What Would Happen If a Nuclear Weapon Hit the U.S.?

VOICE OVER: Derek Allen WRITTEN BY: Benjamin Welton
Nuclear war has been discussed and portrayed in pop-culture and the news for years, but very few people know the extent of just how devastating a nuclear attack against the United States would be! Watch as we uncover the facts behind this terrifying idea!


Fears of a nuclear attack have been in the public consciousness since 1945, when the U.S. military dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the years following these strikes, the United States and Western Europe entered into the Cold War, which would last all the way until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Until that time, American and international moviegoers were treated to sci-fi films about how nuclear fallout could either awaken ancient beasts, as in the case of the 1954 film Godzilla, or turn everyday ants into deadly killers, such as in Them!, also from 1954.

Nuclear fears were not just at the movies, either. School children in the U.S. were taught to “duck and cover” by a turtle named Bert. Bert told his viewers to take shelter under their school desks in order to survive a nuclear attack. Such advice would obviously not save anybody.

Nowadays, the old nuclear fears of the Cold War have been revived thanks to the rhetoric of North Korea and its dictator Kim Jong-un. Although the communist dictatorship in Pyongyang has long threatened is neighbors with nuclear strikes, the uptick in ballistic missile testing by Kim Jong-un, as well as the equally forceful response to these tests by U.S. President Donald Trump, has caused panic to spread among large segments of the American population. In January of this year, apocalyptic fears were almost realized when a disgruntled government worker in Hawaii sent out a false warning of an impeding nuclear strike. For a brief moment, television viewers were treated to images of what severe public panic would look like right before a nuclear attack.

So, considering all of this, what would an actual nuclear strike look like? How would the fallout be handled, and what would the social and health repercussions be for those in the blast zone or nearby? Well, the events of 1945 provide an excellent resource.

On August 6, 1945, a U.S. B-29 Superfortress bomber named the “Enola Gay” dropped “Little Boy,” the world’s first atomic bomb, on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The initial blast of the bomb wiped out 90-percent of the city and killed approximately 800,000 people. A mere three days later, another B-29, this once named “Bockscar,” dropped the world’s second atomic bomb, “Fat Boy,” on the city of Nagasaki. Approximately 40,000 people died in this strike. In both instances, radiation, both initial and residual, caused cases of numerous cases of cancer in the afflicted populations. As late as the 1960s, residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still suffering from what many scientists suspected were the results of the atomic bomb strikes.

Years later, in 1986, a flawed reactor system at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine caused a full five-percent of the radioactive material from the plant’s core to be released into the atmosphere. In total, thirty people would die in the immediate wake of the disaster, and to this day there are stories and reports about misshapen plants and mutated wildlife in and around the grounds of Chernobyl.

In 2011, after an tsunami struck Japan, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant suffered a nuclear meltdown that caused high levels of radiation to infect the local air supply and water supply. Today, almost seven years after the disaster, scientists and environmental activists still report that Fukushima contains above-average levels of radiation.

So given all of these examples, one can safely say that a nuclear strike on America would immediately kill many people. If the missile landed in a dense urban area, it could theoretically kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. A smaller nuclear bomb would disperse radiation from the clouds within an hour or a few hours. Larger bombs may take weeks to fully disperse all radiation into the atmosphere. Radiation exposure has been linked to cancerous growths and other health problems, most of which can be lethal. Those not effected by the initial blast would almost certainly be exposed to high levels of radiation.

Fallout material would likely enter into a majority of the effected area’s food supply. Extra-strong gamma rays in the air and in the food would damage human cells. Prolonged suffering or death would be the result.

On the financial side of things, the clean-up required after a nuclear attack would cost over a billion dollars and take years to complete. Diplomatically speaking, if a foreign country used a nuclear weapon on the United States, then Washington, D.C. would declare a state of war. In the specific case of North Korea, a war there is projected to be short and swift, but incredibly deadly. Although North Korea by itself could never defeat a military coalition made up of the United States, Japan, and South Korea, it could cause thousands of civilian and military casualties. Seoul, the largest city in South Korea, is only thirty-five miles from the North Korean border. North Korea’s conventional, non-nuclear artillery could easily attack Seoul, thus putting over ten million lives in danger.

A war with North Korea also brings up the specter of the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 until 1953. In that conflict, the timely intervention of the Chinese Army kept the U.S. and the United Nations from toppling the communist state in Pyongyang. China remains North Korea’s biggest ally today, and would not like to see a united and democratic Korea on its northern border.

A more terrifying possibility is a terror attack using a nuclear weapon. In the world today there are approximately 22,000 nuclear weapons. A large portion of these weapons are in Russia and the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Uzbekistan is home to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has carried out deadly terror attacks in Pakistan and against U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. The Islamic State, better known as ISIS, has also expanded into Central Asia, especially Uzbekistan. Another possible trouble spot are the restive regions of Chechnya and Dagestan. Here, jihadi militants continue to battle the forces of the Russian state. Given that highly enriched uranium (HEU) has been found in the Republic of Georgia, which has often acted as a retreat for Chechen and other Caucasian militants, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that one of these terrorist groups could get their hands on nuclear weapons or the material needed for making nuclear weapons.

Finally, there is also the nuclear threat of Iran. Although far more dangerous to Israel than the United States, Iran’s nuclear program, which the government in Tehran claims is for peaceful purposes only, makes the threat of a nuclear terror attack possible. After all, the U.S. Department of Defense has labeled Iran as the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism, and Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy army in Lebanon, has acquired vast sums of money and the latest in military technology thanks to their war effort on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah terrorists have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American citizens since the 1980s, and the group is particularly active in South America, where they trade cash for drugs and weapons.

In order to protect America from a conventional nuclear attack, the government relies on a ground-based midcourse defense system, or GMD. This series of 36 interceptors and sensors has been designed to intercept and safely detonate any nuclear missile coming from North Korea or Iran. The GMD system is not capable of bringing down more sophisticated missile systems, including those currently used by the Russian and Chinese militaries. On March 30, 2017, right in the middle of the growing hysteria over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the GMD system successfully shot down a simulated ICBM, or intercontinental ballistic missile. ICBMs form the bulk of North Korea’s arsenal, and this successful test, which was carried out at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, seemed to put a lot of fears to rest.

Unfortunately, a year earlier, the Government Accountability Office found that America’s GMD system “has not demonstrated through flight testing that it can defend the U.S. homeland against the current missile defense threat.” The Union of Concerned Scientists have also said that the eighteen tests of the GMD are meaningless because they have been performed under “artificial conditions.” Even despite this, the GMD failed either eight or nine of these tests since 1999. This pass-fail ratio is not comforting for those worried about a nuclear attack. Indeed, it appears that America’s front-line defense against a nuclear attack can best be described as only partially reliable. No one can say for sure that the GMD system would keep the American homeland safe during a nuclear assault from North Korea or any other power.
If a nuclear bomb had occurred, the Russian nuclear bomb would certainly have hit the United States first.The United States has been escalating the war.Forced Russia has to use nuclear weapons.
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