Skip to comments.US expert sketches nightmare nuclear terrorist attack on major city
Posted on 09/22/2004 10:06:51 AM PDT by Area Freeper
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So how many people would that affect? Figure about 35,000 people per sq mi times 7.8 sq mi. That's 273,000 thousand people that would need to be evacuated in a few days.
It could be done.
I agree. With the technology we have, cities are obsolete. Dispersal of the population is a good thing that is being disparaged as "suburban sprawl" by urban politicians who see it as a shrinking tax base.
But the fires that DO start will not get put out, and will continue dumping secondary activation products downwind,
There has never been a nuclear ground burst in city before so we can only speculate. Anything shielded by a building would not catch fire and would receive a lot less blast damage. It would not be a firestorm.
The problem is, we can't really be certain who to nuke.
We need to rethink this global trade thing and just how connected we want to be with the world. Engaging in commerce with people is a lot like having sex with them -- it tends to spread infectious things.
Actually, the modern architectural style (glass facades that are very reflective in the SWIR and LWIR bands) would probably wind up igniting a bunch of fires--the initial thermal pulse would get reflected every which way (before those windows blew in/out) and hit just about every flammable surface available. Instant fires...the lack of a major blast wave would actually tend to keep those fires lit.
I don't think so. In WWII people didn't panic and head for the hills when they saw other cities were being bombed.
When a hurricane comes to Florida, people have to be encouraged to evacuate.
It depends a lot on the people you are talking about. Americans carry guns, anyone who acts up is liable to get shot.
Your problem is that you're presuming that everyone will behave rationally when they're immediately downwind of a surface burst.
I wish more Jews in the US thought that way. I am astounded about the attitude of so many U.S. liberals who wring their hands over the deposition of Saddam. What is it going to take for them to realize a threat?
I'm sure that some won't behave rationally. But what historical example is there to expect widespread civic chaos?
I can think of a few examples: The LA riots, Watts riots. But to put it diplomatically, some people are different. And even those people knew enough to keep the riots in their own neighborhood.
Mob psychology is difficult to predict. I would guess that fear may have a calming effect.
I would expect that to have a slight diffusing effect for a block or two, but mostly the effect would be to reflect the light upwards toward the sky.
The only two data points we have for nuclear weapons employment were against a culture with a near-fatalistic sense of duty and a tradition of subordinating one's will to that of the group.
Against Americans...I would argue that our greater emphasis on individualism will tend to create a much more chaotic reaction.
If anyone in the target area knows anything about nukes, but doesn't know anything about how to shield against fallout, he will attempt to get the hell out of there immediately.
Meanwhile, a bunch of folks, ignorant of nuclear weapons effects, will try to get their injured fellows (or themselves) to medical attention. Remember, communications are going to be OUT. Passing information to the populace is also going to be difficult, because many of them will have ruptured eardrums.
You basically are betting the mortgage money on a perfectly rational response, in the absence of perfect knowledge of what the rational response is.
You're wrong; thank you for playing.
Just heard from a co-worker who's husband is a policeman that their dept. recently rec'd a warning (probable) about such a possibility.
Not all all. Simply pushing two subcritical masses together to form a supercritical assembly results in a criticality accident, but not an explosion. You get lethal exposures in the immediate vicinity but nothing widespread. This has happened before. Try Googling "Louis Slotin" and read the articles listed there.
Not a lot of people know it, but the key to achieving a high-yield explosion is not just bringing together enough material, but effecting a density change of the material to the point of making the assembled reacting mass really, really, really supercritical, and holding it together for a sufficient time to allow enough reactions to occur to release significant amounts of energy. Since weapons-grade uranium or plutonium is usually in the metallic form, which is incompressible under normal conditions, that is not easy to do in the right way. There is a whole science that deals with the behavior of normally incompressible metals under conditions of high temperature and pressure wherein they behave as compressible fluids (radiation hydrodynamics). Not the kind of knowledge your average mujahadeen is likely to have at his fingertips.
Sorry for the typo. The first all --> at. :-(
I don't think so. There's no point in loading up a truck with large masses of lower-enriched materials. There is a practical upper limit to the physical size of a fission weapon. Beyond a certain size, you simply can't assemble the reacting mass fast enough to achieve a high yield explosion. You get pre-detonation, and a fizzle. The reacting mass blows itself apart before you can assemble it into a highly supercritical assembly. The bigger the assembly, the worse the problem of pre-detonation is. Oppenheimer's group struggled mightily with this problem. Parasitic neutron absorption by 238U really kills the chance of making anything useful out of stuff below about 90% enrichment.
The things that really made compact warheads possible for this and other advanced countries was the availability of plutonium in quantity and the development of reflected, levitated cores. So now you need two things that are hard to come by, plutonium and highly efficient neutron reflectors (e.g., weapons-grade beryllium), and have to know how to do something that is hard to do (build a levitated core weapon using plutonium as the fuel and beryllium reflectors). While I know how to do it in principle (most people who understand nuclear physics and engineering do), I don't think I could be successful doing it even if I had the materials, at least not the first time out.
Thanks for enlightening me. I knew someone during the Manhatten project DID push two subcritical masses together and got some very interesting result and died shortly afterward.
You explaination made alot of sense
That was Louis Slotin. Searching on his name will bring up a memorial site, and other information. There have been other criticality accidents, most recently the one in Japan with the accidental mixing of larger-than-intended quantities of liquid solutions containing fissile materials (not good because there is moderator in there as well as fissile forms).
There was a near-miss safe geometry incident at the Portsmouth GDP in this country some time ago because of a plugged feed line which was a result of oil intrusion into the process stream. What avoided criticality in that case was the lack of a reflector. When they cut the plugged section out of the line the forklift operator set it on the floor. Bad move, because concrete (and the soil below it) can reflect neutrons. Fortunately, the assembly never attained criticality.
I think the next closest comparison would be the English during WWII. They not only had area bombardment but a steady rain of V1 and V2 bombs. They were fairly well behaved. Every day Israelis are subject to sudden death from suicide bombers but they take it in stride.
Again it depends on the city. Fargo ND will react differently than New York City. I think a lot will have to do with public estimation of the danger. The Soviets had the capability to kill hundreds of millions of us yet we knew they didn't have the will. We can assume that terrorists would kill us if they could, but don't have the nukes -- and if they do, they won't get many.
Other data points would be cases were populations were sufficiently threatened when the Nazis were on the march in WWII. In those cases the exodus was orderly and rational, not rampaging mobs.
You are right, how people in the other cities react depends on what they know and the more they know the better. Different personalities will react differently -- some will leave, some will dig in and stock up. But the rational person will ask, where will I go, and what will I do when I get there? If you don't have a good answer you will stay put.
So there is no evidence outside of Hollywood that chaos would ensue.
Remember, communications are going to be OUT.
Why? EMP? What is the EMP effect from a ground detonation. I thought that was only a factor from high-altitude blasts.
Transistor radios will still work and radio stations outside the area will work.
You basically are betting the mortgage money on a perfectly rational response
That's the nature of life. We are forced to bet one way or another.
What's the alternative?
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