Proof that fallout was clearly visible where there was a short term hazard at the Mike and Bravo H-bomb tests
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” said Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (“L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs”).
This explains the problems Britain has got itself into, from the appeasement of the Nazis in the 1930s to the censorship attempts on AGW criticisms today. It’s particularly applicable to socialist ideology on trying to reduce the risks to society from nuclear terrorism by exaggerating, distorting, and misrepresenting the nuclear threat so much that civil defense is made to look like a deception or joke. The idea that unilateral disarmament provides security can only be sold convincingly by lying about the effects of nuclear weapons, so as to denigrate civil defense. In the biased anti-nuclear propaganda you always find the same lies about the attack scale and attack timing being used in the nuclear age, as were used in the 1930s as the excuse to appease Hitler until it was too late to avert WWII, namely the assumption of instant and complete escalation to the maximum possible countervalue attack, followed by endless nuclear effects distortions and anti-civil defense effectiveness lies.
Above: no, this isn't exactly a friendly Russian tourist guide to the London tube! It's from the June 1987 Zarubezhnoe voennoe obozrenie (ZVO), the Russian "Foreign Military Review" report on the Civil Defence capacity of the London underground system in time of war, documenting the existence of the eight secret shelters used as command posts in World War II, on the Central and Northern lines. (Zarubezhnoe voennoe obozrenie also published research by V. Goncharov and I. I. Mysiuk on U.S. civil defense in June 1983, May 1984, and September 1988.)
Where did Russia acquire the information for targetting vital British civil defence C3 systems with nuclear surface bursts? In 1982, at the height of the Cold War, left wing leaning New Statesman journalist Duncan Campbell who in 1978 was prosecuted under section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 for "unauthorised receipt of classified information", wrote the 488 pages long book War Plan UK: the Truth about Civil Defence in Britain, compiling information on Britain's civil defence capability and plans to withstand a nuclear attack. He was found guilty on 16 November 1978 at the Central Criminal Court of receiving information about British signals intelligence from a former soldier. (Craig Seton, “Secrets jury ﬁnd one journalist guilty”, The Times, 17 November 1978, page 1.) He was given a conditional discharge for three years and ordered to pay £2,500 towards defence costs and £2,500 towards his own. The lefty National Union of Journalists claimed: “the verdict could only give heart to those who wished to create a more closed society in which journalists were unwilling or unable to expose improper activities by government ... All journalists are now placed at risk whenever they interview unofficial sources about government activities.” (Craig Seton, “Ex-soldier claims verdict was a victory”, The Times, page 3, Saturday, 18 November 1978, page 3.) His book contains propaganda and no valuable public material on civil defence or nuclear weapons effects, but has done nothing to improve security by publicising government defence plans and facilities. In the event of a war, Russia knows where in London to aim nuclear warheads. So we must consider the fallout problem from such bursts.
Above: wind hodographs from surface to the base of the mushroom cloud head (where the radioactivity is most concentrated) for the notorious 14.8 megaton Castle-Bravo coral reef surface burst, west of Namu Island in the Bikini Atoll, 1 March 1954. The hodograph is a concise statement of the wind situation. As discussed in a previous post, both Edward Schuert's fallout forecasting report USNRDL-TR-139, A Fallout Forecasting Technique with Results Obtained at the Eniwetok Proving, and the draft Autobiography by former USNRDL fallout researcher Walmer E. Strope, show that the "failure" of fallout or wind predictions at Castle-Bravo is a deception.
Just like the Nevada test site, the problem with Bikini Atoll was that the prevailing winds at 40,000 feet for most of the time were blowing towards east, i.e. directly towards inhabited areas (St George in Utah was east of the Nevada test site, while Ailinginae, Rongelap, Rongerik, and Utirik Atolls were east of Bikini Atoll). As Strope explains, Dr Carl F. Miller predicted the Bravo fallout disaster the day before the the bomb was fired on the orders of Dr Alvin C. Graves, the scientific director for the test. You can see Dr Graves's attitude in the filmed interview with Reed Hadley (the actor and Mike secret documentary film presenter) just before the Mike H-bomb test in 1952. Graves himself has been injured by radiation in the notorious criticality accident that killed his friend Dr Louis Slotin at Los Alamos in 1946. In 1954, Graves was concerned with getting a deliverable H-bomb before Russia, as an utmost priority. Any delay due to the wind was an immense problem, necessitating the resetting of numerous preparations and experimental programs.
While Nevada tests were routinely held up to await favorable winds (both to prevent window breakage by blast wave refraction to towns downwind, and radioactive fallout), and Graves was also careful to ensure he fired Mike in 1952 while winds were blowing to the north-west of Eniwetok (into empty ocean), he was careless with the March 1954 Bravo test, which was only predicted to be 6 megatons with trivial fallout on the south of Rongelap. It was a crucial test. The USNRDL had already documented fallout from a nuclear weapon surface burst in the Nevada in 1951, the 1.2 kt Sugar test, and in 1953 they developed a pretty sensible mathematical scaling procedure to extrapolate the dose rate contours up to the megaton range (report USNRDL-TR-1). The scaling was based on fallout deposits. The total amount of fallout activity produced is proportional to the fission yield, but it is spread out according to the mushroom cloud. If activity is uniformly distributed in the volume of the mushroom, and if that volume is proportional to bomb yield, then scaling laws can be deduced. The USNRDL assumed - reasonably - that the radius and vertical thickness of the mushroom cloud both scale in proportion to the cube-root of the bomb yield. The dose rate at any location is then proportional to the vertical thickness of the cloud (since that determines the total thickness of the deposited film of fallout), while the upwind, crosswind and downwind distances must also be multiplied up by the cube-root of the yield, so that the total activity is scaled in direct proportion to fission yield. This fallout pattern scaling method is used on page 419 of the 1957 edition of The Effects of Nuclear Weapons. The map below from WT-915 shows what you get when you scale up the 1951 Nevada Sugar fallout pattern to the 15 megaton Bravo yield:
The problems here are many. First of all, the mean vector wind has been used, which ignores the wind shear problem. Next, the cube-root scaling law can be misleading. The maximum observed cloud radius for Pacific tests tended to scale up faster than the cube-root of yield. However, this is partly because the the humidity of the air, which led to an enormous water vapour cloud that exceeded the size of the coral fallout dust cloud, which was confined around a toroid which did not expand out to the periphery of the visible white wapour cloud. Additionally, the comparison of low yield clouds from the Nevada with high yield Pacific test clouds is biased because the immense cloud radii measured for Pacific tests was generally at different times after burst than for Nevada tests. There was a lot of early 1950s confusion about cloud rise, with frequent false claims that the clouds from high yield bombs take longer to reach their maximum altitude (because they rise further), or that mushroom clouds "stabilize" at 10 minutes after burst, regardless of yield. This was debunked by Anderson's USNRDL D-Model fallout paper (USNRDL-TR-410), which points out that in fact the higher rates of rise at multimegaton yields more than offsets the higher altitudes they attain, so they attain their maximum altitude within a couple of minutes, while kiloton yield clouds can take ten or twenty minutes to slowly rise to maximum altitude.
