Conspiracy Theorists Insist Beirut Explosion Was A Nuke, It Wasn’t

by : Cameron Frew on : 05 Aug 2020 17:08
Conspiracy Theorists Insist Beirut Explosion Was A Nuke, It Wasn't@AbirGhattas/Twitter/PA Images

The explosion in Beirut yesterday, August 4, seemingly ignited a fire of nuclear conspiracy theorists around the globe. Thankfully, they’re wrong. 

The incident in the Lebanon capital, captured in several videos, caused devastating damage. Cars tipped, windows blown out, homes affected as far as 10km away. At least 100 people lost their lives, while more than 4,000 have been injured as a result.


Initial reports from the National News Agency pointed the incident to a firecracker warehouse in the city’s port. While the exact reasoning for the explosion has been evolving, the perpetration of the ‘nuke’ narrative appears to be entirely false.

Former ESPN reporter Chris Palmer wrote on Twitter: ‘The mushroom cloud forms outside the factory. There is no question that was an atomic bomb. That is a controlled detonation. If every firework went off at the same time it wouldn’t do that. A fireworks factory exploding wouldn’t blow out windows 10 miles away.’

He deleted the tweet, only after thousands of people retweeted. Almost immediately in the fallout, a story line emerged from the rubble: this was a bomb. News reports of Israel potentially attacking a Hezbollah weapons base circulated, and even US president Donald Trump – in his infinite wisdom, of course – posited that this wasn’t just an explosion.


At a press briefing, Forbes reports, Trump said: ‘I met with some of our great generals and they seemed to feel that it was. This was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event. This was a, seems to be, according to them, they would know better than I would, but they seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind.’

First off, the Israeli government has said it had ‘nothing to do’ with the blast. The country has approached Lebanon ‘through international defense and diplomatic channels to offer the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid’, as per a government statement. In a tweet, the Israel Defense Forces wrote: ‘This is the time to transcend conflict.’


Secondly, Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told Vice: ‘It’s not a nuke – not even a small one. You can see in the videos that there was an explosion or fire burning before the really big kaboom.’

At the time of writing, Lebanon president Michel Aoun attributed the explosion to more than 2,750 tons of abandoned ammonium nitrate – likely confiscated by authorities ‘a while back’, according to General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim.

As reported by Al Arabiya, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said at a defence council meeting: ‘It is unacceptable that a shipment of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate has been present for six years in a warehouse, without taking preventive measures. It is unacceptable and we cannot remain silent on this issue.’


Diab added in a televised speech that those responsible for the blast would ‘pay the price… I promise you that this catastrophe will not pass without accountability’.

While the mere appearance of mushrooms clouds may ignite nuke-based hysteria and concern, there’s been no reported detection of radioactivity (something which would be picked up rather quickly), nor did the explosion have all the trademarks of a nuclear bomb, such as a thermal pulse or ‘blinding white light’, as per Martin Pfeiffer, a doctoral candidate at the University of New Mexico.


Lewis was quite adamant to the publication that what happened in Beirut wasn’t the result of a nuke. ‘These people don’t want to be convinced. Those of us who study nuclear weapons can explain over and over again until we are blue in the face that this looks nothing like a nuclear explosion… there are none of the phenomena we would expect to see and the coloration is all wrong,’ he added.

It’s unlikely we’ll know the full extent of the timeline behind the Beirut blast for a while, as the city strives to recover from casualties, fatalities and mass destruction. However, the evidence seems pretty conclusive: this wasn’t an atomic bomb.

If you want to help those affected by recent events in Beirut, you can donate to the Red Cross emergency fund here, or visit Impact Lebanon here.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: News, Beirut, Conspiracy Theories, Explosion, Lebanon


Forbes and 3 others
  1. Forbes

    It Would Be A Costly, Unlikely Blunder If Israel Were Responsible For The Beirut Explosion

  2. Vice

    Conspiracy Theorists Adamantly Insist Beirut Explosion Was a Nuke (It Wasn’t)

  3. Al Arabiya

    Lebanon PM Diab says 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at site of Beirut blasts

  4. Martin “Exceeding Design Limits” Pfeiffer/Twitter