“There is no doubt that, if the people of the world were more fully aware of the inherent danger of nuclear weapons and the consequences of their use, they would reject them.” This conclusion appeared in the 1996 report of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Although international relations have changed drastically since the end of the Cold War, both Russia and the U.S. continue to keep the bulk of their nuclear missiles on high-level alert. The U.S. and Russia remain ready to fire a total of more than 5,000 nuclear weapons at each other within half an hour. These warheads, if used, could destroy humanity including those firing the missiles. A defense that destroys the defender makes no sense. Why then do Russia, the U.S., and other countries spend vast sums each year to maintain such defenses? Since 400 average size strategic nuclear weapons could destroy humanity, most of the 5,000 nuclear weapons that Russia and the U.S. have set for hair-trigger release, present the world with its greatest danger — an enormous overkill, the potential for an accidental Armageddon.

Consequences Never Considered

When General Lee Butler became head of the US Strategic Air Command (SAC), he went to the SAC Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska to inspect the 12,000 targets. He was shocked to find dozens of warheads aimed at Moscow (as the Soviets once targeted Washington). The US planners had no grasp of the explosions, firestorms and radiation from such overkill. “We were totally out of touch with reality,” Butler said. “The war plan, its calculations and consequences never took into account anything but cost and damage. Radiation was never considered.”

No Long-Range Plan

Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, says there was no long-range war plan. The arms race was mainly a race of numbers. Neither Russia or the U.S. wanted to get behind. Each side strove to build the greatest number. “The total far exceeded the requirements of any conceivable war plan,” according to McNamara.

Since Russia and the U.S. have each built enormous nuclear weapon overkills with little thought as to the consequence of their use, it is imperative to assess what would happen if these weapons were used. Humanity’s fate could depend upon it.

It is proposed that a Conference on the Consequence of Nuclear Weapons Use be held soon. Conference news reports could increase public awareness of the dangers. It is also hoped that such a conference could help create a Consequence Assessment Center within the United Nations. By working together, many countries would have confidence in the accuracy of the assessments. The cost of consequence studies could be relatively small and could be done fairly quickly.

A Preliminary Assessment of the Consequences

A preliminary assessment of the consequences of nuclear weapons use in relation to the number of nuclear weapons used show them to be far more destructive than most people realize. Let’s examine the effects of one nuclear weapon, hundreds of nuclear weapons and, as the SAC had planned and targeted for use, thousands of nuclear weapons.

One Nuclear Weapon

One average size U.S. strategic nuclear warhead can be carried in an average size truck. Such a nuclear warhead has an explosive power equal to 20 Hiroshima size nuclear bombs, or to 250,000 tons of dynamite or 25,000 trucks each carrying 10 tons of dynamite. An average size Russian strategic nuclear warhead has an explosive power equal to 32 Hiroshima size bombs, or 40,000 trucks bombs each carrying 10 tons of dynamite. By comparison, the terrorists’ truck bombs exploded at the World Trade Center in New York and the federal building in Oklahoma City each had an explosive force equal to about 10 tons of dynamite.

If one average size Russian strategic nuclear warhead was detonated over Washington, D.C., it could vaporize Congress, the White House, the Pentagon, and headquarters for many national programs. One U.S. nuclear warhead detonated over Moscow could be similarly devastating. Is it any wonder that General Butler was shocked to find dozens of warheads aimed at Moscow?

If one nuclear bomb were exploded over New York City it could vaporize the United Nations headquarters, communication centers for NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, etc., the New York Stock Exchange, world bank centers, international transportation centers and other centers for international trade and investments where billions of dollars are being exchanged daily. A nuclear explosion would also leave the areas hit highly radioactive and unusable for a long time. Where the radioactive fallout from the mushroom cloud would land in the world would depend upon the direction of the wind and rain conditions at the time of the explosion.

Hundreds Of Nuclear Weapons

The late Dr. Carl Sagan and his associates, in their extensive studies, found that a nuclear explosive force equal to 100 million tons of dynamite (100 megatons) could produce enough smoke and fine dust to create a Nuclear Winter over the world leaving few survivors. A nuclear bomb blast can produce heat intensities of 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Centigrade at ground zero which, in turn, could start giant flash fires leaving large cities and forests burning with no one to fight them. Also, nuclear explosions can lift an enormous quantity of fine soil particles into the atmosphere, more than 100,000 tons of fine dust for every megaton exploded in a surface burst.

Since an average size U.S. strategic nuclear warhead has an explosive power equal to 250,000 tons of dynamite it would take 400 warheads to have an explosive power equal to 100 megatons or enough to destroy the world. It would take less Russian strategic nuclear warheads to destroy the world since they are more powerful. Any survivors in the world would have to contend with radioactive fallout, toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, cyanides, dioxins, furans, etc. from burning cities, and increased ozone burnout.

Thousands of Nuclear Weapons

Russia and the U.S. have more than 90 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world. Many of their nuclear missiles are set on high-level alert so that within half an hour of receiving a warning of an attack more than 5,000 nuclear weapons could be launched. While the U.S. and Russia no longer have their nuclear weapons aimed at each other, they can re-target each other within minutes.

Analyzing Overkill

The consequence of nuclear weapons use needs to be widely publicized to help efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons for the following reasons:

Overkill Doesn’t Deter. Being able to destroy another country more than once serves no purpose for deterrence. How many times can one country destroy another?

Overkill Is Self-Destructive. The larger the number of nuclear weapons used to carry out a “first strike” or a “launch-on warning” defense, the greater the certainty of self-destruction.

Overkill Increases Danger Of Accidental War. The more nuclear weapons there are in the world, the greater is the probability of their accidental use.

Overkill Encourages Nuclear Proliferation By Example.

Overkill Wastes Money. Spending billions of dollars per year to maintain an ability to destroy the world is the worst possible waste of money.

Accidental Nuclear Wars

The Canberra Commission stated “… that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used, accidentally or by decision, defies credibility. The only complete defense is the elimination of nuclear weapons and assurance that they will never be produced again.” The Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa and Sweden, when formulating the New Agenda Coalition, agreed with the Canberra Commission statement.

If any one of the following three near-accidental nuclear wars had occurred it could have been the end of humanity.