We know it is not a cheery thought, but with the tensions escalating in North Korea, it is inevitable that people will wonder about the prospect of a nuclear war – even though we would hope this was only a distant fear.
Today, there are about 22,000 nuclear weapons in the world. But what would it look like is one of these was used?
Unfortunately, as much as we all wish it was the case, the risk of a nuclear war can never be completely zero.
If the weapons are there, there is always the tiniest chance they may be used.
Bearing this in mind, we set out to discover the facts about what would happen if they were.
THE FIRST FEW MINUTES
In the first few minutes after a nuclear bomb has been detonated there is an intense fireball which is hotter than anything else on Earth.
There will be the brightest white light and essentially a hot, ball, which will emanate outwards.
The first effect of the blast can destroy everything in its path.
The heat the bomb produces is hot enough to burn human skin and start fires. Then, of course, there is the radiation.
This is dangerous because it is impossible to feel or see it, but if you are exposed to it, this is basically a death sentence further down the line.
People further away from the worst effects of the bomb may still be at a high risk of cancers as a result of the radiation.
Nuclear fallout is the term given when a mushroom cloud dispenses radiation and the particles fall from it. They will also be blown about by the wind, to spread further.
The larger the bomb, the longer the fallout can hang around in the atmosphere and be radioactive for.
Once the fallout hits the food chain, it can spread radiation through the food we eat and drink as well.
HOW DEVASTATING COULD A NUCLEAR BOMB BE?
Seventy years ago the bombs that were detonated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki contained around 15000 tons of TNT.
To contrast the most recent example, the nuclear device that North Korea set off, contained approximately ten times as much TNT.
In other words, these newer bombs could be ten times as devastating.
It is estimated this could kill approximately 900,000 people.
WILL HAVING A MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM HELP US?
The theory is that if a missile attack was to be launched (for example at the United States) that they would be able to see this very quickly with their satellites and radar systems. This should trigger the missile defense system.
What is supposed to happen is that the radar could see the missile coming and trigger an interceptor.
The device which would be sent is approximately the same size as a filing cabinet. It essentially throws itself into the path of the weapon and kills it.
Unfortunately, this system only works in about half of the times it has been tested and even then, not necessarily under the most trying of conditions.
WHAT DOES A NUCLEAR WINTER MEAN?
This is the hypothesis that during a war, weapons would be fired all the time and therefore be producing a lot of smoke.
The smoke produced from all the blasts will make the sun reflect, which in turn means it won’t get through to the Earth, where crops are being grown.
It is the lack of sunlight which will cause crops to fail and therefore cause mass starvation. The lack of sunlight will also cause a drop in the temperature, making it much colder.
In fact, this is only a theory, because fortunately, no one has ever tested it. We sincerely hope that they will not be able to!