How many nuclear weapons are there in the world? Which country possesses the most? And how powerful are they?
Learn the facts. Stay informed.
- The designers of the first atomic bomb were concerned that a nuclear detonation might ignite the earth’s atmosphere and kill every living thing on earth. They went ahead and tested the nuclear device anyway.
- A single hydrogen bomb, detonated at the Capitol Building, could produce enough radioactive fallout to kill everyone in Washington, D.C., everyone in Baltimore, everyone in Philadelphia, and half the population of New York City, with fatalities as far north as Boston.
- Although the Pentagon claims that the United States had only thirty-two nuclear weapon accidents during the Cold War, the actual number is more than one thousand.
- After watching The Day After, a film portraying the horrors of nuclear war, President Ronald Reagan became a strong and sincere advocate for abolishing all nuclear weapons.
- There are currently more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world. The United States and Russia possess more than 90 percent of them.
- Many of the nuclear warheads in the American arsenal are about twenty times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
- A single American ballistic missile submarine has the capacity to destroy more than one hundred cities. The United States has fourteen of those submarines.
- No nation in the world has emergency medical facilities that could cope with the detonation of a single nuclear weapon in a major city. The survivors in that city would have to fend for themselves.
- A relatively small nuclear war between India and Pakistan, involving about one hundred weapons, could kill more than a billion people.
- On August 30, 2007, a maintenance crew at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana was surprised to find that a B-52 bomber parked on the runway was carrying six cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. The weapons had been mistakenly removed from a bunker in North Dakota, loaded onto the plane, flown across the United States, and left unattended. For a day-and-a-half, nobody in the Air Force had realized that half a dozen nuclear weapons were missing.
- On May 17, 2014, during maintenance on a Minuteman missile at a silo near Peetz, Colorado, a work crew damaged the missile. Almost two years later, the Air Force still will not disclose what happened during the accident or how extensively the missile was damaged.
- In February, 2015, a former launch officer at a Minuteman missile complex in North Dakota was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. While serving in the Air Force and manning an underground control center in charge of ten intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads, the officer had also been the leader of a violent street gang, sold illegal drugs, and arranged the exchange of money for sex with underage girls.
- In June, 2015, General James Cartwright argued that the ongoing threat posed by cyberattacks is one reason that the United States and Russia should take their missiles off alert. Cartwright formerly served as the head of the US Strategic Command, in charge of all of America’s nuclear weapons. “You’ve either been hacked and not admitting it,” he warned, “or you’re being hacked and don’t know it.”
- In March, 2016, fourteen airmen responsible for the security of the nuclear warheads and Minuteman missiles at F.E. Warren Air Force Base were suspended from duty. They are being investigated for using illegal drugs, including cocaine.
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Source notes for some facts about nuclear weapons can be found here.