What would happen if Phoenix was nuked?

Growing concerns regarding North Korean missile testing cause us to question who and what could survive a nuclear attack?

PHOENIX - North Korea claims its new missile, tested this week, can hit virtually anywhere in the world, including here in Arizona.

But what would happen if a nuclear weapon detonated in Phoenix? What would the damage be like and how long would the area be uninhabitable?

According to Nukemap, a utility designed to show the effects of nuclear weapons based on publicly available data about them, the latest North Korean nuclear test was approximately 150 kilotons. 

Nuclear weapons can detonate underground, on the surface or above the ground (called an air burst). Military nuclear weapons are commonly detonated above the ground to maximize the shock wave and do the most damage to buildings and infrastructure. Surface-detonated weapons cause less damage, but create more fallout because the debris from the explosion is sucked into the radioactive cloud, irradiated, and then deposited back on the ground.

According to Nukemap, a 150 kiloton nuclear weapon detonated as an airburst above Phoenix would wipe out most of downtown instantly with both a fireball and shock wave. Radiation, however, would be relatively localized. 

The atomic bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II were airburst bombs, and both cities were inhabitable shortly thereafter.

A surface-detonated bomb, however, would cause a slightly smaller shock wave, but the plume of radioactive fallout would extend for hundreds of miles, depending on the wind direction. With the wind blowing generally west to east, the plume would easily reach the San Carlos Reservation. 

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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