This study determines the nuclear pragmatic limit where the direct physical negative consequences of nuclear weapons use are counter to national interests, by assuming all unknowns are conservatively optimistic. The only effect considered is nuclear winter (“nuclear autumn” in the low weapons limits) and the resultant effects on the aggressor nation. First, the ability of low nuclear weapon limits is probed for maintaining deterrence in the worst-case scenario of attacking the most-populous nation. Second, the ability of aggressor nations to feed themselves is assessed without trade and industry resultant from a nuclear attack causing “nuclear autumn” (10% global agricultural shortfall). Third, the best-case wealthy aggressor nation with abundant arable land is analyzed for starvation and economic impacts given 7000, 1000, and 100 nuclear weapons scenarios. The results found that 100 nuclear warheads is adequate for nuclear deterrence in the worst case scenario, while using more than 100 nuclear weapons by any aggressor nation (including the best positioned strategically to handle the unintended consequences) even with optimistic assumptions (including no retaliation) would cause unacceptable damage to their own society. Thus, 100 nuclear warheads is the pragmatic limit and use of government funds to maintain more than 100 nuclear weapons does not appear to be rational.
Pearce, J.M.; Denkenberger, D.C. A National Pragmatic Safety Limit for Nuclear Weapon Quantities. Safety 2018, 4, 25. https://doi.org/10.3390/safety4020025