Long after the end of the Cold War, the danger of nuclear war was considered averted. But at the latest after the Russian attack on Ukraine and the related threats against the country and NATO, the danger has once again grown, felt and real.
Again and again, Russian politicians, including Vladimir Putin, speak of a nuclear attack as an escalation of the war in Ukraine. Many people wonder which ones effects that an atomic bomb would havealso here in Germany.
What are the effects of an atomic bomb?
Nuclear weapons have not been used in an armed conflict since 1945. The launches on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first and only uses of nuclear weapons in a war. A nuclear attack, feared for decades, would be a dramatic violation of international law. However, nuclear powers, primarily Russia and the US, have many of these weapons in their arsenals. Count As of 2019, there are still around 13,900.
Nuclear weapons can be used in a variety of ways, from a bomb dropped from an airplane to a rocket or cruise missile. They can be used on fixed missile bases as well as on ships, submarines or mobile weapon systems.
A nuclear weapon is based on the principle of nuclear fission or nuclear fusion. In contrast to the peaceful use of atomic energy in a power plant, fission in a bomb occurs uncontrolled and at breakneck speed. This releases a huge amount of energy in the form of heat, radiation and a shock wave. Additionally, electromagnetic pulses from a nuclear weapon damage electrical equipment within a radius of several kilometers (EMP). Massive use of nuclear weapons can even cool the Earth’s atmosphere if large amounts of dust are raised and the sun is obscured as a result. The result would be a so-called “nuclear winter” and with it crop failure and famine.
What is the destructive power of an atomic bomb?
Estimating how dangerous and destructive an atomic bomb is depends on both its size and how it is used. It develops its maximum destructive power when it explodes in the air – this allows the shock wave to spread further away.
With the size of atomic bombs, the energy of the explosion is calculated in equivalents of the explosive TNT. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima (“Little Boy”) had about one Explosive power of approximately 12.5 kilotons of TNT. The smallest nuclear weapons have a yield of 0.3 kilotons, the largest bomb ever tested “Tsar” bomb of the Soviet Unionhad an explosive strength of ber 50 megatons (50 million tons) of TNT.
The first atomic bombs used the principle of nuclear fission, the newer bombs use both nuclear fission and nuclear fusion (thermonuclear nuclear weapons).
What are strategic and tactical nuclear weapons?
A distinction is made between nuclear weapons tactical and strategic weapons. Tactical nuclear weapons, even “field weapons”, are typically smaller and intended for limited use on the battlefield. They are mainly aimed at military objectives and are intended, for example, to break through a front line. They are used against opposing forces. They are brought to their destination by airplanes, warships, submarines, but also by artillery pieces.
During the Cold War, NATO assumed that the use of nuclear weapons could be controlled and that the conflict should not escalate into an all-encompassing nuclear war. The strategy was called “Flexible Response”. However, there were serious doubts about this theory of limited conflict with nuclear weapons, and so the “Flexible Response” strategy was replaced in 1991.
Strategic nuclear weapons on the other hand, they are intended for large-scale use in the enemy hinterland and are therefore also aimed at large cities. Larger than tactical nuclear weapons, they are delivered by long-range bombers, medium-range missiles, and ICBMs.
What happens when an atomic bomb goes off?
At the moment of detonation a nuclear bomb rises in the center of the explosion temperatures of several million degrees and a gigantic one Pressure of several trillion pascals. About 50 percent of the energy is released in the form of a pressure wave, more than a third in the form of heat and 10 percent in the form of fallout radiation. About 5% of the energy is emitted in the form of instantaneous radiation. In the first moment, an extremely bright flash of light is generated, which can blind people even at a great distance. Everything in the immediate vicinity of the explosion is vaporized. In a further radius, flammable objects and materials catch fire and people suffer severe burns from the heat.
the Explosive power it’s tremendous as half the energy is released as a shock wave. This results in the greatest loss of life as a direct consequence of the explosion. The damage is caused by the extreme pressure of excess air at the front of the explosion, which spreads in all directions. People die directly from overpressure or from impacts such as flying debris and collapsing buildings.
Only a small percentage of people die from it instantaneous radiation, as it is only effective for a short time and within a limited range. In this area, people mostly die from the explosion. The ionizing radiation emitted more than one minute after the explosion is called residual radiation. Their biggest part is the so-called relapse. In addition to the fallout, there is residual radiation near the site of the explosion resulting from the activation of neutrons.
What would happen if an atomic bomb was dropped on Berlin?
In a 2020 study, the environmental organization Greenpeace calculated what would happen if Germany were the target of a nuclear attack. Examples were approx Berlin and Frankfurt used to provide an estimate of the consequences. These are very approximate but provide a rough estimate of the magnitude of the impact of such an event.
In the study it was assumed that a 20 kiloton bomb in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin explodes. Within a radius of 260 meters, everything would evaporate. About 1,000 people would be directly affected. Within a radius of 590 meters, buildings would be severely damaged and nearly all people, around 4,500, would die. At a greater distance from the explosion site, up to about 1.4 kilometers, people would receive a lethal dose of radiation outdoors, and pressure waves and heat would also be responsible for many deaths here. Estimates assume around 20,000 deaths. In a further radius of up to about 2 kilometers people would suffer severe burns, about 50,000 people would be affected. Overall, the calculation model assumes about 27,000 dead and over 70,000 injured in the case described, as a direct consequence of the explosion.
Far-reaching consequences would be expected from the fallout into which radioactive material would fall. Approximately 318,000 people live in the area of approximately 150 square kilometers which would later be affected. People outdoors would receive a lethal dose of radiation from the relapse. This would affect tens of thousands of people. Tens of thousands more people would be at risk of deadly cancer. At a distance of up to approximately 100 km, more than 600,000 people would be affected by high doses of radiation, which can be seriously fatal or have significant long-term consequences. The study assumes that through relapse approximately 120,000 deaths are expected, plus approximately 50,000 subsequent deaths from cancer.
The effects would be even more drastic if a strategic nuclear weapon in Frankfurt would be judged. Here the studio goes all around 500,000 deaths in direct succession and another 165,000 deaths from cancer. In this case, the area of radioactive contamination would extend to a large part of Germany. Due to the usual wind direction, it can be assumed that the fallout would have reached the Harz mountains.
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