By Alice Tidey
In this April 22, 1952 file photo a gigantic pillar of smoke with the familiar mushroom top climbs above Yucca Flat, Nev. during nuclear test detonation. – Copyright AP Photo
A nuclear bomb detonating in Germany would instantly kill hundreds of thousands of people, Greenpeace has said, calling on the US to withdraw the small arsenal of atomic weapons it currently has in the country.
The environmental non-profit released a study it had commissioned simulating the impact of a nuclear weapon exploding in Germany on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
“Mass killings such as the one caused by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima must never happen again,” Greenpeace Germany’s spokesman for nuclear disarmament Christoph von Lieven said in a statement.
“The Federal Government must ensure that US atomic bombs are withdrawn from Buchel with the US soldiers,” he added.
Washington announced last week that it would start withdrawing nearly 12,000 of the 36,000 US troops currently stationed in Germany over the coming weeks.
A threat to Germany’s security
Greenpeace’s NUKEMAP study calculated the impact of various strengths of nuclear bombs in several locations: Berlin, the seat of the country’s political power; Frankfurt, the country’s financial centre; and Buchel, a municipality in south-west Germany where several US atomic bombs are stored at an airbase.
The strength of an atomic bomb is measured in kilotons (kt) and megatons (mt) which means that a nuclear weapon with a detonation energy of one kiloton generates the same amount of energy as 1,000 tons (1 Kt) of TNT.
The first-ever nuclear bomb, used on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, was codenamed “Little Boy” and had a strength of 12.5 kt. The one dropped over Nagasaki three days later, codenamed “Fat Man”, had a value of 22 kt.
NUKEMAP found that a 20 kt bomb exploding in Berlin would instantly kill 145,000 people, with an additional 120,000 dying from the radioactive fallout and a further 50,000 passing away from cancer.
A 550 kt bomb — commonly found in Russia’s nuclear arsenal — dropped over Frankfurt would instantly kill half a million people, while 300,000 more would die from radioactive fallout and 160,000 would succumb to cancer at a later date.
In Buchel, the impact of a 170 kt explosion was assessed as multiple weapons of this strength are stored at the airbase. NUKEMAP estimated that 130,000 people would immediately lose their lives, 107,000 would be killed by radioactive fallout and 80,000 from cancer.
Von Lieven argued that “the bombs in Buchel threaten the security of people in Germany and Eastern Europe.”
“Germany must no longer be a potential aggressor and a possible target for a nuclear attack,” he went on.
In another Greenpeace study conducted by pollster Kantar and released last month, 83 per cent of the 1,008 German respondents said they favoured the US withdrawing the bombs kept in Buchel.
Nine countries, 13,800 warheads
Between 90,000 and 160,000 people are believed to have died int he first few months following the Hiroshima bombing, according to the Centre for Nuclear Studies at Columbia University. Another 60,000 to 80,000 are thought to have died in Nagasaki.
Most figures are best estimates as the devastation unleashed by the explosions and uncertainty over the actual population before the bombings make it difficult to have an accurate estimate.
The world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons was estimated at 13,865 at the beginning of 2019 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Only nice countries have atomic warheads. These are China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the UK, the US. Washington and Moscow each have more than 6,000 nuclear warheads.