Above: compare the January 1956 USNRDL reconstruction of the Bravo fallout pattern to the February 1957 RAND version. The dose rates are extrapolated back to 1 hour, before most of the fallout areas shown were actually contaminated, so they are completely misleading to the initiated (and highly convenient to the anti-civil defense propagandarists). As remarked in WT-915, the higher the nuclear yield, the larger the areas contaminated, but the average time for fallout arrival is increased and as a result an immense amount of decay occurs to reduce the radiation dose rates before most of the fallout is deposited. Consequently, the overall dose (not extrapolated dose rate) patterns don't scale up very quickly with increasing weapon yield. If you are 7 hours downwind and get a unit time (1 hour reference) dose rate of 1000 R/hr, the maximum you could experience would of course be only 10%, 100 R/hour, due to decay, and in fact because of the diffusion and slow build-up as a large mushroom cloud is blown overhead, hours may be required for all of the 1000 R/hour hypothetical dose rate activity to be deposited. If the peak dose rate occurs when roughly 50% of the fallout has arrived at your location say 2 hours after fallout arrives (7 + 2 = 9 hours after detonation), what you will actually find at your "1000 R/hour 1 hour reference" location 7 hours downwind is fallout starting at 7 hours, building up to a peak level of just 0.5*1000*9-1.2 = 36 R/hour at 9 hours after burst, and starting to decrease (as the effect of the decay of the cumulative deposited activity begins to exceeds the build-up arrival deposition rate of particles still descending as the diffused, dispersed cloud passes by), then decaying to 10 R/hr at 48 hours, to 1 R/hr at 2 weeks, etc. You will never see anything like the 1 hour reference dose rate of 1000 R/hour unless very close to a detonation and almost directly downwind, or subject to early rain-out. The two patterns above are upper and lower limits to the actual fallout area: both agree reasonably well for the inhabited land areas of atolls where dose rate data was measured.
The USNRDL pattern grossly exaggerated the total activity in the local fallout pattern at high dose rates (as is seen by a comparison with the downwind hotspot areas from Yankee, Nectar, Zuni and Tewa) and it also wrongly assumes that a symmetry in the fallout contours exists around the "hotline". In fact, fallout patterns show asymmetry: the "hotline" itself marks the trail of particles arriving from the concentrated activity at the mushroom base, falling from around 50-55 kft altitude. But that side of the "hotline" dominated by fallout deposition contributions from lower altitude winds (below the mushroom cloud base altitude) is more highly contaminated and larger in area than the other side of the hotline. This is proved in many examples, including the Redwing-Tewa fallout pattern, where the low altitude winds from the surface to 22.5 kft altitude were blowing towards the west, while the higher altitude winds from 22.5 kft to the cloud base (49 kft altitude) blew towards the north or west: the "hotline" followed the higher altitude winds to the north, but nearly all of the fallout was deposited to the west of the hotline, carried westward by the low altitude winds which the fallout had to travel through before reaching the surface. In the Bravo shot, a similar effect would have occurred, with the hotline from the cloud base extending east north east from ground zero, but most of the fallout area extending south of the hotline, borne by the lower altitude winds.
The RAND corp version is based on a model of the Sugar fallout, scaled up to Bravo, with the wind structure deliberately modified from the observed to force a reconcilation between dose rate predictions and measured dose rates on downwind atolls. So the true Bravo fallout pattern is a compromise somewhere between these two patterns. This can be defended by looking at the measured 13.5 megaton Castle-Yankee fallout pattern, which is quite similar to Bravo. In a humid atmosphere, sea water surface bursts produce similar downwind fallout patterns to water surface bursts, as indicated by comparing the fallout patterns from the Redwing-Tewa, -Zuni, -Flathead, and -Navajo tests in 1956.
Above: the "prevailing wind" statistics for fallout predictions are admirably discussed in the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Civil Defense, technical bulletin TB11-21, Fallout and the Winds, March 1955, revised December 1963. (Due to the meteorologist Charles Shafer of the U.S. Weather Bureau, who was placed on assignment to the Federal Civil Defense Administration in 1955, and pointed out the difference between the Bikini Atoll nuclear test wind shear patterns and the usual prevailing winds during the June 1959 Congressional Hearings on the Biological and Environmental Effects of Nuclear War.) It explains that the winds at an altitude of about 40,000 feet are generally the most important for fallout, because they’re usually the strongest winds and thus fallout is displaced horizontally to a greater extent when falling through that altitude than at other altitudes:
“The strongest winds encountered by a falling particle have the greatest proportional influence on its total movement. The strongest winds are usually at altitudes in the vicinity of 40,000 feet.”
