U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey Report 92, The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan: thermal radiation did not cause the firestorm
Above: director of the U.S. Pacific Theatre Strategic Bombing Survey, Paul Nitze, personally surveyed the damage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after their nuclear attacks in 1945, and testified to Congressional Hearings, Civil Preparedness and Limited Nuclear War, on 28 April 1976 that this experience is still relevant because most nuclear weapons even then no longer have megaton yields because of the move to smaller warheads with missiles that carry several low-yield weapons, rather than a single high-yield weapon. He explained that "equivalent megatonnage" (i.e., warhead energy raised to the 2/3 power, W2/3, to allow for the correct area damage yield-scaling) shows that most warheads are similar to Hiroshima-Nagasaki sized today, not to the 15 megaton Bravo bomb that caused heavy fallout in 1954. He also explained that most of the people who did take cover in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki were survivors. As Glasstone and Dolan pointed out in Table 12.17 of The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, the 50% survival radius in modern concrete buildings in Hiroshima was 0.12 mile, compared to 1.3 mile for people outdoors and unshielded. So, since area scales as the square of radius, in the buildings now typical in modern city centres, the survival chance is 120 times better than for people without shielding in Hiroshima (1.32/0.122).
The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan (the secret 1947 U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey report 92, and related nuclear testing civil defense data):
This report contains the evidence that the thermal flash did not cause the firestorm in Hiroshima (which was due to fire spread from overturned breakfast braziers in overcrowded city center wooden houses, a peacetime fire hazard which no longer exists in modern concrete and steel cities), proving just how seriously the effects of nuclear weapons were exaggerated. The danger is that false "education" propaganda based on a lack of proper understanding leads to unpreparedness for nuclear terrorism, causing a real threat.
Exaggerations also cause a threat in another way, because unstable regimes are attracted to these weapons since their effects have been exaggerated, to try to use the threats to coerce the free democracies. (It wasn't the pseudoscientifically exaggerated gas bomb air raids of the 1930s that were 100% effective and murdered 6 million defenseless human beings, it was the gas chambers of eugenics pseudoscience ideologues that murdered 6 million defenseless human beings.)
|USSBS report 92 vol 2: water buckets put out Hiroshima fires|
Exaggerations of weapons, like the gas extermination myth before WWII (which was used to "justify" first disarmament and later the tragic appeasement policies), actually feed the emotional delusions that cause wars. Lies cannot be relied upon to deter wars and terrorist extortion, on the contrary, they backfire and encourage it! What happened in the 1930s was an appeasement policy based on gas "knockout blow" aerial attack delusions which were due to popular media-promoted and "pacifist" (warmonger) promoted lies about war effects. The people who did this were rewarded with knighthoods and popular acclaim, while Churchill who wanted to avoid war by deterring aggressors with an arms race, were falsely dismissed as "warmongers" by the lying pseudo-pacifists. As Kahn points out, even if weapons are capable of severe effects in the case of a surprise attack on people standing in the open without taking any cover, this does not mean that they will be used that way in practice. Fear of escalation, even once WWII had begun, deterred escalation to gas bombs on cities. A major part of that was due to civil defense, which made such attacks less likely to pay off. But if you exaggerate the weapons effects by falsely pretending there is no defense, you end up being coerced by enemies until you have your back to a wall and can't run away from the reality. Then you have to finally face the problems in the pressure of a crisis situation, and the problem may then be so large that you have a major war, very costly in lives and resources:
"A lack of knowledge of modern war and of our defense gives rise to unrealistic ideas which may take on fantastic proportions and cause reactions of terror and anxiety. ... Ignorance may be combatted by obtaining in peacetime information about modern means of making war and about our defense. ... The more knowledge we have about something, the less we need to grope in supposition and misunderstanding ... We should try to obtain a conception about the ways modern weapons operate - their possibilities, but also their limitations. ... We don't hesitate to read about the diseases of the human body in order to obtain knowledge and find cures. ... It does not pay to stick our heads in the sand and say that somebody else will have to take care of that. Our generation, which has survived two world wars and is now trying to survive the current cold war, is clearly destined to have war or the threat of war always with us. ... It is urgent that we do not jell into stereotypical thinking and that we try to arrive at our own opinions. There is a dangerous tendency to simplify the problems ..."
- Dr Walo von Greyerz, Psychology of Survival: Human reactions to the catastrophes of war, Elsevier, New York, 1962, pp 73-74 and 89-90.
Thanks to Graham Gough for discussion of this Hiroshima firestorm evidence.
