The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Energy of a Nuclear Explosion

search icon
Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book. 1999. 597. "Nuclear explosive devices can have a wide variety of yields. Some older bombs had yields of about 20 megatons, or 1540 Hiroshima bombs. A megaton is the amount of energy released by 1 million short tons (907,000 metric tons) of TNT. Today most nuclear devices have yields of less than 1 megaton." 84,000 TJ
< 4,000 TJ
Worldwide effects of nuclear war. US Arms Control & Disarmament Agency, 1975: 3. "'Castle/Bravo' was the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated by the United States. Before it was set off at Bikini on February 28, 1954, it was expected to explode with an energy equivalent of about 8 million tons of TNT. Actually, it produced almost twice that explosive power -- equivalent to 15 million tons of TNT." 63,000 TJ
(US max.)
World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: Field Enterprises, 1975: 843.
"The first atomic bomb, or A-bomb, exploded on July 16, 1945, Alamogordo, N.Mex. It produced an explosion equal to that of 19,000 short tons (17,000 metric tons) of TNT."
80 TJ
(Trinity Test)
Encyclopedia Americana. Danbury, CT: Grolier, 1995: 532. "By today's standards the two bombs dropped on a Japan were small -- equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT in the case of the Hiroshima bomb and 20,000 tons in the case of the Nagasaki bomb." 63 TJ
84 TJ

Nuclear energy, often mistakenly called atomic energy, is the most powerful kind of energy known. It produces the tremendous heat and light of the sun and the shattering blast of thermonuclear bombs. Nuclear energy results from changes in the nucleus of atoms. Scientists and engineers have found many uses for this energy from the production of electricity to the destructive power of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons are far more destructive than any conventional (non-nuclear) weapon. They are often called atomic bombs or hydrogen bombs. The energy released by nuclear weapons is measured in tons, kilotons (thousands of tons), or megatons (millons of tons) of TNT. In international standard units (SI), one ton of TNT is equal to 4.184 × 109 joule (J).

Nuclear weapons have a large variety of energy yields. The first detonated on July 16, 1945 near Alamogordo, New Mexico, had a yield of about 19 kilotons or 80 terajoules (1 TJ = 1012 J). The two bombs that were dropped on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II were comparable in size: 15 and 20 kilotons or 63 and 84 terajoules, respectively. These bombs were only half the volume of the largest aerial bombs in use at the time, but released far more energy. It was said that there was as much energy in each bomb as in a stack of conventional explosives the size of the Washington Monument. Far more powerful bombs were made within a few years. The most powerful American bomb known as "Castle/Bravo"was detonated on February 28, 1954 and released energy equivalent to an astounding 15 megatons or 84,000 terajoules!

Muhammad L. Kaleem -- 2000

Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Sources to [sic] radioactive contamination in Russian Counties of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. Thomas Nilsen, Nils Bøhmer. Bellona Foundation. "The world's most powerful hydrogen bomb was detonated on the 30th of October 1961 [over Novaya Zemlya]. The bomb had an explosive force of 58 megatons, or almost 6,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. The bomb was dropped by an aircraft, and detonated 365 metres (1,200 feet) above the surface. The shock wave produced by this bomb was so powerful, it went thrice around the earth. The mushroom cloud extended almost 60 kilometres into the atmosphere." 240,000 TJ
(USSR max.)
The Khariton Version. Yuli Khariton and Yuri Smirnov. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. May 1993. "On October 30, 1961, Soviet physicists detonated a 50-megaton bomb, which remains unsurpassed in terms of its yield. This device was distinguished by its purity: 97 percent of its energy yield was derived from thermonuclear reactions. The complete success of this test proved that it was possible to design devices of virtually unlimited power on the basis of the principle proposed by Sakharov, Viktor Adamskii, Yuri N. Babaev, Yuri Smirnov, and Yuri Trutnev. The bomb was exploded at an altitude of four kilometers over Novaya Zemlya, using a Tu-95 strategic bomber piloted by Hero of the Soviet Union A. E. Durnovtsev." 210,000 TJ
(USSR max.)

Editor's Supplement -- 2001, 2002

External links to this page: