What is TNT equivalent? Nuclear explosion energy

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What is TNT equivalent? Nuclear explosion energy
What is TNT equivalent? Nuclear explosion energy

The article talks about what a TNT equivalent is, when this criterion was first introduced, what they measure, and why such a definition is needed.


The very first explosive that humanity met was gunpowder. It was invented in China at the beginning of our era, but for a long time it was used only as a filler for fireworks and other entertainment shows. And only in the Middle Ages did it become an integral part of almost all wars.

But at the beginning of the 20th century it was replaced by other explosives, much stronger, safer and more effective. And one of them, which is used to this day, is trinitrotoluene or TNT. It is such a widely used and versatile substance that the TNT equivalent has become a measure for high-energy events, such as explosions of other explosives, the effects of meteorite falls and, of course, nuclear bombs. This was done for the convenience of calculations, a kind of universal measuring unit appeared. But first things first.

The Age of the Atom

TNT equivalent

In the early 50s of the last century, the world received a new and monstrous weapon based on the energy of decayuranium atoms, and later plutonium.

To put it simply, the first atomic bombs operated on a fairly simple "cannon" principle. It was then that the need arose for such a method of measuring their explosions as the TNT equivalent. Two pieces of highly enriched uranium were placed in a hollow "pipe" opposite each other, and at the right moment the detonation of a chemical explosive pushed them together with great force, as a result of which a chain reaction of the decay of uranium atoms was launched, accompanied by an explosion of enormous power. For example, the TNT equivalent of a nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima ranged from 13 to 18 kilotons. But what is it called?


nuclear explosion in hiroshima

According to the officially accepted designation, the TNT equivalent is divided into the following quantities:

  • Gram.
  • Kilogram.
  • Tone.
  • Kiloton (one thousand tons).
  • Megaton (million tons).

To put it simply, the equivalent of TNT is how much of a similar substance is needed to repeat this or that explosion or phenomenon - volcanic eruption, etc.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

TNT explosion

August 6, 1945 was the first and, fortunately, the last real use of atomic weapons in hostilities. The nuclear explosion in Hiroshima was a terrible tragedy for its inhabitants, because, like any other weapon of mass destruction, it does not distinguish between civilians and military populations. The explosion almost completely destroyedcity.

Although from a technical point of view, the design of that bomb was far from perfect. As a result, of the entire mass of working uranium, only 1% succumbed to fission. Perhaps it was this factor that made it possible to avoid even greater casu alties.

The nuclear explosion in Hiroshima is still, many decades later, the subject of a dispute about its necessity and general justification, since a terrifying number of civilians died, and even more remained crippled for life as a result of a powerful flash of light, which in moments set fire to buildings and incinerated people.

And three days later, a similar fate befell the people of Nagasaki.

There is an erroneous opinion that it was these bombings that put the horses of World War II by US forces. But it's not. They only hastened the imminent end of the exhausted imperial army of Japan, which fought on two fronts against the US in the Pacific and the USSR in the far east.

The explosion in TNT equivalent of the bomb that went to Hiroshima was from 13 to 18 thousand tons of TNT (kilotons), and Nagasaki - 21 kilotons.

Peaceful atom

power in TNT equivalent

In addition to nuclear weapons, the "curbing" of radioactive substances gave people an almost inexhaustible source of energy in the form of reactors of various designs, ranging from huge steam turbines that supply electricity to entire cities, ending with compact radioisotope, the so-called RITEGs, which in the years of the USSR were widely produced and served to power lighthouses, research and arctic stations. It is noteworthy thatthey were engaged in recycling only in our years and they were not particularly guarded. It got to the point that enterprising local residents tried to sell the RITEG for scrap.

Fortunately, the nuclear war, which was so feared during the confrontation between the USSR and the USA, did not happen. And nuclear arsenals serve, rather, as a preventive measure, which deters countries from mutual destruction or the start of a new world war.

Other substances

TNT power is also used, not only to designate another deadly nuclear charge. It measures the consequences of falling meteorites, explosions of volcanoes and explosions of other chemical explosives. This measure shows how much a substance is stronger or weaker than trinitrotoluene. For example, the power of gunpowder is 0.55-0.66, ammonal - 0.99, hexogen - 1.3-1.6 in TNT equivalent.

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