School of History, Politics and International Relations

Five things you probably didn’t know about nuclear weapons

Dr Andrew Futter, Associate Professor of International Politics, tells us things we probably didn’t know about nuclear weapons.

Video transcript

Hi, I'm Andrew from the Department of Politics and International Relations.

Today I'm going to tell you some things that you probably didn't know about nuclear weapons.

  1. The two nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 killed nearly 200,000 people. Those bombs would have been capable of taking out the entire centre of Leicester. Most contemporary nuclear weapons are far more powerful.
  2. The most powerful nuclear weapon ever tested - the Tsar Bomba - tested by the Soviet Union in 1961, had a yield of over 50 megatons - that's 50 million tonnes of TNT. That bomb was over 3000 times as powerful as those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. 
  3. The United Kingdom has a stockpile of approximately 200 nuclear weapons. 40 of these are warheads deployed on one of its four submarines, one of which is always on patrol under the ocean ready to deliver the UK nuclear weapons anywhere in the world in as little as a manner of minutes.
  4. While there have only ever been two uses of nuclear weapons in warfare, there have been over two thousand nuclear tests since this time. Many of them in the atmosphere releasing vast amounts of radiation, making certain parts of the planet uninhabitable. 
  5. There is no proven defence against nuclear attack, despite many efforts to try and do so. Instead states rely on a policy known as Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD, essentially threatening retaliation and deterring adversary through the threat of punishment. This has often been likened to holding a loaded gun to each other's heads.

So, thanks very much for your time. I hoped you learned something new about nuclear weapons, and if you would like to know more, I look forward to seeing you at the University of Leicester.

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