The bulletin also gives statistics for the mean wind speeds over the United States at 10,000, 20,000, 40,000, and 80,000 feet: in winter they are 35, 55, 80 and 30 miles/hour, respectively, and in summer they are 19, 25, 45, and 20 miles/hour, respectively. The percentage of the time that wind blows from the west towards the east at 40,000 feet altitude ranges from 68% in summer and 72% in winter for California, to 71% and 95% for New York in summer and in winter, respectively. For states between the coasts it is intermediate between these ranges, with the exception of the gulf states in summer, where the figure is 28%.
The fallout that contaminated Rongelap, the Lucky Dragon, etc., to the east of Bikini, and St George, Utah to the east of the Nevada test site during the 1953 Harry test was not an unpredictable, unexpected wind shift but the exact opposite: the reversion of a complex wind structure back to the normal prevailing winds which blow towards the east at 40,000 feet in both places. The whole problem at both the Nevada and the Bikini/Eniwetok Pacific nuclear testing ranges was that the prevailing winds blew directly towards inhabited areas, so the tests had to be deliberately conducted during a complex, non-prevailing wind situation such as a passing weather front or nearby weather system. As test fallout prediction expert Edward A. Schuert put it in his report USNRDL-TR-139:
"In most of the observations made at the Eniwetok Proving Ground [which included Bikini Atoll], the winds aloft were not in a steady state. ... proper firing conditions, which required winds that would deposit the fallout north of the proving ground, occurred only during an unstable synoptic situation of rather short duration."
“The midnight briefing, less than seven hours before the shot, showed ‘less favorable winds at 10,000- to 25,000 levels.’ Winds at 20,000 ‘were headed for Rongelap to the east,’ and ‘it was recognised that both Bikini and Eneman Islands would probably be contaminated.’ [Source: Bonnot memorandum entitled Command Briefing, 0000, 1 March 1954, Tab A to April 12, 1954 memorandum by Dr Alvin C. Graves and General Clarkson; cited in Edwin J. Martin and Richard H. Rowland, Castle Series, 1954, DNA-6035F, 1982, pp. 201-2.]
“The final weather and radiological safety check, at 4:30 a.m., shows that the AEC knew there was a problem: ‘The general recommendation for this briefing was one of minimizing the effects of the low level northerly and westerly winds.’ [Source: March 1, 1954 memorandum for the record by Richard A. House, Radsafe Officer, entitled Final Weather and Radsafe Check, 0430, 1 March 1954, Tab A to April 12, 1954 memorandum by Graves and Clarkson.]
“Was the shot postponed? No. Were precautions taken for the Marshallese downwind? No. Were precautions taken for the U.S. personnel downwind? Yes. Following the midnight briefing, Bikini’s weather outlook was downgraded to unfavorable, and Joint Task Force Seven ordered several of its ships to move 20 miles farther out to sea ... [Source: Richard A. House, Radsafe Officer, Radsafe Narrative Sequence of Events, I, Tab B to April 12, 1954 memorandum by Graves and Clarkson; Bonnot, Summary of Weather Situation for Bravo shot; March 22, 1954 memorandum from H. C. Burton to Chief of Naval Operation entitled Radioactive Contamination of Ships and Radiological Exposure of Personnel of task Group 7.3 due to Bravo, the First Nuclear Explosion of Castle, DOD/CIC 76555, page 1; Richard A. House, Final Weather and RadSafe Check, cited in Martin and Rowland, Castle Series, 1954, page 202.]”
- Jonathan M. Weisgall, legal representative to the Bikinians, written testimony to Radiation exposure from Pacific nuclear tests, oversight hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Natural Resources, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, Washington, DC, February 24, 1994, page 30.
In his oral testimony on page 8, Weisgall contrasts the lax approach to fallout in the 1954 Bravo 15 megaton surface burst test to the exaggerated fallout fears and safety measures before the 23 kt air burst at Bikini on 1 July 1946, when the U.S. Navy put the Marshallese at Rongerik into a landing craft before the test, ready to evacuate before fallout arrived, which did not occur. Weisgall quotes AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss ordering secrecy on fallout – to keep the USSR in the dark, rather than just to cover-up the fallout accident – after Bravo in a telegram that stated: “No public release will be made in regard to fallout or evacuation in the trust territory unless forced by leak or other circumstances. Washington presently plans no report, no announcements, and urgently requests that you make nothing public on these matters.”
However, once the fallout did "leak" out, Lewis Strauss as AEC Chairman sponsored the publication of the June 1957 first edition of Glasstone's Effects of Nuclear Weapons, to which he contributed a Foreword jointly with the U.S. Secretary of Defense. In addition, the New York Times Science Editor William L. Laurence (who watched the 1945 Trinity test with Richard P. Feynman, was in the observation plane with William Penney on the Nagasaki mission, and attended both the 1946 Crossroads and 1956 Redwing-Cherokee nuclear tests) documents Strauss's remedial measures in fallout safety after Bravo, in chapters 22-25 of his book, Men and Atoms (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1961). Laurence on pages 208-210 documents the logistics chaos created by Strauss's improved care and safety for the Marshallese after the Bravo test, which Laurence experienced while attending the 3.8 megaton Redwing-Cherokee nuclear test, 21 May 1956:
A baby girl was born to a native of the Marshall Islands at the moment of the explosion of a multimegaton hydrogen bomb ... The child was named Alice, after Alice Strauss, wife of the then chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, who had presented to the young mother a fortune of ten pigs. ...
The day set for the blast was, of course, known as D day. ... one postponement after another had to be made because the wind pattern from the surface up to 100,000 feet blew in the wrong direction ... so everything had to be placed on a permanent D-minus-2 basis. As the final decision to shoot or not to shoot was to be made at the very last minute, depending on last-minute shifts in the wind, we never knew on going to bed what the night would bring. And since the test was to be held at about an hour before sunrise, we would leave word to be called at four-fifteen. ... I wondered until the last minute whether the test would actually take place, or whether it would be called off. This actually happened on at least two occasions.
