What is the blast radius of a tactical nuclear bomb?

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Main topic: Humanities
Other topics: Nuclear
Short answer: There are two radii: blast and heat. How large is the bomb is the biggest determining factor. The blast and heat radii range from 275 meters for blast and 610 meters for heat from a 1 kT (kiloton) bomb to 590 meters for blast and 1.1 miles for a 10 kT bomb.

Tactical nuclear weapons are nuclear warheads which are intended for limited strikes, intended to limit their destruction to a specific, localized area, rather than widespread destruction.[1] Like their larger cousins, strategic nuclear weapons, their range of destruction is dependent on their size. There is no universal definition of what constitutes a "tactical nuke".[2] For the purposes of this question, we will limit the discussion for weapons ranging from 1-15 kilotons (kT).

Currently, estimates state that Russia has approximately 1000-2000 of this type of weapon, while the United States has approximately 230.[3][2] China, the third major nuclear power, has a much smaller stockpile overall, with estimates in the low 200s. There is no indication how many of these are tactical.[4]

Blast radii[edit]

Most tactical nukes range between 1 and 15 kT. For comparison, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 15 kT.[5] A one-kiloton bomb would have a blast radius of approximately 275-400 meters, with a fireball of about 50 meters. A 10 kT weapon would have a blast radius of approximately 590-800 meters, and a 15 kT bomb would have a blast radius of 1.6 miles, with a 100 meter fireball at its center.[6][7][8] These numbers are for the heaviest destruction, or severe damage (SD) zone. For a 10 kT weapon the radius would increase to 1.6 km for the moderate damage zone. While most of those people caught in this zone would survive the blast, there would be significant damage to buildings and equipment.[9]

Heat radii[edit]

A 1 kT weapon would have a lethal radius for 50% of the victims in 610 meters. At 10 kT that radius would increase to approximately 1.1 miles. The lethal radius increases in a 15 kT bomb to 1.2 miles.[8][7][10]

Other variables[edit]

There are other factors in a nuclear attack, the most prevalent one being radiation, and while there is an initial radiation radius, the far more extensive effects of radiation are due from fallout, which depends greatly on climate and weather.[11][7]

Alex Wellerstein, an associate professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey, created a model wherein you can change the variables in a nuclear attack, including location, airburst vs. ground burst, and kT, to see the estimated effects of a nuclear attack.[12]


  1. "tactical nuclear weapons | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "What are "tactical" nuclear weapons and how might they be used?". NPR.org. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  3. Roblin, Sebastien (2022-02-27). "Russia Has A Massive Stockpile of 'Tactical' Nuclear Weapons". 19FortyFive. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  4. Vaddi, Pranay; Panda, Ankit (2021-03-13). "When it comes to China's nuclear weapons, numbers aren't everything". Defense News. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  5. "Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima: Infographic | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  6. "How to survive a tactical nuclear bomb? Defence experts explain | UNSW Newsroom". newsroom.unsw.edu.au. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Nuclear Weapon Detonation. Washington State Department of Health. 2002. pp. 2–3.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation. U. S. National Security Staff. 2010. p. 18.
  9. "Damage Zones after a Nuclear Detonation: Idealized Map - Radiation Emergency Medical Management". remm.hhs.gov. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  10. Bendix, Aria. "A nuclear attack would most likely target one of 6 US cities. Simulated images show how a Hiroshima-like explosion would affect each". Business Insider. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  11. Reader, The MIT Press (2022-03-02). "The Devastating Effects of Nuclear Weapons". The MIT Press Reader. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  12. "NUKEMAP by Alex Wellerstein". nuclearsecrecy.com. Retrieved 2022-10-12.