A new report on nuclear proliferation is — surprise! — kind of terrifying, revealing some disconcerting facts about nuclear warheads, who has them, and what we don't know. The bottom line: holy hell, we've built a lot of these things.
The paper, "Beyond the United Kingdom: Trends in Other Nuclear States", is chock full of radioactive numbers, Mother Jones reports.
"It is estimated that more than 128,000 nuclear warheads have been built since 1945, all but two per cent of them by the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia."
That leaves a lot of nukes unaccounted for. The UK and France are open about their nuclear program, but China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea don't give up any information whatsoever. Of course, that's all since 1945 — things have changed since then. We've blown up a bunch of them, many have been retired:
In summer 2010, the world's nine nuclear states possessed an estimated 22,400 intact warheads. Ninety-five per cent belonged to the US and Russia.
Again, the Big Nuclear Two have most of the plutonium toys. 22,400 is a huge drop from 128,000 career nukes — way to go, humans! — but these numbers are all misleading. 22,400 nuclear weapons is pretty much an absurd concept. It would only take a small fraction of that to end all of human civilisation. But hey, at least we've got backups, right? [Mother Jones]