World Energy Consumption: A Cold war comparison

World Energy Consumption: 2250 Tsar Bombs or 18800 WW2

I like history. Recently I was reading about the 50th anniversary of Tsar Bomba, tested on 1961 October 30 by Soviet Union. Tsar Bomba is the single most powerful thermonuclear weapon ever used. It has a power of 50 to 57 megatons of TNT (210 PJ) which is 10 times the combined power of all explosives used in Second World War or around 3000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb.
Tsar Bomba Video

Tsar Bomba was a part of the Sabre Rattling and display of power during the Cold War and Nuclear Arms Race. Both USSR and the US had a total stockpile of around 25000 megatons of nuclear weapons and the world was at the brink of nuclear war a few times. There were numerous Peace Advocates, Environmentalists and Anti Nuclear Activists protesting against Nuclear Arms Race and Cold War.
Nuclear Arms Race
Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

That was history, but at the same time I thought about the current energy scenario. How is the World energy consumption compared against this powerful bomb. Initially, I was thinking that energy output of the Tsar Bomba could be enough for a few months or or at least a few weeks at the rate of current energy consumption. After doing some calculation, it was totally surprising.

World Energy Consumption

Total energy consumption of the world is around 15TW (15 * 10^12) now, coming to around 474 exajoules (474 * 10^18) per year (From Wikipedia). As of now, more than 80% of this comes from fossil fuels, mainly coal, petroleum and natural gas. All of them are non renewable and produce green house gases. Let us see how 15TW or 474 exajoules compared against these powerful nuclear weapons.

In terms of tons of TNT
It comes to 3.59 kilotons of TNT per second or 113200 megatons of TNT per year.

Mass Energy Equivalence, using Einstein’s equation
Completing transforming 1kg of mass per 100 minutes, that means 5250 kg (11600 lbs) yearly.

Hiroshima Bombs of around 18 kilotons
One Hiroshima Bomb has to be detonated per 5 seconds. That is 6300000 Hiroshima Bombs in one year.

Total Second World War Explosives
Total explosives used in Second World War was around 6 megatons. More Details
We have to conduct a Second World War in every 28 minutes or 18800 Second World Wars in one year for the same amount of energy.

Tsar Bomba
Out of all bombs, this would produce the maximum mileage of around 4 hours per Tsar Bomb. That means detonating around 2250 Tsar Bombs yearly.

Total Nuclear Explosions
Total Nuclear Explosions carried out by all countries would come close to around 510 megatons. More Details
These 510 megatons could take us for around 40 hours. That has to be repeated 222 times to meet our yearly consumption.

Total Nuclear Stockpile of 25000 megatons
Our yearly energy consumption is 4.5 times of the much critized stockpile.

A few thoughts

Just think, how the reaction would be if a country try to detonate even a small nuclear device. All the environmentalists, peace activists, nuclear and war opponents would definitely make it a big issue. There have been many programs like SALT, START, etc. to reduce the Nuclear Stockpile.

But, the above mentioned nuclear weapons look very small compared to our energy requirement and no one is talking about reducing our energy consumption rate. Policy makers try to promote the idea that both GDP and Development are directly proportional to Energy Consumption, just like the computer processor makers used the Megahertz Myth during 1990s to show case that more CPU clock frequency means more performance. Since it is not practical to increase the clock rate above 3.5 GHz, they themselves stopped it afterwards.

So, at the current rate, our energy consumption looks like a war against our own Mother Nature. Normally, every war strategy planner try to think about supply lines and resources – Does it look the same with this energy war? Is it sustainable, could we afford this much of pollution and environmental destruction?

It is an excellent decisions to use more and more Renewable sources like, solar, wind etc. But at the same time, we must also try to limit this insanely high energy consumption.

Published by Anand Sivaram (आनन्दः )

3 thoughts on “World Energy Consumption: A Cold war comparison

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