Laurence mentions that the Bravo fallout hysteria in the media's information vacuum caused by secrecy led to the revival of old cobalt-60 H-bomb fallout speculations from Dr Oppenheimer's 1950 followers anti-H-bomb campaign (this scaremongering led to films like On the Beach and Dr Strangelove). Oppenheimer, former director of Los Alamos and foe of AEC chairman Lewis Strauss, was in favor of low-yield usable tactical nuclear weapons for deterring military invasions. He believed with sincerity that high-yield H-bombs for use against cities would not necessarily be a credible threat that would deter fanatical dictators from taking military actions such as the invasion of South Korea in 1950, and that it would be dangerous to rely on massive retaliation, in case the other side called your bluff. On Oppenheimer's side, Szilard and Einstein tried to discredit President Truman's H-bomb project in February 1950 by claiming that it would be easy to put a cobalt-59 jacket on a H-bomb to absorb the neutrons and create cobalt-60.
This was a totally spurious claim because every neutron absorbed by cobalt-59 to create cobalt-60 only results in the release of a total of 2.5 MeV of gamma radiation, which is given out very slowly (with a half-life of 5.3 years, allowing evacuation or decontamination before most of the dose is accumulated), contrasted to 200 MeV of energy (including far more residual gamma radiation) given out at initially higher dose rates for every neutron fissioning a uranium-238 atom in a natural uranium tamper. Laurence reports on page 195 that Szilard estimated that 400 deuterium-cobalt H-bombs would "release enough radioactivity to extinguish all life on earth", but this estimate totally ignored decontamination, shielding by buildings, and non-uniformities in deposition worldwide. Dr Ralph E. Lapp used the same "uniform deposition" error (ignoring the distribution contours) to exaggerate the Bravo fallout area in a Bulletin of Atomic Scientists article.
Laurence explains on page 203 of Men and Atoms that the elimination of dangerous local fallout by 95% clean 4.5 megaton Redwing-Navajo surface burst nuclear test on 10 July 1956 was announced in a press release by Strauss on 19 July, 9 days later. Strauss stated: "there are many factors, including operational ones [height of burst above one fireball radius, favorable weather, etc.], which do make it possible to localize to an extent not heretofore appreciated the fallout effect of nuclear explosions. Thus the current series of tests has produced much of importance not only from the military point of view but also from a humanitarian aspect." Laurence on page 204 quotes President Eisenhower's 23 October 1956 public statement about the 95% clean Redwing-Navajo test and the 85% clean Redwing-Zuni test:
The most recent tests enable us to harness and discipline our weapons more precisely and effectively, drastically reducing their fallout and making them more easy to concentrate, if ever used, upon military objectives.
Above: fallout particles with a wide range of sizes, from fine dust up to grit particles 2-5 mm in diameter, form a white-grey film over dark painted wood, which can be seen at the edge where personnel removed the wooden panel from fallout collection life-raft anchored upwind of the 10.4 megaton surface burst Ivy-Mike at Eniwetok Atoll, 1952. Such close-in fallout doesn't require a geiger counter for detection, just a pair of eyes, ears (as mentioned in an earlier post, Dr Theodore Taylor told how he could hear fallout particles landing like hail on the roof during the 1951 Greenhouse-Dog nuclear test), or a sense of touch (the Marshallese in 1954 could not only see the fallout arrive, but could feel it, like grit, sticking to moist skin). Weapon test report WT-615 on page 47 shows that fallout particles up to 5 mm in diameter were deposited 8 km from ground zero (fallout collection station 540.20), although the majority were 0.1-0.2 mm in diameter. At 24 km, the maximum diameter of fallout particles deposited was 1.2 mm.
"Apropos of the Dog shot [81 kt on a 300 foot tower at Runit Island, Eniwetok Atoll, 8 April 1951], fallout was clearly audible. [Note that this hail of fallout at the occupied huts on Parry/Elmer island near the south took 5 hours to arrive and reach a peak dose rate of about 120 mR/hour, so it audible without being heavy fallout.]"
- Dr Theodore B. Taylor, in Dr Austin M. Brues and Dr Arthur C. Upton (Chairmen), Proceedings of the Second Interdisciplinary Conference on Selected Effects of a General War, DASIAC Special Report 95, July 1969, vol. 2, DASA-2019-2, AD0696959, page 51.
Above: visible fallout from the 14.8 megatons Castle-Bravo surface burst of 1 March 1954, at fallout lagoon life-raft collection station 250.04, from report WT-915. The land-equivalent gamma dose rate was 113 Roentgens/hour at one hour after burst for this location. The inhabited area of southern Rongelap further downwind received a similar amount of fallout.
At long last, high-quality PDFs showing photos of individual fallout particles and contaminated surfaces upwind and crosswind, are available in nuclear weapon test reports WT-615 (10.4 megatons 1952 Ivy-Mike surface burst fallout) and WT-915 (14.8 megatons 1954 Castle-Bravo surface burst fallout). Previously, we had clear good quality photos proving the visibility of fallout from Dr Carl F. Miller's reports, a few unnamed test fallout particles in Glasstone and Dolan 1977, and contaminated area photos for ships at two downwind locations from the 3.53 megatons 1956 Redwing-Zuni coral island surface burst (weapon test report WT-1317). The new clear photos of Mike and Bravo fallout are important for associating radiation levels with visible quantities of fallout, showing that people can visibly perceive quantities which constitute short-term dangers.
David K. Berlo, Erwin P. Bettiaghaus, Dan Costley and Robert Van Dam of Michigan State University The Fallout Protection Booklet: (I) A Report of Public Attitudes Toward and Information about Civil Defense, U. S. Office of Civil Defense, U. S. Department of Defense, April 1963, report AD404511, surveyed 3,514 people and found that 77% of Americans believed that they “would be killed or made sick from fallout radiation” (page 4), that only 43% of Americans believed that “most fallout rapidly loses its power to harm people” (page 7), and that 69% of Americans believed that “a fallout shelter should have an air tight door to guard against radiation”, while 74% of Americans believed that “you cannot see fallout” (page 9).
