Fred Reed Indicates What Nuclear War Would Be Like, but Steven Starr’s Comment Better Describes the Death of the Planet

Fred Reed Indicates What Nuclear War Would Be Like, but Steven Starr’s Comment Better Describes the Death of the Planet

That such weapons exist proves the utter stupidity of the human race.  No conquest of one country by another could have the terror of nuclear war.  The fact that nuclear weapons have not been abolished is the most damnable comment imaginable on the leaders of mankind.

The longer Putin delays Russia’s victory in Ukraine, the more likely the escalation into nuclear war.

Fred Reed: 

Steven Starr:

This is an effective description of many of the prompt effects and somewhat longer term consequences of a nuclear war. I appreciate the imagery and details that, if seriously considered, should cause a reader to shudder.

But I would like to elaborate more on the likely scale of destruction based on the current nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia. And most importantly, we should not ignore the long-term environmental consequences of nuclear war.

The US and Russia each have close to 6000 nuclear weapons/warheads in their nuclear inventories. On each side, a few thousand of these warheads are classified as retired and “scheduled for dismantlement” (but remain intact), a few thousand more are held “in reserve” (meaning they can be uploaded in a relatively short time), and each nation has about 1600 or 1700 warheads that are kept ready for immediate use. (See the Nuclear Notebook by Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for details on the US and Russian nuclear arsenals.)

Of these deployed and operational nuclear weapons, the US and Russia can each launch about 1000 strategic nuclear warheads (minimum explosive power of each warhead is 100,000 tons of TNT, or 100-kilotons) in a matter of a 15 minutes or less. The land-based ICBMs of the US and Russia can all be launched in a matter of a few minutes. 

Both Biden and Putin are constantly followed by military officers carrying a “nuclear briefcase”, which is a communication device that allows either president to give the permission order to carry out a nuclear strike.  The options can be for one warhead or an all-out attack with more than 1000 nuclear warheads. Unless the military refuses to obey the command, the attack will be carried out. 

The US has roughly 350 cities of populations greater than 100,000; Russia has about 250 cities with populations of greater than 100,000.  Each side can easily destroy every one of the cities of the opposing side (with an order that takes 5 minutes to carry out) and still have more than 1000 deployed and operational warheads for other targets. 

Russia has about 700 strategic nuclear warheads that each have an explosive power of 800,000 tons of TNT.  These are among the “launch-ready” weapons they can launch in a few minutes time. Each of these warheads, on an average weather day, will ignite fires over an area of 150 square miles. In a matter of 10-15 minutes, these fires will coalesce into a single gigantic nuclear firestorm, with air temperatures of 500 -600 degrees Fahrenheit and hurricane force winds blowing towards the center of the fire zone. No one in the fire zone will survive the fire. For details, see an article that I co-authored in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “What would happen if an 800-kiloton nuclear warhead detonated above midtown Manhattan?”.

A war fought with hundreds or thousands of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons would ignite immense nuclear firestorms covering land surface areas of many thousands or tens of thousands of square miles. Peer-reviewed studies have calculated that up to 180 million tons of smoke and soot would be created by these nuclear firestorms. See and for details. 

Most of the smoke from these firestorms would rapidly rise above cloud level into the stratosphere, where it would rapidly spread around the earth. In a matter of a few weeks, a global stratospheric smoke layer would form, which would block up to 70% of warming sunlight from reaching earth’s surface in the Northern Hemisphere and 35% in the Southern Hemisphere.The smoke, being above cloud level, could not be rained out and it would remain in the stratosphere for a decade or longer.

The loss of warming sunlight would cause daily temperatures to fall below freezing every day for up to 3 years in central North American and central Eurasia. The intense cold weather would endure for many years, preventing crops from being grown. Most humans and animal populations would perish from starvation. 

Unfortunately, those in charge of the US military have rejected the findings of the scientific studies on nuclear winter. I wrote about this for the Federation of American Scientists, see “Turning a Blind Eye Towards Armageddon — U.S. Leaders Reject Nuclear Winter Studies” at  

In 2010, at the UN meetings of the First Committee, I asked Rose Gottemoeller and Anatoly Atonov (during their briefing on New START) if they were familiar with the new studies on nuclear winter, which predict that a US-Russian nuclear war would wipe out most of humanity.  Both answered “no”. 

Perhaps they have learned more about nuclear winter since 2010. But it is willful blindness to chose to ignore such information and criminal insanity to start a nuclear war that would amount to a mass extinction event. 

I do hope that Fred Reed is right about the Generals in Washington and Moscow, that they can prevent a nuclear war from taking place. But we are walking on very thin ice right now, with incompetent ideologues in Washington who clearly have no real understanding of the existential dangers of nuclear war.

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