Nuclear Weapons and World Sanity

By Pauling, Linus | UNESCO Courier, May-June 1986 | Go to article overview

Nuclear Weapons and World Sanity


Pauling, Linus, UNESCO Courier


Nuclear weapons and world sanity

DURING the Second World War there were some massive bombing raids on German cities. In one such raid, on one night, one thousand aeroplanes each carrying four tremendous one-ton blockbusters destroyed much of the city of Hamburg and killed an estimated 75,000 people. If there were to be such a raid on, say, Paris today, and another such 1,000-plane raid tomorrow, and then another the next day and so on day after day for fourteen years, the explosives delivered would have the power of one 20-megaton bomb. (One megaton equals a million tons.)

Now, one 20-megaton bomb test in the atmosphere or at the surface of the earth liberates radioactive materials into the atmosphere which will, according to the best estimates that we can make, cause gross damage or death to 550,000 unborn children. This is the probable sacrifice of the testing of a single H-bomb by any one nation. Everyone must understand this.

The standard nuclear bomb today is the 20-megaton bomb. The Soviet Union has detonated a 60-megaton bomb, which was apparently only the first two stages of a 100-megaton bomb. A 100-megaton bomb involves only about three and a half tons of explosive material and probably can be carried in a single large rocket from one continent to another. But 100-megaton bombs don't make very much sense because a 20-megaton bomb can destory and city on earth.

My estimate is that the stockpiles of the world comprise about 16,000 of these 20-megaton bombs or the equivalent of them. Now, there aren't 16,000 large cities in the world and one might well ask why this irrationally great amount of explosive material has been produced.

If 10 per cent of the stockpiles were to be used in a nuclear war with the bombs exploded on the average within 150 kilometres of the targets (you don't have to hit the target in order to get the result) then 60 days after the day on which the war was fought--and we assume that it would cover Europs as a whole, all the Soviet Union and the United States--of the 800 million people living in these regions, 720 million would be dead, 60 million severely injured, and there would be 20 million survivors with only minor injuries.

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