Above: close-ups of two of the larger sized particles, each roughly 2 mm in diameter, from the same Ivy-Mike fallout sample as on the contaminated wood shown previously. The particles were originally coral sand (calcium carbonate) thrown up from the crater ejecta at Elugelab Island in Eniwetok Atoll, they were reduced to calcium oxide, CaO (lime) in the fireball of the nuclear explosion, then the outer laters were slaked by water to form calcium hydroxide, Ca(OH)2 (slaked lime). Finally the outermost layer of slaked lime absorbed some CO2 from the atmosphere, transforming it back into an outer hard, relatively insoluble shell of calcium carbonate (calcite). Water washing by ocean spray and waves then removed the central soft lime and slaked lime, leaving only the hard hollow calcite shells behind, as explained on page 54 of WT-615, which also mentions that the fallout gamma decay rate in the Ivy-Mike H-bomb test was t-1.2, where t is time after detonation, and there was no base surge rainout observed from Ivy-Mike:
"Observation of the documentary photography taken of Mike shot, Operation Ivy, indicated no evidence of a base surge following the detonation. Although the major portion of this film did not record surface phenomena, those portions documenting the surface of the lagoon after the event do not show a base surge."
It's impossible to give a clear impression of the fallout problem without these photos, and the specific activity of the fallout (the amount of radioactivity per gram of mass, which determines visibility). Secrecy on this subject, which is vital for civil defense against nuclear weapons fallout, was initially caused by an offensive fallout research program by America. Russia showed virtually no interest in using fallout as a weapon at its nuclear tests, which were almost all air bursts. An effect dependent entirely upon the weather for widespread distribution is not a dependable military weapon or deterrent, and surface bursts produce reduced thermal and blast effects due to the cratering action, the shadowing of thermal radiation by the elevated "horizon" of objects (by the time the blast arrives to knock some buildings or trees over, most of the thermal pulse has ended), etc.
Above: incremental fallout collectors were placed on rafts upwind to determine the time-sequence of the fallout: a clock timer activated a belt with a hole to uncover a different fallout collection tray every 5 minutes, thereby collecting a series of fallout samples from deposits occurring as a function of time at any location. This enabled the fallout arrival characteristics to be determined as a function of time after detonation. Since the sizes of the collection trays were fixed, the total visible fallout mass deposited per unit areas was determined, as shown in the map below (from WT-615).
Above: comparison of a map of the Ivy-Mike fallout mass deposited (grams per square foot of ground) and the gamma dose rate in Roentgens/hour at 2 hours after detonation (when fallout was complete in the upwind direction). To convert all data to land radiation dose rates, the radiation levels on the small life-rafts anchored in the lagoon to collect fallout were multiplied by a factor of 7 to compensate for the measured fact that fallout sinking in the ocean around them reduced the dose rate by a factor of 7 compared to a large land area like an island.
Above: on Rongelap the sunburn like peeling beta burns (which began 14 days after exposure) and temporary hair loss (hair regrowth began after 9 weeks and was complete within 6 months) were both due primarily to protracted direct contact contamination during outdoor exposure of moist sweaty skin and stickly coconut oil dressed hair to descending fallout, and exposure for 2 days afterwards until decontaminated after evacuation to Kwajalein Atoll. The key myth about beta burns is why the Marshallese were only burned on exposed moist skin, never under light clothing. Contrary to popular belief, most of the beta radiation that caused the burns to living tissue under the 70 micron thick dead skin layer of skin could penetrate the light clothing being worn, which had at best only a protection factor of two.
The main reason why skin under clothing was not burned was simply that the clothing protected the skin by not retaining fallout like moist skin. The fallout simply didn't "stick" to the clothing as effectively as it did to the moist skin. This is the primary protection afforded by clothing against beta burns: not shielding beta radiation, but preventing the fallout from being retained for long periods. Despite several incidents of fallout contamination downwind of Nevada tests, people did not get beta burns simply because the large (high activity) fallout particles from silicate soil bursts were small marbles which didn't "stick" to either skin or clothing. Some fallout did stick in cattle and horse hairs and caused beta burns there, but not to the legs or feet which retained less fallout for long periods, despite being physically closer to the fallout contaminated ground.
At Operation Greenhouse in 1951, clothing deliberately exposed to fallout retained too little fallout for the intended clothing decontamination research, so researchers had to rub the clothing on fallout contaminated ground repeatedly in order to get the clothing to pick up any significant contamination. Dr Saad Z. Mikhail's Environmental Science Associates report Beta-Radiation Doses from Fallout Particles Deposited on the Skin, AD0888503 (1971) calculates - assuming the very high fallout specific activity of 1015 fissions per cubic centimetre of fallout - a beta to gamma dose ratio of 15 (assuming skin is contaminated to the same activity/area contamination density as the horizontal ground, which is accurate for the worst beta burns cases on Rongelap) and that single fallout particles less than 0.5 mm in diameter can't cause skin ulceration unless deposited on the skin within 17 minutes of detonation, and the only way beta burns result is when a film of fallout sticks to moist skin for long periods; for a fallout arrival time on the skin of 3 hours after burst, 0.1 gram of fallout per square foot of skin needs to be retained (for a time that's large compared to the arrival time) to cause minimal beta burns (which appear aboit 14 days later, like delayed sunburn peeling).
Since the infinite time fallout dose for a fixed amount of fallout is proportional to t-0.2 for skin contamination time t after detonation (for dose rates decaying as t-1.2), it follows that if you are contaminated more than 3 hours after burst, you need more than 0.1 gram per square foot to give the threshold dose for a beta burn. The only reason any of the Marshallese had beta burns was that they didn't know the danger and the simple countermeasures (they were on an island, surrounded by water, and those who went swimming after contamination, weren't burned). Of the 64 people on Rongelap (the most highly contaminated group), 6 had no beta burns (they washed the fallout off completely), 19 had slight beta burns, 22 had moderate and 17 severe. Of the same group, 28 had no hair loss, 11 slight, 11 moderate and 14 severe. (These statistics are from Dr Gordon M. Dunning's testimony to the 1957 Congressional Hearings, The Nature of Radioactive Fallout and Its Effects on Man, page 224.)
