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Will a non-test nuclear weapon be detonated by 2020?


Weapons in which the energy is provided by nuclear fission or fusion have only twice in history been detonated outside of a controlled test environment, in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki events in World War II.

Since then, the world has nearly gone to nuclear war as a result of international conflict (during the Cuban Missile Crisis) and by accident. There have also been a number of narrowly-averted accidental nuclear detonations. See this timeline for a sobering look at how close we have come.

This question (which any sane person will hope resolves negatively) regards the probability that a nuclear detonation will occur by Jan 1, 2020, outside of controlled tests. This could include:

  • Deliberate or nuclear attack.

  • Accidental nuclear attack (launched by accident or on the basis of erroneous information.)

  • Accidental detonation of a weapon.

  • Nuclear terrorism.

For these purposes we do not consider a radiological weapon — where any fission/fusion energy is energetically sub-dominant to chemical or other explosives — to be a nuclear attack.

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