Maps show Biden’s new nuclear bomb compared to the world’s most powerful nuclear weapons

Maps show Biden’s new nuclear bomb compared to the world’s most powerful nuclear weapons

The new nuclear gravity bomb being developed under President Joe Biden’s administration is less powerful than the largest bombs in history.

The Pentagon announced last month that it was working on the B61-13, the latest model in a series of nuclear weapons first produced in the 1960s. With a maximum explosive yield of 360 kilotons, the warhead is among the most powerful in the current US arsenal.

A map showing a hypothetical B61-3 explosion in New York City — created using Nukemap, an online tool created by nuclear science and technology historian Alex Wellerstein — shows that the new bomb would destroy much of Manhattan, killing more than 778,000 people and injuring More than a million others.

People and buildings will be vaporized by the B61-3 fireball within a radius of approximately half a mile. Miles away, buildings will be demolished and deaths and injuries spread widely. Radioactive fallout can be seen in the greater northeastern region.

However, the B61-13 explosion pales in comparison to the most destructive nuclear weapons in history. The most powerful American weapon ever tested, the TX-21 “Shrimp” bomb, unleashed 15 megatons of explosive force during the “Castle Bravo” test at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands on March 1, 1954.

Nuclear bomb new york city
Image created by Nukemap shows the potential destruction of a 360-kiloton nuclear bomb in New York City.
NUKEMAP/Alex Wellerstein/Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA, Imagery © Mapbox.

A map showing the TX-21 explosion in New York City reveals a fireball with a radius of 2.3 miles and blast damage seen up to 18 miles away. It will kill more than 4 million people and wound more than 3.4 million others. Radiation burns may occur more than 21 miles away.

Castle bravo nuclear bomb map new york city
The 15-megaton nuclear bomb used in “Castle Bravo” is depicted exploding over New York City in this map created with Nukemap.
Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA, images © Mapbox./NUKEMAP/Alex Wellerstein

While the TX-21 was the most powerful American bomb ever tested, the country built one weapon that was even more devastating, the 25-megaton B41 thermonuclear bomb. A map showing the B41 explosion in New York City reveals that the bomb explosion would have killed more than 4.8 million people and injured nearly 3.7 million more.

A B41 explosion would create a fireball with a radius of more than 2.8 miles. Blast damage can be seen up to 21.3 miles away, with thermal radiation burns occurring within a 25.6-mile radius.

Map of the B41 nuclear bomb explosion in New York
This image from Nukemap shows the 25-megaton B41 thermonuclear bomb, America’s most powerful weapon, exploding over New York City.
Map data © OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS, CC-BY-SA, IMAGERY © MAPBOX/NUKEMAP/Alex Wellerstein

An additional map shows radioactive plume B41 moving northeast and extending over most of New England, crossing the Canadian border and reaching the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

B41 Nuclear bomb fallout map, radioactive plume
This visualization from Nukemap shows the radioactive fallout plume resulting from the explosion of a B41 nuclear bomb in New York City.
Map data © OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS, CC-BY-SA, IMAGERY © MAPBOX./NUKEMAP/Alex Wellerstein

By comparison, a map showing radiant plume B61-13 moving northeast shows it will extend into northern Massachusetts, ending just outside Lowell.

A nuclear bomb exploded in the northeast of the country
This image, created with Nukemap, shows a radiation plume extending into New England from a simulated B61-13 nuclear bomb explosion in New York City.
Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA, images © Mapbox./NUKEMAP/Alex Wellerstein

The Soviet Union created and tested a nuclear bomb that was twice as powerful as the B41 and about 139 times more powerful than the B61-13. The 50-megaton Soviet AN602 – often referred to as the “Tsar Bomba” or “King of Bombs” – was responsible for the largest explosion ever performed by humans during a test on October 30, 1961.

A Nukemap image showing the Tsar Bomba exploding over New York City reveals a fireball that would have vaporized everything within a radius of more than 3.7 miles. Blast damage can be seen about 27 miles away, with radiation burns about 32 miles away. The explosion will kill more than 6.3 million people and injure more than 3.9 million others.

Map of Tsar Pumbaa's 50 Megaton Nuclear New York City
A 50-megaton “Tsar Bomb” nuclear bomb explodes over New York City and surrounding areas in this visualization from Nukemap.
Map data © OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS, CC-BY-SA, IMAGERY © MAPBOX./NUKEMAP/Alex Wellerstein

Although the Tsar Bomba was tested at 50 megatons, the weapon was designed to be twice as powerful at 100 megatons. A map depicting a 100-megaton version of the Tsar Bomba in New York City shows more devastation.

At 100 megatons, the bomb would instantly kill more than 7.9 million people and wound more than 4 million more. The vaporizing fireball will have a radius of about 5 miles and explosion damage will deal within a radius of about 34 miles. Everyone within 45 miles would receive third-degree burns from the radiation.

Map of Tsar Pumbaa 100Mt in New York City
A 100-megaton version of the Soviet “Tsar Bomba” nuclear bomb is depicted exploding over New York City in this Nukemap image.
Map data © OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS, CC-BY-SA, IMAGERY © MAPBOX./NUKEMAP/Alex Wellerstein

The most powerful bomb in the current US arsenal, the B83 nuclear gravity bomb, has more than three times the explosive power of the B61-13 at 1.2 megatons. While the B83 is far less powerful than the largest bombs in history, it would still result in a massive death toll of about 3.2 million and 3.6 million injured.

The explosion of a B83 in New York would create a fireball more than 2 miles across, with massive destruction and damage visible 6.5 miles away. Radiation burns can be expected within a 19-mile radius.

B83 Nukemap bomb explosion in New York City
This image created with Nukemap shows the blast zone and destruction caused by the explosion of the US B83 nuclear gravity bomb in New York City.
Map data © OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS, CC-BY-SA, IMAGERY © MAPBOX./NUKEMAP/Alex Wellerstein

The Biden administration has announced plans to retire the B83 in 2022. However, the weapon remains in the US inventory, with the new B61-13 announced taking into account the imminent retirement of the larger bomb.

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a group dedicated to nuclear arms control, said the development of B61-13 was likely a “political maneuver to finally eliminate” B83.

Newsweek I reached out to FAS for comment via email on Tuesday.

Before becoming president, Biden frequently spoke out against nuclear weapons, pledging during his 2020 campaign to “work to move us closer to a world without nuclear weapons, so that the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are never repeated.”

This was stated earlier by a spokesman for the National Security Council Newsweek The president’s pursuit of the B61-13 “in no way detracts from the president’s work to bring us closer to a world without nuclear weapons,” noting that the new weapon would not increase the overall size of the stockpile.

“The Biden administration has taken a balanced approach between maintaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent and a strong, credible extended deterrence, and taking the necessary steps to reduce the global significance of nuclear weapons and move us closer to a world free of nuclear weapons,” the spokesperson said.