Another myth is permanent hair loss after severe fallout contamination. Partial hair loss at Rongelap was mainly due to beta irradiation of hair roots from contamination retained in the hair by the customary use of coconut oil as a hair dressing in the Marshall islands; epilation began roughly at the same time as the beta burns, it started regrowing after 9 weeks, and was complete at 6 months.
The first detailed public statement giving the Bravo fallout data was the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission publication of February 1955 (far too late due to secrecy from the time of the test in March 1954, during which time the media had filled the information vacuum with exaggerated hysteria over fallout), The Effects of High-Yield Nuclear Explosions, Statement by Lewis L. Strauss, Chairman and a Report by the United States Atomic Energy Commission, which states on pages 4-5:
“These estimates assume : (1) that the people in the area would ignore even the most elementary precautions; (2) that they would not take shelter but would remain out of doors completely exposed for about 36 hours; and (3) that in consequence they would receive the maximum exposure. Therefore, it will be recognized that the estimates which follow are what might be termed extreme estimates since they assume the worst possible conditions. On the basis of our data from this test and other information, it is estimated that, following the March 1, 1954, test explosion, there was sufficient radioactivity in a downwind belt about 140 miles in length and of varying width up to 20 miles to have seriously threatened the lives of nearly all persons in the area who took no protective measures. ... In an area of heavy fallout the greatest radiological hazard is that of exposure to external radiation, which can be greatly reduced by simple precautionary measures. Exposure can be reduced by taking shelter and by simple decontamination measures. Test data indicates that the radiation level, i.e., the rate of exposure, indoors on the first floor of an ordinary frame house in a fallout area would be about one-half the level out of doors. Even greater protection would be afforded by a brick or stone house. Taking shelter in the basement of an average residence would reduce the radiation level to about one tenth that experienced out of doors. Shelter in an old-fashioned cyclone cellar, with a covering of earth three feet thick, would reduce the radiation level to about l/5000, or down to a level completely safe, in even the most heavily contaminated area.”
Page 14 states:
“Inside Bikini Atoll at a point 10 miles downwind from the explosion it is estimated that the radiation dosage was about 5000 roentgens for the first 36 hour period after the fallout. The highest radiation measurement outside of Bikini Atoll indicated a dosage of 2300 roentgens for the same period. This was in the northwestern part of the Rongelap Atoll, about 100 miles from the point of detonation. Additional measurements in Rongelap Atoll indicated dosages, for the first 36 hour period, of 2000 roentgens at 110 miles, 1000 roentgens at 125 miles, and, farther south, only 150 roentgens at 115 miles from Bikini.”
Pages 16-19 state:
“If persons in a heavy fallout area heeded warning or notification of an attack and evacuated the area or availed themselves of adequate protective measures, the percentage of fatalities would be greatly reduced even in the zone of heaviest fallout. ... Several basic facts should be kept in mind in evaluating the hazard from fallout radiation. First, radiation is not a new phenomenon created by the explosions of fission and thermonuclear weapons. Since the beginning of life, living things have been exposed constantly to radiation from natural sources. Cosmic rays from space constantly pass through our bodies. We are exposed to “background” radiation from radium and radon in the soil, water and air. Our bodies have always contained naturally radioactive potassium and carbon. ...
“Fallout material deposited directly on edible parts of plants may be eaten along with the plants, but washing the plants before they are eaten would remove most of this radioactive material. However, rainfall carrying the radiostrontium down to earth may deposit it in the soil where it can be taken up, in part, by plants and incorporated into plant tissues, later to be eaten by humans or by grazing animals which, in turn, provide food for humans. ... The amount of radiostrontium now present in the soil as a result of all nuclear explosions to date would hare to be increased many thousand times before any effect on humans would be noticeable. ... Among the shorter-lived fission products involved in the study of internal radiation, the most biologically important is radioiodine-131 with an average life of only 11.5 days [11.5 days average life = 8 days half-live/loge2]. Even though this product may be widely spread after a nuclear explosion, the possibility of serious hazard is limited by its relatively short life. Like the non-radioactive form of the element, it concentrates in the thyroid gland and, in excessive quantity, conceivably could damage the thyroid cells.
“Scientists of the Atomic Energy Commission have estimated that the average exposure of people in the United Stirtes from radio-iodine in the fallout from the entire series of tests in the spring of 1954 was only a few percent of the annual dose that can be received year after year and still have no noticeable effects. These two isotopes-radiostrontium and radioiodine-constitute the principal internal hazards from the radioactivities produced by the detonations of atomic weapons, both fission and thermonuclear. ... until the possibility of an atomic attack is eliminated by a workable international plan for general disarmament, the study and evaluation of weapons effects and civil defense protection measures must be a necessary duty of our government. Inevitably, a certain element of risk is involved in the testing of nuclear weapons, just as there is some risk in manufacturing conventional explosives or in transporting inflammable substances, such as oil or gasoline, on our streets and highways. The degree of risk must be balanced against the great importance of the test programs to the security of the nation and of the free world. However, the degree of hazard can be evaluated with considerable accuracy and test conditions can be controlled to hold it to a minimum. None of the extensive data collected from all tests shows that residual radioactivity is being concentrated in dangerous amounts anywhere in the world outside the testing areas.
“In the event of war involving the use of atomic weapons, the fallout from large nuclear bombs exploded on or near the surface would create serious hazards to civilian populations in large areas outside the target zones. However, as mentioned in the foregoing Report, there are many simple and highly effective precautionary measures which must be taken by individuals to reduce casualties to a minimum outside the immediate area of complete or near-complete destruction by blast and heat.”
