Tag Archives: Restricted Data blog

Visualize the Effects of a Nuclear Explosion in Your Neighborhood

The Restricted Data blog, run by Alex Wellerstein, is a very interesting website that focuses on nuclear weapons history and nuclear secrecy issues. Alex Wellerstein explains the origin of the blog:

“For me, ‘Restricted Data’ represents all of the historical strangeness of nuclear secrecy, where the shock of the bomb led scientists, policymakers, and military men to construct a baroque and often contradictory system of knowledge control in the (somewhat vain) hope that they could control the spread and use of nuclear technology.”

You can access the home page of this blog at the following link:


From there, navigation to recent posts and blog categories is simple. Among the features of this blog is a visualization tool called NUKEMAP. With this visualization tool, you can examine the effects of a nuclear explosion on a target of your choice, with results presented on a Google map. The setup for an analysis is simple, requiring only the following basic parameters:

  • Target (move the marker on the Google map)
  • Yield (in kilotons)
  • Set for airburst or surface burst

You can select “other effects” if you wish to calculate casualties and/or display the fallout pattern. Advanced options let you set additional parameters, including details of an airburst.

To illustrate the use of this visualization tool, consider the following scenario: A 10 kiloton nuclear device is being smuggled into the U.S. on a container ship and is detonated before docking in San Diego Bay. The problem setup and results are shown in the following screenshots from the NUKEMAP visualization tool.


Among the “Advanced options” are selectable settings for the effects you want to display on the map. The effects radii increase considerably when you select lower effects limits.

So, there you have it. NUKEMAP is a sobering visualization tool for a world where the possibility of an isolated act of nuclear terrorism cannot be ruled out. If these results bother you, I suggest that you don’t re-do the analysis with military-scale (hundreds of kilotons to megatons) airburst warheads.