Follow TV Tropes


Nuclear Nullifier

Go To

Nuclear weapons are awesome. They are capable of putting out more sheer destructive force than any other weapon made by mankind. They inspire so much fear and awe that no two nuclear-armed nations have ever fought a (direct) war for fear of annihilating each other.

Now, what if something were to happen so that nukes were all of a sudden much less scary?

This tends to weaken the Nuclear Weapons Taboo and may make the Nuclear Option more attractive — or phase it out entirely, if it can be effectively countered. Compare Lensman Arms Race when nuclear weapons are superseded by even more terrible weaponry. Compare Holding Back the Phlebotinum for other examples of not using potentially devastating weapons.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In the alternate future of Armageddon 2001, Superman tries to rid the world of nuclear weapons after one blew up Metropolis and killed Lois Lane.
  • One issue of Cloak and Dagger (Marvel Comics) has the heroic duo teleport to Latveria, where they discover that Doctor Doom has a device that exploits thunderstorms to render the world's nuclear devices inert. He remains unswayed when informed that radiation treatments for cancer patients are likewise nullified.
  • At the end of Doomsday Clock, Doctor Manhattan makes all of the Watchmen Earth's nuclear weapons disappear. There are then peace marches in every major city demanding that no new ones are made.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The central character of "Breeds There a Man...?" is a theoretical physicist whose current project is a forcefield generator that can shield against a nuclear explosion.
  • Ender's Game has an offhand mention of shields that "make it so nobody bothers with nuclear weapons anymore". Within a few years, though, it's demonstrated that the MD Device can destroy an entire planet. However, Orson Scott Card seems to have forgotten about this in later books, as Earth going to nuclear war is a major threat in Ender in Exile and the Ender's Shadow sequels.
  • In Hammer's Slammers, nuclear suppression fields are cited as being one of the technological advancements that made tank columns viable again (the other being effective Point Defenses). Of course, since the Slammers are often hired to fight assymetric wars their enemies often can't afford suppressors, and Colonel Hammer has no qualms against nuking insurgent-harboring villages.
  • In "If the Red Slayer" by Robert Sheckley, everyone expected WWIII to be button pushing, but first the countermissiles and then a nuclear suppressor put a stop to that. By the time of the story, it's trench warfare... with Resurrective Immortality for infantry.
  • In Oracle of Tao, the Fantastic Nuke named the Brahmastra Sutra has a counter, the Gayatri Mantra. These are based on actual chants, and the latter is basically a World-Healing Wave. When cast after the first spell, it cannot heal any who have been hurt or killed in the blast, but it removes fallout and makes even ice into fertile land. Also, the air smells minty afterwards, apparently.
  • In P.J. Plauger's 1974 short story "Wet Blanket", a scientist develops a device that changes the nature of the universe so that nuclear weapons can no longer explode.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In OGRE, strategic nukes (and the missiles and aircraft that carry them) are easily taken down by air defense lasers. However, tactical nukes are not only still used, but they're also now the only efficient way to breach the ultra-durable Bi-Phase Carbide armor most units use.
  • In Shadowrun, while there have been multiple reactor meltdowns, not a single nuclear bomb has detonated when it was supposed to in the 21st century, even before the Awakening proper. Europe's had a few new wars since then.
  • In Traveller, nuclear dampers are fairly common starship defenses that reduce damage from nuclear missiles and fusion guns. However, the Third Imperium still reserves nukes for the Imperial Navy and is willing to use them to punish those who violate that law.

    Video Games 
  • The SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) in Civilization makes the owner of this Wonder invulnerable to nukes.
  • In Civilization: Call to Power, the Nanite Defuser wonder destroys all nukes in the world.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series:
    • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, the Soviets were able to launch a massive attack on the United States because Yuri's Psychic Corps utterly neutralized the US's nuclear arsenal by mind-controlling the silos' operators. The Soviets, though, still have their nuclear missiles, using one to destroy Chicago before the Allies can retake it in the fourth Allied mission and having several more silos along the border between Germany and Poland to intimidate the European Allies out of trying to help America.
    • The Soviets then do this to themselves in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: after travelling back in time to remove Einstein from history, they discover that in the new timeline, nukes don't exist. In addition, Japan has now become a superpower rivalling them. Oops...
  • In EndWar, following Saudi Arabia getting crippled in 2016 by a nuclear terrorist attack, the US and EU created the SLAMS (Space-Land-Air Missile Shield) System, an anti-ballistic missile defense that rendered strategic nuclear warfare obsolete. Unfortunately, it also had the side effect of making large-scale conventional warfare possible again, which would cause a rise in tensions that would eventually lead to World War III.
    • The missile shield is also briefly brought up in fellow "Tom Clancy's" game Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which confirms that the missile shield specifically targets the warheads, but can't do anything about the missile itself, to London's detriment, as a missile launched by a rogue PMC still ends up trashing several skyscrapers and sending a ton of glass shards down to shred pedestrians.
  • This was part of the Big Bad Skull Face's plan in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. He had possession of "metallic archaea", microscopic organisms which would render uranium un-fissilable, meaning nuclear warheads would not detonate. From there, he would become the world's sole vendor of functional nuclear weapons to a world already destabilized by the language-affecting parasites (which were Part 1 of his plan).
  • The SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) in Rise of Nations renders the builder unable to be attacked by nukes. However, the Nuclear Winter Counter is set to 1.

    Real life 
  • A nuclear warhead could actually be "nullified" by subjecting it to powerful neutron radiation. The external neutrons, hitting the fissionable fuel in the warhead, would induce a low-grade fission reaction in it and creating a lot of short-lived isotopes, essentially "poisoning" the fuel. So when such "pre-heated" warhead would attempt to detonate, the chain reaction would go faster and become critical before most of the fuel would get involved - and the warhead would fizzle, destroying itself in a weak (subkiloton to low kiloton scale) thermal explosion, throwing the majority of fuel around. While it would not completely "nullify" the weapon, a small - albeit dirty - explosion equivalent to several tons of TNT is much better than a full-power multi-megaton blast. That's also why nuclear-tipped surface-to-air (and even air-to-air) missiles and anti-ballistic missiles were so popular in the 1960s. Even if the target (enemy missile or bomber) would survive the blast, the radiation flux would cause warheads to fizzle.
    • Modern warheads, though, are usually of a boosted fission design - i.e. they have a very small amount of fusion fuel inside, so when the fission reaction starts, it would ignite a low-level fusion. While the energy from such weak fusion is negligible, it produces a lot of neutrons, which "afterburn" the fission fuel around, thus causing the boosted fission warhead to have much more fuel efficiency than just fission.
    • Boosted fission warheads are immune to neutron "poisoning", because the fusion reaction in them would still be ignited even if the warhead is "pre-heated" - and the massive neutron flux from fusion would "afterburn" the fission fuel around to full power.