Above: the external gamma radiation long ago decayed to within the range of natural background at Bikini Atoll, the plutonium was never an inhalation problem because the local fallout particles were too large to be inhaled and retained in the lungs, and it was never an ingestion problem because plutonium is rejected by the food chain and the human gut. Strontium-90 was never a problem because the coral sand based soil is saturated with calcium, which crowds out strontium. (This does not apply to many European and American soils which are low in calcium, however. It only applies to predominantly calcium carbonate soils, such as occur on coral atolls and limestone rock areas.) The only radiation problems were the initial external gamma from fallout during the first couple of years (most intense immediately after the burst), ingested iodine-131 with an 8 days half life (and other shorter lived iodine isotopes) from fallout landing in uncovered rain collecting drinking water cisterns (which in future can be averted by various countermeasures ranging from taking KI tablets to crowd out I-131 uptake, to avoiding the consumption of uncovered contaminated drinking water in heavy fallout areas), and then the uptake of cesium-137 by foods, due to the shortage of chemically similar potassium in the soil. This was solved by adding 1000 kg per hectare of potassium (in the form of potassium chloride) to the soil, which crowded out cesium-137 uptake in coconuts by over 90 percent:
Large-scale remediation studies on Bikini Island (Bikini Atoll) have been used to develop techniques to help reduce the radiation dose delivered to resettled and resettling populations in the Marshall Islands. On Bikini, a single application of 1000 kg per hectare of potassium is effective in reducing the uptake of cesium in coconuts by factors of 10 fold or more over pretreatment levels. Moreover, the potassium treatment appears to retain its effectiveness over many years and helps increase the productivity of the plants. The HEJ experiment (shown above in the photo above) was initiated in the 1990s and is being used to study the relative effectiveness of using multiple applications of the potassium on reducing soil-to-plant transfer.
Link to E. L. Stone and W. L. Robison, Effect of Potassium on Uptake of 137Cs in Food Crops Grown on Coral Soils: Annual Crops at Bikini Atoll, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, UCRL-LR-147596, 2002.
Above: lunch of tree climbing coconut crab (which lives on land), concentrates the most cesium-137 at Bikini Atoll, but by reducing the cesium-137 in the coconuts by adding potassium chloride to the soil so that the potassium crowds out cesium-137 uptake, they the levels of cesium-137 in the crabs will be trivial compared to natural background radiation.
Above: internal contamination of cesium-137 in the people of Rongelap, 1958-2008. An internal contamination of 3 kBq of cesium-137 delivers 15 millirem/year or 0.15 mSv/year an adult male, while the same annual dose to an adult female, teenager, adolescent and child requires internal deposits 2.5, 2.4, 1.5 and 1 kBq, respectively (after Daniels, et al., 2007). From Marshall Islands Monitor, December 2009, Volume 1, Number 4. (Source: J. I. Daniels, et al., Estimation of Radiation Doses in the Marshall Islands Based on Whole Body Counting of Cesium-137 (137Cs) and Plutonium Urinalysis,Technical Basis Document, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, UCRL-TR-231680, 2007.)
Above: the Rongelap people were exposed to fallout while living outdoors and sleeping in thatched palm houses which offered little protection against gamma radiation, but the fallout decayed rapidly. Evacuated on 3 March 1954, two days after consuming fallout from an open cistern of drinking water and contaminated foods, as well as external beta and gamma radiation from fallout particles arriving 4-8 hours after the Bravo test, on 29 June 1957 the Rongelap were returned to their home island, where external radiation had decayed to relative insignificance but there were problems with ingesting contamination. Because of preoccupation in the 1950s with strontium-90 uptake by bones, cesium-137 was glossed over. On 24 May 1954, Dr Gordon Dunning of AEC reported to his chief, Dr John C. Bugher, that the highest strontium 90 value at Rongelap Atoll was on Naen Island in the north west, the nearest part of Rongelap Atoll to ground zero (0.5 microcuries per square foot), but on Rongelap island near the inhabited southern tip of Rongelap Atoll, the strontium-90 was only 0.016 microcuries per square foot. Dunning correctly argued that the very high calcium content of the coral soil would minimise the strontium 90 uptake by plants and food chains, so it would not be a problem. It wasn't. Cesium-137 was more of a problem because of its uptake in various crops:
Above: rapid decay observed in the beta radioactive contamination on Rongelap Island at the South of Rongelap Atoll, at times of 25-600 days (26 March 1954 to 23 October 1955) after the Castle-Bravo nuclear test, from Dr Gordon M. Dunning’s report, Radioactive Contamination of Certain Areas in the Pacific Ocean from Nuclear Tests, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, August 1957. The contamination in edible arrowroot, breadfruit, pandanus and papaya was similar (within measurement errors). The edible portions of coconuts (milk and solids) from the coconut trees at first contained much less contamination than the smaller plants, but by two years after detonation this difference has disappeared. Table 6 in the report shows that on 17 April 1954, just over two years after detonation, pandanus and coconut milk from Rongelap Island both contained a total beta activity around 700 Bq/kg, of which about 40% was Cs-137, and about 0.5% was found to be Sr-90. The minor uptake of Sr-90 was due to the large amount of calcium in the coral soil (calcium carbonate), which helped to “crowd out” strontium. Table 15 in the report shows that one year after detonation, the total beta radioactivity in soil on Rongelap Island was 110 Bq/gram in the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil, 35 Bq/gram in the next inch depth, and 9.5 Bq/gram in the third inch of depth.
Above: Dr Dunning's data for the distribution of fallout with depth in the soil of Rongelap island 1 year after the Bravo test can be directly compared to this more recent data from precisely the same island in Rongelap Atoll, measured in 1999 and 2000. Source: Dr Terry F. Hamilton, et al., In-situ Gamma Spectrometric Measurements around the Service and Village Area on Rongelap Island, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, UCRL-ID-143680P1, 2001. Notice that (due to self-shielding of gamma radiation by the soil, particularly gamma rays travelling at slant angles through great thicknesses) 50% of the gamma dose rate 1 metre height above-ground from cesium-137 in the soil at Rongelap island (before decontamination) came from the radioactivity located in the top 6 cm of soil, and only 20% came from cesium-137 located at depths greater than 15 cm. Notice also that the cesium-137 in the top 15 cm of soil in 1999 was roughly constant at about 0.1 Bq/gram, but then diminished with increasing depth (to 0.01 at about 32 cm deep).
