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This Photo Shows a Room Full of 30 Million Dead People

A photo has emerged online of 48 US B-61 nuclear bombs. The total yield of the whole bunker is 16.3 million tons of TNT.

You see that picture up there? I ran across the photo yesterday while doing some research. And I realized it actually kind of freaks me out.

The fact that I was getting freaked out even surprised me.

I study, rant, and bullshit about warfare for a living, so a picture of some bombs shouldn't have much effect on me. Defense is not a great career choice for the squeamish or faint of heart. A defense wonk who can't cope with death and destruction, at least on a theoretical level, is like a surgeon who can't stand the sight of blood.


What that photo up top shows is, by my count, 48 US B-61 nuclear bombs. Each of those bombs has a yield of up to 340 kilotons, which is not particularly large by modern standards. By way of comparison, each warhead has an explosive power about 22 2/3 times larger than the Hiroshima blast. To get a sense of scale, here's a map showing the effects of one of these bombs if it were detonated in VICE News' Brooklyn office.

With 48 of these bombs, the total yield of the whole bunker is 16.3 million tons of TNT. That's equivalent to five and half times the yield of all conventional weapons used in World War II.

I went and played with some targeting simulators to get a rough estimate of the effects of 48 B-61 bombs, if they were used just to attack cities (in a large, but unnamed nation). I came up with something in the neighborhood of about 29 million instant deaths, and 47 million injuries. I'm sure, though, that the professional targeting guys could do a lot better.

For reference, that's somewhere close to twice the total of military and civilian deaths incurred during the entirety of that epic slaughterfest we call the First World War. But instead of a continent-wide killing effort spread out over 4 1/4 years, everything in this bunker could be used and detonated in, say, a day.

Don't mistake my intent here. This isn't a plea for disarmament — I think a nuclear free world is not only impossible, but attempts to get there would be incredibly dangerous. I'm also not making a claim about overkill or absurdity, or some statement about the use or existence of nukes.

Maybe it's just a normal reaction to the fact that of all the no-joke, no-kidding serious stuff in the world, this is a whole bunker full of it.

That's not a room full of nukes. That's a room with 30 million dead people hiding in it.

Photo via US Government

Follow Ryan Faith on Twitter: @Operation_Ryan