Terrifying Explosion in Beirut Wasn’t Nuclear, Experts Say, And Here’s Why

When an enormous explosion created a mushroom cloud over Beirut, killing dozens of people and injuring thousands more, online commentators and conspiracy theorists quickly jumped to a frightening claim: A nuclear bomb had gone off in Lebanon’s capital city.

 

But as state officials say, and contrary to those fast-spreading rumours, the explosion was almost certainly not caused by a nuclear weapon.

Even before Lebanese officials said the explosion was caused by a large stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at the port, according to The Guardian, experts who study nuclear weapons quickly and unequivocally rejected the idea that Beirut had been hit with a nuclear bomb.

Key to those rejections are the videos that Beirut residents managed to record video of the huge detonation.

People trained cameras on the Beirut port at the time of the blast because a worrisome cloud of smoke rose beforehand. Some of those videos show small flashes of light and reports (or sounds) that are distinctive to fireworks.

Moments later, the huge explosion – which came with a visible blast wave and mushroom-like cloud of smoke – rocked the area, destroying nearby buildings and shattering distant windows.

 

In a tweet that accumulated thousands of likes and reshares before it was deleted, one user wrote: “Good Lord. Lebanese media says it was a fireworks factory. Nope. That’s a mushroom cloud. That’s atomic.” 

Vipin Narang, who studies nuclear proliferation and strategy at the…

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