A meteor hit Russia with a 300 to 500 kiloton blast yesterday morning, injuring at least 950 people. Since the blast was comparable to that of a strategic nuclear warhead, how much risk there is of a similar event being mistaken for a nuclear attack and igniting an accidental, but horrific war.
I suspect that a careful analysis will show that risk to be relatively small compared to other nuclear risks, but the uncertainty highlights the need for an in-depth study of all nuclear risks. My paper in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists makes the case for Congress to authorize such a study, and for us then to take steps to reduce those risks that are found to be unacceptable. With roughly 20,000 nuclear weapons under the control of fallible human beings, such a study seems long overdue.
The first minute of a YouTube video conveys the shock and awe felt by those in the region.
The initial estimate that the blast was equivalent to 300 to 500 kilotons of TNT has since been refined to 440 kilotons.
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