Above: the 10.4 megaton Mike test didn't destroy the atoll or its lagoon: Eniwetok lagoon (off Runit Island), July 2005.
Above: diagrams explaining why large brick or concrete modern buildings can be used easily to give an "inner refuge" adequate fallout protection, unlike small thatched palm huts, from the 1956 edition of the U.K. Home Office Manual of Civil Defence, Vol. 1, Pamphlet 1, Nuclear Weapons. In larger buildings you can both be a larger distance from the mass of the fallout (which is mainly on the roof and outside, since it's not nearby fallout under your feet that contributes most of the gamma dose, but the fallout deposited in large contaminated area around you), and the walls, floors, and items inside the building shield the radiation. In dirty uranium-238 cased thermonuclear weapons includes much "soft" or easily-shielded soft gamma rays from neptunium-239 and uranium-237 in the period of days to weeks after detonation, making the average gamma ray energy of fractionated close-in fallout fall as low as 0.2 or 0.3 MeV, compared to 1.25 MeV gamma rays from cobalt-60, which is assumed in theoretical predictions of protective factors.
Indefatigability: Better Propaganda, Better Groupthink, and Better Military Techniques than Hitler. Gaddafi is winning the Libyan Civil War 2011.
Above: the old error Kennedy made with the Bay of Pigs invasion and getting American into the Vietnam War, as analyzed by Professor Janis in Victims of Groupthink, was to rely on the consensus of expert military opinion, which in turn is too-often based on wishful thinking, when predicting the psychological implications from using weapons. Kennedy's team in 1961 wrongly believed that 1,400 Cuban exiles would trigger a popular uprising against Castro, but it was a failure and instead triggered increased internal and external support for the regime, directly leading to the Cuban missiles crisis of 1962. Gaddafi is now having the time of his life "fighting for freedom" against the evil imperialists who seek Libyan oil by overthrowing him. What we should be doing - but won't for "political reasons" - is to bomb his communications centre south of Tripoli using a preferably non-nuclear EMP bomb:
Muammar Gaddafi has been the de-facto ruler of all Libya since the overthrow of King Idris I in 1969. WikiLeaks' disclosure of confidential US diplomatic cables has revealed US diplomats there speaking of Gaddafi's "mastery of tactical maneuvering". While placing relatives and loyal members of his tribe in central military and government positions, he has skilfully marginalized supporters and rivals, thus maintaining a delicate balance of powers, stability and economic developments. This extends even to his own children, as he changes affections to avoid the rise of a clear successor and rival.
Petroleum revenues contribute up to 58% of Libya's GDP. Governments with resource curse revenue have a lower need for taxes from other industries and consequently feel less pressure to develop their middle class. To calm down opposition, they can use the income from natural resources to offer services to the population, or to specific government supporters. Libya's oil wealth being spread over a relatively small population has allowed for a relatively high living standard compared to neighbouring states. Despite one of the highest unemployment rates in the region at 21% (latest census), there was a consistent labour shortage with over a million migrant workers present on the market. These migrant workers formed the bulk of the refugees leaving Libya after the beginning of hostilities. - Wikipedia
Why not use a non-nuclear EMP bomb over Gadaffi's TV and radio transmitters and military HQs to stop Gadaffi's propaganda as well as his military command, control and communications? Maybe by doing that, some of the outside world facts on Gadaffi's crimes will manage to evade Gaddafi's jamming efforts. Well, there are lots of reasons. First, any effective military measure is going to be politically incorrect by definition. The left want us to disarm completely and resolve all disputes peacefully without any threat of annihilation for anybody, which means "white flag diplomacy", namely appeasing and surrendering to terrorist groups and regimes in all cases. The military don't want to use anything too heavy handed, or they will go down in history as winning without a struggle. It's in the interests of everybody in politics, the military, and the media to do all they can to make the Libyan Civil War drag on as long as possible, although all will deny that this is the case and will deceive themselves into thinking that they want the exact opposite, and merely by accident are opposed to all courses of action that could immediately remove Gadaffi's command, control, and communications.
In Vietnam, high yield clean (5% fission) air bursts could have been used to create an effective demilitarized zone through the jungle between north and south. In Libya, EMP weapons driven by conventional explosives could be used to knock out Gadaffi's propaganda, jamming, and military C3I infrastructure, without any collateral damage or casualties. Always, nobody advocates victory. The only actions discussed in the media are the air strikes/no fly zone, and the possibility of a ground invasion with troops. Why? Why not use technology effectively to tackle the root cause of the whole problem? Why not let all the people in Libya know all the facts, by stopping the jamming transmitters and propaganda machine of Gaddafi using EMP?
Three cheers for the tireless efforts of Colonel Gaddafi against the American-funded Al Queda insurgents trying to steal the oil from the devout Libyan people! In a previous post on Libya, we showed how Gadaffi was drumming up support by jamming free unbiased TV transmissions around Tripoli using the government communications building south of Tripoli, while broadcasting state TV propaganda accusing all his opposition to be drugged Al Qaida terrorists. This is why he dominates Tripoli with propaganda and gets back so much support there: by jamming Arabic language Russian Today (Rusiya Al-Yaum) TV transmissions relayed by the Nilesat (AB4) satellite, Al Jazeera TV on the Arabsat satellite, and jamming Alhurra TV on the Nilesat satellite. To help free democracy in Libya, the first thing is to get unbiased Arabic language TV news (not BBC propaganda) into Tripoli, stopping Gadaffi's propaganda lies by jamming them!