The Daily Telegraph

Only 100 nuclear bombs needed to cause catastroph­e around the world

Fallout from huge strike would bring death to the nation that fired weapons

- By Henry Bodkin

NATIONS with huge nuclear arsenals are wasting their money because just 100 missiles would be enough to destabilis­e the globe and kill their own citizens, scientists have said.

Britain currently possesses around 215 warheads and there are around 15,000 worldwide, the vast majority of which are American or Russian. But researcher­s have determined that no na

tion could fire more than 100 without causing a chain of events so catastroph­ic the impacts were felt at home.

In the first such exercise of its kind, scientists analysed the “environmen­tal blowback” of a massive, oneway nuclear strike.

Based on models including those of burnable materials in cities, they calculated the amount of soot and dust that would be thrown into the air, the consequent blotting of the sun and atmospheri­c damage. They found that the “nuclear autumn” of such destructio­n would damage agricultur­al output by up to 20 per cent, enough to cause widespread food shortages even on the other side of the world.

The concept of nuclear deterrence has traditiona­lly included the doctrine that the bigger the arsenal, the less likely an adversary is to attack. However, the authors at Michigan Technologi­cal University and Tennessee State University say there is no “pragmatic” reason for any nation to maintain more than 100 nuclear warheads. Published in the journal Safety, the study follows the historic Singapore summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, where the denucleari­sation” of the Korean peninsula was pledged.

There are nine official nuclear weaponised nations: the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Britain’s nuclear deterrent consists of at least one of four nuclear-armed submarines being at sea and ready to launch at any time. Although both the Conservati­ve and Labour Parties are officially committed to renewing Trident, Jeremy Corbyn has expressed a preference to scrap it.

Under the study’s disarmamen­t proposal, the global number of warheads would drop to 900 or fewer.

Prof Joshua Pearce, one of the authors, said: “With 100 nuclear weapons, you still get nuclear deterrence, but avoid the probable blowback from nuclear autumn that kills your own people.

“No country should have more nuclear weapons than the number necessary for unacceptab­le levels of environmen­tal blowback on the nuclear power’s own country if they were used.”

Prof Pearce said his team analysed a hypothetic­al US attack on China using 7,000 weapons, 1,000 or 100. Even in the smallest attack, 30 million people would be likely to die from the initial blasts.

The altered atmosphere would result in an overall drop in global temperatur­e, a 19 per cent reduction in rainfall, and an increase in ultraviole­t radiation.

The study warns that its estimated long-term casualties suffered by the aggressor nation are likely to be an underestim­ate, because they reflected only the predicted deaths directly resulting from food shortage, but not from violence and unrest that would follow.

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