Is there a possibility of testing a nuclear device underground in order to create a volcano?

I'm talking about a device that could be built with today's technology, not theoretical or future tech.

If there is a possibility, what is the most plausible depth where the device should be placed? It should only be placed so that people could plausibly reach it (e.g. caves, mines, oil wells etc.).

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    $\begingroup$ xkcd covers this kind of scenario: Mariana Trench Explosion $\endgroup$
    – Josh
    Commented May 27, 2017 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know enough on this subject to provide an answer, but it seems that a nuclear device could be designed to cause volcanos. Not so much a bomb, but a super-critical nuclear reactor core in a bomb-casting which when dropped onto the surface above a lava pool, swiftly burns down through the mantle creating a new vent in its wake. Then as it reaches the pool, it adds its heat to that of the molten rock around it, expanding that rock and providing pressure to push the soon-to-be magma up through the new vent to the surface. Instant volcano! $\endgroup$ Commented May 27, 2017 at 16:21

2 Answers 2


No ...

We've seen what big underground tests do. Holes in the ground. The craters don't go deep enough to reach through the Earth crust.

(Follow-up: This crater is an asteroid, not a nuke, but it was estimated at 10 megatons. If the area is otherwise stable, even a big nuke won't be enough.)

... but it could trigger one.

When a volcano is about to erupt, pressure builds up over years, even centuries. It is very conceivable that a nuclear explosion will make a volcano that was not yet due to erupt do so prematurely.

When researchers talk about volcanoes, they use terms like "dormant" or "inactive." That's not very precise, and a crack in the plug could reawaken it.

  • $\begingroup$ What about really big one 100 megatons one for example like the maximum of Tsar bomba? $\endgroup$
    – Aladeen
    Commented May 27, 2017 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Aladeen They just can't dig deep enough. You need to shatter miles of material to create a volcano, and even the largest bomb is not anywhere near that powerful. Only the largest asteroids can create antipodal volcanoes (they still can't create one at the point of impact) and those release orders of magnitude more energy than the tzar bomba. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented May 27, 2017 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Aladeen To add a little more information, a volcano requires a magma chamber in which lava and pressure gather that feeds an eruption. Very few points under the surface of the earth actually have molten rock, most of it is a plastic like state and is more or less solid. Melting occurs when there is a low pressure area, water in the rock, or a plume of heat coming form the core. A nuke is not the ideal way to create the conditions for a volcano to form, it is simply no where near energetic enough. $\endgroup$ Commented May 27, 2017 at 15:04

If earthquakes don't trigger volcanoes, probably nuclear explosions would not either.

From https://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/4gx8xt/how_does_fracking_affect_volcanic_eruptions/

However even large earthquakes that release incredible amounts of energy and can rupture very near volcanoes have not triggered eruptions. This happened just recently with the 16 April 2016 Kumamoto earthquake and nearby volcano Mount Aso. Despite being an active volcano and a mere ~30km or so from the earthquake hypocenter, the eruptive activity did not change in character after the seismic waves passed through it. We'd certainly learn a lot if someone did go and inject a bunch of fluid into a volcanic area, just as we have learned loads of science from the experiment being done in Oklahoma.

Mud volcanoes are not Krakatoa caliber things but still pretty awesome.
The Sidoarjo mud volcano was supposedly started by people doing fracking. If fracking could do it I bet a nuclear explosion could do it too. I suspect that the difference is that the mud is not as deep subsurface as lava is.

enter image description here image source

I am not sure what the difference is between a mud volcano like Sidoarjo and a volcanic lahar: definitely a volcano, also mud, super destructive.

Large lahars hundreds of metres wide and tens of metres deep can flow several tens of metres per second (22 mph or more): much too fast for people to outrun.[3] With the potential to flow at speeds up to 100 kilometres per hour (60 mph), and flow distances of more than 300 kilometres (190 mi), a lahar can cause catastrophic destruction in its path.[5] [enter image description here]2

  • $\begingroup$ Lahars are caused by the build up of pycroclastic from an existing volcano that gets saturated at some point and then slumps. This can be due to the melting of a glacier or ice cap on a volcano, a crater lake that is displaced during an eruption, they can also occur without an eruption of heavy rain destabilises unconsolidated pycroclastic materials. Mud volcanos occur where water that is heated by a geothermal heat source mixes with material such as clay underground and creates a slurry that erupts at the surface. $\endgroup$
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented May 27, 2017 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ So very different. Thanks for walking thru it. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented May 27, 2017 at 18:30

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