Category: nukes

The Science of Nuclear Weapons, Visualized

This post is by Mark Belan from Visual Capitalist

this infographic visualizes the science of how nuclear weapons work, including the processes of fission and fusion

Visualized: How Nuclear Weapons Work

In 1945, the world’s first-ever nuclear weapon was detonated at the Trinity test site in New Mexico, United States, marking the beginning of the Atomic Age.

Since then, the global nuclear stockpile has multiplied, and when geopolitical tensions rise, the idea of a nuclear apocalypse understandably causes widespread concern.

But despite their catastrophically large effects, the science of how nuclear weapons work is atomically small.

The Atomic Science of Nuclear Weapons

All matter is composed of atoms, which host different combinations of three particles—protons, electrons, and neutrons. Nuclear weapons work by capitalizing on the interactions of protons and neutrons to create an explosive chain reaction.

At the center of every atom is a core called the nucleus, which is composed of closely-bound protons and neutrons. While the number of protons is unique to each element in the periodic table, the number of neutrons can vary. As a result, there are multiple “species” of some elements, known as isotopes.

For example, here are some isotopes of uranium:

  • Uranium-238: 92 protons, 146 neutrons
  • Uranium-235: 92 protons, 143 neutrons
  • Uranium-234: 92 protons, 142 neutrons

These isotopes can be stable or unstable. Stable isotopes have a relatively static or unchanging number of neutrons. But when a chemical element has too many neutrons, it becomes unstable or fissile.

When fissile isotopes attempt to become stable, they shed excess neutrons and energy. This energy is where nuclear weapons get their explosivity from.

There are two (Read more...)

Which Countries Have the Most Nuclear Weapons?

This post is by Omri Wallach from Visual Capitalist

Visualizing Countries with the Most Nuclear Weapons

Which Countries Have the Most Nuclear Weapons?

In theory, nuclear weapon stockpiles are closely held national secrets. The leading countries have rough estimates that aren’t regularly updated, newly nuclear countries keep their capabilities vague and unclear, and Israel has never officially confirmed a nuclear weapons program.

But thanks to limited disclosures, records, and leaks, we can visualize the full extent of the world’s nuclear arsenal. This graphic uses estimated nuclear warhead inventories from the Federation of American Scientists as of August 2021.

Based on these estimates, there are just nine countries with nuclear weapons in the world.

Nuclear Weapons, by Country

The nuclear arms race has always centered around the U.S. and Russia.

After the end of World War II and well into the Cold War, the world’s two superpowers raced to build more nuclear weapons (and more capable nuclear weapons) than the other.

Even while international organizations lobbied for the end of nuclear proliferation, the world’s nuclear weapon stockpile grew to a peak of 70,300 total warheads in 1986.

As arms agreements and non-proliferation treaties started to gain greater momentum, the U.S. and Russia cut back on stockpiles while new countries with nuclear weapons started to pop up.

CountryTotal Warheads (2021)% of Total
?? Russia6,25747.7%
?? U.S.5,55042.3%
?? China3502.67%
?? France2902.21%
?? UK2251.71%
?? Pakistan1651.26%
?? India1601.22%
?? Israel900.69%
?? North Korea450.34%

Despite reducing their stockpiles significantly since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the (Read more...)