According to Russian state news agency TASS, Russia has produced its initial batch of nuclear-capable torpedoes, known as Poseidon, that are said to have the potential to create radioactive ocean swells and huge nuclear tsunamis capable of destroying coastal cities in the U.S. or its allies.
These torpedoes are expected to be delivered to the special-purpose nuclear-powered submarine Belgorod.
A pro-Vladimir Putin TV host, Dmitry Kiselyov, said in May last year that these torpedoes would be capable of causing a 500-meter [1,640 feet] high tidal wave of radioactive seawater, and that they could “plunge Britain into the depths of the sea”.
If Poseidon can indeed trigger enormous radioactive tsunamis, the torpedoes could have a huge impact on marine life, as well as human life.
“There is no nuclear weapon technology that doesn’t pose a risk to human and ecological health,” Danielle Endres, an environmental communication professor at the University of Utah, told Newsweek.
“In terms of the impacts of nuclear weapons in the ocean, the U.S. actually did a series of nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll, some of which were underwater tests. For example, the Baker test in 1946 involved exploding a nuclear bomb beneath the water surface in a lagoon that created a huge crater in the reef that destroyed ecological life and resulted in a tsunami that either sunk or contaminated the test ships in the vicinity.”
“Of course, the Poseidon torpedo is not the same as the bomb in the Baker test, so we can’t say that the consequences would be the same. But we know from our own government’s testing of nuclear weapons underground that there can be major consequences for marine and human life. Collectively, the nuclear tests conducted in and around Bikini Atoll have had long term health and environmental impacts.”
The potential impact of the Poseidon nuclear-capable torpedoes on wildlife and ecosystems is significant. Previous studies have shown that radioactive fallout can have a detrimental effect on animals living in the area. For example, following the Chernobyl disaster, birds and mammals were found to have cataracts in their eyes and smaller brains, and many birds had malformed sperm, with nearly 40% of male birds being completely sterile in the most radioactive areas.
Furthermore, the explosion of a bomb would also have major effects on ecosystems. For example, seabed invertebrates have been found to be significantly affected by natural tsunamis, while on land, tsunamis can uproot trees, destroy bird nesting sites, cause land animals to drown, and wash pollution back into the sea, potentially poisoning a range of marine life.
It’s worth noting that if deployed, the Poseidon torpedoes would likely be less destructive to human life than a land-based nuclear bomb due to the differences between the atmosphere and the ocean in terms of fallout. Additionally, Poseidon can also be fitted with a conventional warhead. According to a Congressional Research Service report from last year, the system may not be deployed until 2027.