The destructiveness of weapons has increased in recent times with modern technology. The world saw devastating results in the Hiroshima air raid and the Chernobyl accident. Nuclear bombs, tests, explosions and accidents are an inevitable part of our reality. So here we are writing 10 facts about nuclear explosions.
1) The Tsar Bomb is the most powerful nuclear bomb ever developed by mankind. During the explosion it created a mushroom cloud more than seven times the height of Mount Everest, and the shock wave circled the Earth three times. In addition, it cracked window glass 900 kilometers away.
The Soviet Union dropped Tsar bombs on a remote island north of the Arctic Circle in October 1961. They deployed the 27-kiloton RDS-220 by parachute on the island of New Zemuria.
The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who commissioned the Tsar, initially wanted a 100-megaton weapon.
The engineers couldn’t live up to expectations; they managed to create a weapon that was half as powerful as originally required. The bomb was thousands of times more destructive than the bombs that the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The bombs were detonated before reaching the island’s ground, and the result was a complete peeling of the island’s surface.
One can see the flash from 965 kilometers away and feel the enormous heat from 250 kilometers away.
The explosion caused no casualties, however after witnessing this devastating potential, the three countries signed a treaty in 1963. The Limited Test Ban Treaty prohibits aerial nuclear weapons testing. The United States, Britain and the Soviet Union are participants in the treaty.
2) The United States has launched a number of “Vela” satellites to detect nuclear explosions in space and the atmosphere. In September 1979 one of these satellites detected an unidentified nuclear explosion in the Indian Ocean. There is debate over who the bombers were and the nature of the incident. It was called the “Vera Incident”.
On October 22, a Vela satellite detected a double flash with light patterns indicating a possible nuclear explosion. The light appears in the South Atlantic region, between the Crozier Islands and Prince Edward Island in South Africa.
At first researchers doubted the possibility of a nuclear test, believing it was merely a technical glitch. Three years after the explosion, however, political considerations and more evidence led to further research into the theory of nuclear tests. Leading scientists have concluded that the flash was indeed a nuclear explosion.
The country behind the explosion is unofficial. Most agree, however, that the event was a joint Israeli and South African nuclear test.
Speculation is that Israel tested their weapons with the assistance of South Africa. U.S. officials had identified Israel’s nuclear weapons before the explosion. The test site was near South Africa, so it was speculated that this was a joint project.
3) The Kashtem disaster was a nuclear explosion at a plutonium factory in the Soviet Union in 1957. The disaster polluted 23,000 square kilometers of land and led to the evacuation of 10,000 people. It was the third-worst nuclear accident in history, but the soviet government kept it secret for 19 years.
The disaster occurred on September 29, 1957 at a plutonium processing plant in the Chelyabinsk Oblast near Kshtem.
The cause of the incident was the failure to repair a faulty cooling system buried in the ground which caused an explosion.
After the incident was disclosed, the International Nuclear and Radiation Event Scale classified the accident as a level 6. Other disasters like Chornobyl, which are the most severe, are on a scale of 7.
Western media reported the accident a year later, but the reports did not attract public attention. The details were reported by exiled Soviet biologist Zhores Medvedev in the British journal New Scientist in 1976.
That’s when the disaster became widely known. However, the Soviet Union did not admit this mistake until 1989. Locals living there suffer more cancers, deformities and other major health problems.
4) In the 1960s, the U.S. Air Force planned to develop a 4,000-ton nuclear space battleship called the “Orion” battleship. A nuclear explosion will push it. And equip it with missiles to take advantage of the Cold War space program. But President Kennedy was shocked by the idea and canceled it.
The idea behind Project Orion is pretty simple, at least in concept: using an atomic bomb to generate thrust, the spacecraft could be lifted into the air. This was the challenge that General Atomics initially hoped to overcome. They suggested that the bomb could be thrown backwards from the ship, followed by the solid propellant disk. The explosion vaporizes the disk, and the resulting plasma hits the push plate.
Using this nuclear pulse propulsion, Dyson and Taylor’s spacecraft design envisioned a large plate, a “thrust,” under which the atomic bomb would detonate. The energy released by this explosion will push the thrusters away from the explosion fast enough to reach escape velocity.
Of course one bomb is not enough to get a ship fully into space, so a series of atomic explosions in rapid succession is needed to keep the ship from falling back to Earth.
A Super Orion-class spacecraft requires about 800 small, compact car-sized bombs to explode beneath the spacecraft at about one per second to propel it into orbit.
To accomplish Project Orion’s ability to use conventional chemical rockets, a rocket the size of the Empire State Building is required.
What’s more, the incredible speed is two to three times faster than what conventional rockets can produce. Once the spacecraft reaches the vacuum of space, that velocity is retained as momentum, and any further propulsion increases the velocity it has already achieved after breaking out of Earth’s gravity.
While President John F. Kennedy may have been advising Americans to reach the moon in the late 1960s, Dyson and his colleagues aimed a little further, hoping to get Americans to Saturn’s moons in roughly the same time frame. Dyson has said that the project’s motto is “Mars in 1965, Saturn in 1970.”
5) In 1961 an American plane accidentally dropped two nuclear bombs on North Carolina after it disintegrated in mid-air. The two bombs were 250 times more destructive than those detonated on Hiroshima. They can create a 100 percent kill zone within an 8.5-mile radius, but luckily, they don’t explode.
