“I have studied nuclear weapons for a long time, but I always find it hard to get used to the idea of their size and their effects,” explains university professor Alex Wellerstein. “Nukemap is a tool to help people, including myself, to more or less realize the consequences, beyond the extreme scenario of the end of the world that most people have in their heads,” he adds.
Wellerstein, a historian specializing in nuclear weapons and a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, is behind this website that, on a Google map, calculates the radius of destruction and the fatalities of a nuclear explosion in U.S.
If you need a frame of reference, Wellerstein offers the calculation in kilotons of one of the bombs allegedly detonated by North Korea in its nuclear tests this year: about 150 kilotons. One kiloton is equivalent to four billion the power of the explosive trinitrotoluene (TNT), used in the projectiles of the I and II World War. The atomic bomb that the United States launched on the Japanese city of Hiroshima had 15 kilotons; the one in Nagasaki, 20 kilotons. But a hydrogen bomb can reach 10,000 kilotons.
North Korea has tested an intercontinental missile capable of reaching any city in the United States this year. It is unknown if he has the capacity to introduce one of the nuclear bombs he has developed inside that missile, and to get it intact to its destination. He would also have to be able to reach the goal thousands of kilometers away, and mock US anti-missile defenses. Fortunately or unfortunately, those questions could only be answered in the moment of truth. Until now, we have to be scared with the consequences that such an explosion would have.
In New York, a 150-kiloton bomb would kill up to 730,000 people and injure 1.5 million. It would erase half the island of Manhattan from the map. In Los Angeles, it would kill 240,000 people and injure 630,000 more. In Washington DC, there would be 260,000 deaths and 440,000 injuries.
What if the United States will attack North Korea with its most powerful atomic bomb? Two million people would die, and 1.8 million more would be injured.