There are still nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world – about a tenth of which are armed and ready to fire within minutes.
But a new study has argued that just 100 would be enough to cause global catastrophe – and called for drastic reductions in the number held by nuclear nations.
Even in a scenario where one side was able to fire its nuclear weapons without retaliation, 100 warheads would be enough to cause catastrophic effects at home.
Scientists simulated a ‘one-way’ nuclear attack, calculating the amount of soot and dust which would be thrown into the atmosphere by the strike.
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They found that the ‘nuclear autumn’ would reduce food crops by 20% worldwide, causing food shortages everywhere.
The team analysed hypothetical strikes on China using 7,000 weapons, 1,000 or 100.
If the US fired 1,000 weapons, 50 times more Americans would die than on 9/11.
The Michigan University researchers argue that nuclear states should have no more than 100 weapons.
Professor Joshua Pearce, one of the authors, said: ‘With 100 nuclear weapons, you still get nuclear deterrence, but avoid the probable blowback from nuclear autumn that kills your own people.”
‘No country should have more nuclear weapons than the number necessary for unacceptable levels of environmental blow-back on the nuclear power’s own country if they were used.’