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Monday, September 26, 2016

Map on Monday: NATIONS WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND GEOGRAPHY OF NUCLEAR TESTING SITES (1945-2016)


By A. Joseph Lynch

Image of first nuclear explosion
The United States tested its first nuclear warhead - named "Trinity" - on July 16, 1945. It would be the first of 2,000 nuclear detonations on planet Earth, including the two used on Japan in August 1945. Today there are seven nations in addition to the United States that have developed and tested nuclear weapons: Russia (1949, then the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom (1952), France (1960), China (1964), India (1974), Pakistan (1998), and North Korea (2006). Israel has not tested its own nuclear weapons, but it is a well-known secret that Israel has a stockpile of nuclear weapons from the United States for self-defense. Although the above map shows Israel as having roughly 80 nuclear weapons, a leaked email written by Colin Powell reveals that the number is really around 200.


While many are familiar with the list of nuclear powers, few know anything about the vast number of nuclear bomb detonations or where they occurred. The map above is a screenshot of a video called "A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945." The video is somewhat lengthy (and it ends before North Korea's testing), but it is a very good representation of the temporal-spatial dimensions of nuclear testing.

If you asked someone where the United States tested its nuclear weapons, most would say the American Southwest. Although this is true, few are familiar with the two underground nuclear detonations that took place in the state of Mississippi in 1964, or that the United Kingdom also tested nuclear weapons in the United States. In fact, the last British nuclear detonation took place in the state of Nevada. French nuclear testing in Algeria and British nuclear testing in Australia make sense given their colonial holdings -- yet it is not well-known that the Sahara and the Australian Outback were home to many nuclear blasts.

Oceanic Testing: Operation Crossroads (July 25, 1946)

The oceans have also hosted nuclear tests. One such example, Operation Crossroads, took place on July 25, 1946, at Bikini Atoll. Nuclear detonations have not only taken place under the Earth's surface, but even high above. An American test called "Starfish Prime" took place in outer space on July 8, 1962. It was the largest nuclear blast to take place in space (the detonation occurred at an altitude of 250 miles). The blast was seen through cloud cover in Honolulu almost 900 miles away.

The blast of Starfish Prime - 250 miles above and almost 900 miles away from Honolulu.

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