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Nuclear Weapons - Mass Murder in South and North Korea?

Message Robert A. Leishear, PhD, PE, ASME Fellow

A North Korean nuclear bomb can murder a half million people in a single blast, and in return a U.S. nuclear bomb can murder more than 1.8 million men, women, and children in a single blast.

The threat of nuclear war blasts across the headlines. This article takes the time to explain the scope of death that can follow the explosive ignition of a nuclear war in North and South Korea.

The Butchery of Nuclear War

Military secrecy prevents full knowledge of nuclear bomb explosion payloads, but available information is sufficient to understand the horror of such attacks. Earlier Op Eds discussed this horror. The first article graphically explained "The horror of battlefield tactical nuclear weapons - insights sparked by events in Ukraine and North Korea"). A second article condensed this article, and asked the question, "Would the detonation of tactical nuclear weapons (atomic bombs) against people equal mass murder and war crimes?". A third article answered this question by stating that we should "Make the bomb against the law - mass murder is a crime".

Some History of North Korea's Nuclear Bombs

North Korea violated international treaties to obtain nuclear bombs. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was written to prevent additional countries from developing nuclear bombs. To do so, the NPT provided nuclear technology to countries to be used for peaceful uses. Under this Treaty, North Korea obtained nuclear technology and support to develop that nuclear technology, which was to be purportedly used for nuclear energy. Having established nuclear power, North Korea withdrew from the NPT and developed nuclear bombs. Yes, we gave them the bomb.

Nuclear War Escalation?

Recent headlines tell the story today. "North Korea declares itself a nuclear weapons state, in [an] 'irreversible' move" (click here). "North Korea says missile launches were nuclear attack simulation[s] on South [Korea]" (click here). "North Korea vows to 'automatically and immediately' launch nuclear weapons if Kim Jong Un [is] killed", 'according to a new law' (click here). "Can the U.S. Stop a Nuclear Attack? North Korea Tests Were Simulation[s[" (click here). "Pentagon: A North Korea nuclear attack would result in the end of the Kim regime" (click here).

We do not know what will happen next ("The threat posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons", click here). However, we should ask what some of the consequences may be if a nuclear war starts.

Figure 1: Maximum Korean payload, 200 Kiloton bomb, during a North Korean attack on South Korea for a single nuclear bomb
Figure 1: Maximum Korean payload, 200 Kiloton bomb, during a North Korean attack on South Korea for a single nuclear bomb
(Image by Robert A. Leishear, PhD, Adapted from Alex Wellerstein)
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Figure 2: Theoretical, 9 Megaton, U.S. attack on North Korea for a single nuclear bomb
Figure 2: Theoretical, 9 Megaton, U.S. attack on North Korea for a single nuclear bomb
(Image by Robert A. Leishear, PhD, Adapted from Alex Wellerstein)
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Mass Murder - How Many Deaths?

Death counts can vary considerably, depending on the explosive payloads and the number of bombs. Four examples are considered here, i.e., different payloads are considered for Seoul, South Korea and Pyongyang, North Korea.

A wide range of death can be selected from nuclear arsenals. Figures 1 and 2 show a lot of death for larger explosive payload bombs. Figure 3 compares different payload death counts for both large and small nuclear bombs from the available arsenals of the U.S. and North Korea. Note that the U.S. has substantially larger bombs, and many more bombs, than North Korea.

The first example shows the death count of 523,410 for the maximum payload of a North Korean bomb detonated on people in Seoul (Figure 1). For this example, the largest North Korean nuclear bomb to date is estimated to equal 200 kilotons of TNT. North Korea has developed intercontinental missiles to fire nuclear bombs to kill people, where the ability to shoot this larger bomb with a missile is uncertain. Even so, North Korea has as many as 200 nuclear bombs of different and typically smaller payloads (North Korean's military capabilities", click here). As a second example, even a small, 0.3 kiloton, nuclear bomb would murder 7650 people, and injure 13,220 other people in a single blast.

A third example shows the death count of 1,833,150 for a U.S. nuclear bomb exploded on people in Pyongyang (Figure 2). The U.S. has many smaller nuclear bombs, but 9 Megaton bombs are included in the current U.S. nuclear arsenal of 3750 nuclear bombs ("How many nuclear weapons does the U.S. have?", click here, "Complete list of all U.S. nuclear weapons", learweaponarchive.org/Usa/Weapons/Allbombs.html#MK-18). As a fourth example, even a small 0.3 kiloton, nuclear bomb would murder 15,190 people, and injure 20,430 other people in a single blast.

Multiple bombs to execute far more people are available, and air defense abilities to counter nuclear attacks are uncertain. That is, the full scope of mass murder is uncertain, but horrendous.

Figure 3: Death estimates for large and small nuclear weapons from the U.S. and North Korea nuclear arsenals
Figure 3: Death estimates for large and small nuclear weapons from the U.S. and North Korea nuclear arsenals
(Image by Robert A. Leishear, PhD)
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World War Should Be Prevented

Hopefully, nuclear bomb murder will not be executed by either country. If the U.S. responded to a North Korean nuclear attack in kind, the resultant world war would be incomprehensible. The intent of this article is to describe nuclear war escalation and devastation in terms of the deaths of our fellow men, women, and children.

North Korean missiles have a significant range ("North Korea missile range: Horror map shows just how easily Kim could strike UK", click here). Although capabilities to shoot down such nuclear missiles are not known to the public, estimated death counts are compared for multiple cities in Figure 4. Note that this estimate considers single bombs, and multiple warheads can be armed to detonate from a single missile. There is something fundamentally wrong with any people who would explode such weapons of death against each other.

Figure 4: Death count forecasts for U.S. and North Korea nuclear bombs - The effects of only one exploded bomb at each site are shown
Figure 4: Death count forecasts for U.S. and North Korea nuclear bombs - The effects of only one exploded bomb at each site are shown
(Image by Robert A. Leishear, PhD, Adapted from Alex Wellerstein)
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(Article changed on Nov 09, 2022 at 1:19 PM EST)

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Robert A. Leishear, PhD, P.E., PMP, ASME Fellow, Who's Who in America Top Engineer, NACE Senior Corrosion Technologist, NACE Senior Internal Piping Corrosion Technologist, ANSYS Expert, AMPP Certified Protective Coatings Inspector, NACE Cathodic (more...)
 

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