already weakened DNA — would kill people quickly. Even the simplest flesh wounds would mean a death sentence. Newborns, if any, would come to earth with different disabilities and deformations, having very short life spans.
- Knowledge - The population would revert to the Stone Age. Hammers and knives would become the only usable tools. Gadgets and devices without electricity or fried by EMP would become worthless junk. Just try to imagine life without the Internet. Without access to 95% of the knowledge stored in data centers and libraries, survivors would not have a critical mass (necessary number of educated people) to transfer and maintain the knowledge of the 21st century. Even without residual radiation, we would need hundreds of years to recover to the same technological level. In the process, we would need to reinvent almost everything from scratch.
Combining all this, the human population of the Earth would, in a few years, gradually start declining to zero.
Even if people stay in those underground bunkers for more than 100 years — although it is unlikely they could survive more than a few years, due to issues connected with the lack of sun exposure — after coming out, the land and sea still would be uninhabitable for any type of mammals. At that point, it is possible to imagine entire planet as one big Chernobyl. Meaning - no habitable zone for next 10000 years.
By now, I hope I have succeeded in convincing you that war is a bad idea — especially nuclear war.
Thinking that someone will survive, we can consider as a trap — that will give us false hope and leave open doors of comfort that we do not need to struggle and resist these wars — especially for those who are not afraid of death they believe in after life, or simply do not care about life on this planet.
Maybe it is worth remembering that “Evil prevails when good men fail to act,” and nuclear war is the ultimate evil.
Equally it is worth remembering that we are the masters of the game, and that we are the ones who can change the rules.
So, instead of spending huge amounts of money on the means of our own destruction, we could use that money for education, health, science, clean energy, and other things that would actually promote peace, instead of war.