The Hiroshima atomic bomb (1945) released 21 kilotons of energy, directly killing 135,000 people and raising a cloud equivalent to Mount Everest. But it is far from being the most powerful in history. How much energy have the largest nuclear tests released? The ones that follow are biggest nuclear explosions in history.
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The largest explosions in history released energy several times more than a megaton. To put it in context, each megaton is equivalent to one million tons of trinitrotoluene (TNT) and more than 60 Hiroshima bombs, which released 16 kilotons of energy.
October 30, 1961
The then Soviet Union (USSR) detonated in 1961 the nuclear weapon never tested in history. The Tsar bomb or Tsar bomb reached a yield of 50 megatons, 3,000 times higher than that used in Hiroshima, and the cloud reached a height of 200,000 feet (60 kilometers).
It is estimated that a weapon of these characteristics would have the capacity to cause third-degree burns in people who are within a radius of up to 4,080 miles (6,566 kilometers) from the epicenter. Its 8 meters long, 2 meters in diameter and 27 tons of weight made it difficult to transport, so it was intended more for propaganda purposes than as a real weapon.
Soviet Test 219
December 24, 1962
With a yield of 24.2 megatons -1,500 times more powerful than Hiroshima-, in December 1962 the Soviet Union carried out nuclear test 219 on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. A thermonuclear bomb could destroy everything within a radius of 3.58 square miles and cause third-degree burns for 2,250 miles. The artifact measured 2 meters in diameter, 8 meters long and weighed 30 tons.
Soviet tests 147, 173 and 174
August to September 1962
The Soviet Union conducted multiple tests in the Novaya Zemlya archipelago between August 5 and September 27, 1962. Three of them (147, 173 and 174) achieved a yield of about 200 megatons, which will destroy everything within a radius of 3 miles. The blast was 1,000 times stronger than the United States’ Trinity bomb, the first nuclear test in history.
February 28, 1954
Bravo was not only the first of the series of Castle tests carried out by the United States, but it is also the largest nuclear explosion caused by this country. Although it was only intended to achieve a yield of 6 megatons, a calculation error caused it to reach 15 megatons. The failure caused irradiation in 665 inhabitants of the Marshall Islands and the death by radiation poisoning of the crew of a Japanese fishing boat.
May 4, 1954
With a yield of 13.5 megatons, Yankee was the fifth test in the Castle series that the United States conducted on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands and the second most powerful in the country. Since it was carried out in 65-knot winds, causing a rapid spread of radioactive fallout, with reports that arrived in Mexico City four days after and the western United States recorded elevated levels a week later.