A Boeing Stratofortress crashed near Goldboro, North Carolina at midnight on January 23, 1961. The plane had two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs; each equivalent to four million tons of TNT.
The plane crashed because of an excessive fuel leak. When the crew noticed the 17,000kg leak, they immediately turned to their base.
Pilot Walter Tulloch lost control of the plane when it was at an altitude of 10,000 feet. He then ordered everyone to abandon the flight, and five of the members successfully ejected at 9,000 feet. Two other crew members also ejected, but they did not land safely and lost their lives.
A parachute was carrying one of the bombs, and a tree caught the parachute, which luckily didn’t detonate.
The other plunged into a patch of mud at an estimated speed of 700 miles per hour. The bomb was later found and it had completely disintegrated, but again, the explosives were not detonated.
6) When the Cold War was at its peak, the U.S. Air Force developed a top-secret nuclear explosion program. They intend to detonate a nuclear bomb on the moon to show their military might. The explosion was expected to create a mushroom cloud so huge that it could be seen from Earth.
The project’s lead physicist, Dr. Leonardo Reifer, admitted that the explosion’s main purpose was a PR campaign. In 1958, senior U.S. officials approached the physicist and began working on the idea.
The plan suggested that the explosion occurred on the dark side of the moon so that the sun could illuminate the clouds.
The explosion would seriously affect the lunar surface, but that’s not a concern for authorities. All asserted that the impact of the explosion on Earth was negligible.
The top-secret project, named A119, is part of the Lunar Research Flight Study. The Ph.D. also chose Carl Sagan, a famous American scientist, to mathematically model the resulting cloud.
Even though some researchers have shared brief details of A119, the full nature of the project remains unknown.
7) Before the detonation of the first nuclear bomb in July 1945, isotopes such as strontium 90 and cesium 137 did not exist in nature at all. Therefore, cesium detection can be performed on art and wine bottles made before 1945. If they contain any traces of cesium, they are likely fake.
Researchers have been using radiocarbon technology for years to date paintings and artworks, ancient artifacts.
Since the first explosion in Hiroshima, humans have conducted more than 2,000 nuclear tests. These activities further produce isotopes, such as the carbon-14 isotope.
These isotopes made their way into Earth’s soil and plants. They were later transferred to painting through natural oils that act as binding agents in plants. A common example is flaxseed from the flax plant.
Objects created after 1963 inevitably carry these unstable isotopes. This allowed the researchers to distinguish between paintings made before and after that date.
To test the originality of a piece of art, researchers take a tiny sample, usually just one square millimeter, from the painting.
The idea originated with Elena Basner, director of the Russian Museum.
8) During the Chernobyl nuclear accident, three volunteered on a suicide mission in 1986. If they don’t succeed, the explosion will wipe out half of Europe’s population. Also, for the next 500,000 years, the place will no longer be habitable.
The tragedy at Chernobyl was undoubtedly the worst nuclear accident in history. If the three men hadn’t heroically volunteered to carry out the suicide mission, the aftermath could have been even uglier.
Someone needed to empty the pool under the reactor, otherwise a steam explosion could result. However, contaminated water flooded the basement, and the valve is just below it.
When the trio entered the radioactive water, their lights turned off, leaving them in total darkness, but they still managed to close the valve.
Mechanical engineers Alex Anadarko and Valery Besparov were alive and working in the same industry in 2015.
Unfortunately the third member, supervisor Boris Baranov, died of a heart attack in 2005.
9) The United Kingdom and the United States launched a joint satellite into space in April 1962. The satellite, named Ariel-1, was the first satellite to be launched from the UK. Yet just a few months later, the United States detonated a nuclear bomb in the orbit of the satellite, accidentally destroying it.
The UK did all of the design and construction of the core systems for Ariel 1, and NASA helped launch it into orbit.
This particular satellite was launched to study the ionosphere and its relationship to the sun. NASA launched it on April 26, 1962, and it began to function effectively in July of the same year.
In the “Fish Tank Project”, the United States conducted a test by detonating a 1.4 million-ton nuclear weapon named “Sea Star-Prem”. A wave of radiation destroyed Ariel 1, rendering it completely inoperative. The other third of the satellites in low Earth orbit at the time also stopped working.
It took years for the radiation to affect the satellite, and the designers simply hadn’t anticipated this vulnerability.
The purpose of this nuclear test was to observe the effects of a nuclear explosion on the existing radiation belts around Earth.
10) In 1965 the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear device near the Chagan River to create an artificial lake. The explosion excavated 10 million cubic meters of land, and there was a banner at the site; “Nuclear explosion boosts national economy.” Nicknamed “Atomic Lake”, the lake is still slightly radioactive to this day.
The detonation of the device took place at Chagan on the edge of the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan. The Chagan test was conducted to document the sustainability of the reservoir created by a nuclear explosion.
A 140-kiloton nuclear device exploded in a 584-foot-deep hole in the middle of the dried-up Chagan River. The result of the experiment was a crater 1,312 feet wide and 328 feet deep, with a lip height of 65 to 125 feet.
The Soviets were satisfied with the result. In addition, local cattle feed on the radioactively contaminated Atomic Lake. The Soviet policy continued until 1989, and Chagan’s test was the first and largest of any other nuclear explosion. On the fringes of the program, they have used 156 such nuclear devices.