The original problem of Hiroshima, both the firestorm evidence secrecy (USSBS report 92, v2, classified "secret") and the secrecy on survival rates in different kinds of city buildings in Hiroshima (report NP-3041, Medical Effects of Atomic Bombs, classified "Restricted: This document contains information affecting the national defense of the United States within the meaning of the Espionage Act, 50 U.S.C. 31 and 32, as amended. Its transmission or the revelation of its contents in any manner to an unauthorized person is prohibited by law") was that nuclear weapons were being used to substitute for the military during the demobilization after WWII. Anything that reduced nuclear deterrence - like the truth about the Hiroshima firestorm and survival prospects - was therefore secret or kept to limited distribution documents. Exaggerations of nuclear effects were encouraged for deterrence while the Americans retained a nuclear superiority, which started to be questioned seriously in the 1970s when the Russians were continuing to produce ever more missiles while the American stockpile was not being increased. This remained controversial because the Russian missiles were less accurate than the American missiles, but by 1980 even the Carter administration (which had suspended deployment of the neutron bomb to deter Warsaw Pact tanks) moved further towards limited nuclear war planning with the 1980 Presidential Directive PD-59 for nuclear weapons employment, which caused controversy at the time has been recently declassified:
Only after the Russians from 1949 onwards had obtained some nuclear testing data of their own, did America begin to declassify and publish some data, e.g. in the August 1950 Glasstone book The Effects of Atomic Weapons. But even then, the Hiroshima firestorm mechanism evidence was omitted, and a totally misleading "casualty curve" from the Manhattan District report was given, with no discrimination for the vast differences in survival for people outdoors or inside modern concrete or obsolete wooden city centre structures. Due to the USSBS Hiroshima report secrecy, the firestorm radius in Hiroshima was falsely correlated with thermal flash radiation (it was really correlated to blast overpressure overturning obsolete charcoal breakfast braziers in overcrowded wooden homes, full of paper screens and bamboo furnishings), leading to severe nuclear firestorm exaggerations by Theodore Polstol and even the RAND Corporation's Harold Brode, which came to a peak with Schell's book, The fate of the earth:
“Probably as much as any other single book, Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth raised the antinuclear consciousness to the point where anything short of the elimination of nuclear weapons (and all conventional force) becomes morally and politically unacceptable. … The emotional impact of the book is apparently so powerful that very few readers (and very few reviewers) ever notice the book’s substantive inadequacies and inaccuracies – e.g. the author’s highly selective and tendentious use of evidence, or the distortions that necessary follow from exaggerated assumptions about the dangers and risks of a nuclear war. … Schell’s utopian solution envisions some kind of world government where sovereign nations cede their political authority and military power to an unclearly defined global order. How we get to there from here is one of the many ‘awesome, urgent tasks’ – ‘the political work of our age’ – that Schell says he has ‘left to others.’”
– Herman Kahn, Thinking about the unthinkable in the 1980s, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1984.
“… we may some day come face to face with a blunt choice between surrender or war. We may even have a war thrust upon us without being given any kind of choice. We must appreciate these possibilities. We cannot wish them away. Nor should we overestimate and assume the worst is inevitable. This leads only to defeatism, inadequate preparations (because they seem useless), and pressures toward either preventive war or undue accommodation.”
– Herman Kahn, Thinking about the unthinkable, Horizon Press, 1962, p21.
“I am reminded of a remark by Leo Szilard on the differences between politicians and scientists. He made the point that politicians always ask, ‘Why did he say it?’ whereas scientists ask, ‘Is it true?’ Of course a man’s motives are important. But in a discussion of national security they are probably less important than, ‘Is he right?’”
– Herman Kahn, Thinking about the unthinkable, Horizon Press, 1962, p37.
“I’m against ignorance. I’m against sloppy, emotional thinking. I’m against fashionable thinking. I am against the whole cliché of the moment.”
– Herman Kahn, The Essential Herman Kahn: In Defense of Thinking, Lexington Books, 2009, p271.
THE “INEVITABLE FAILURE” OF DETERRENCE
During the Cold War, it was often pointed out that deterrence is imperfect so whatever the annual risk of war, 1%, 3% or 10%, a war was inevitable. However, the failure of deterrence does not imply total failure or uncontrolled warfare. The second-strike nuclear capability of hardened missile silos and submarines hidden at sea is designed to deal with this risk by controlling and deterring escalation, just as Hitler’s 12,000 tons of tabun nerve gas and Britain’s anthrax stockpile in World War II were never actually dropped. You can still deter the enemy from pressing every button after a war has started. In other words, just because deterrence fails, that does not imply that deterrence fails totally.
The superpower deterrence system was stabilized by protected (hardened in silos or hidden at sea) second-strike nuclear capabilities, which take away the incentive and the advantage of a surprise first-strike. This
(1) deterred attempts to launch a “knockout blow” by a surprise first strike, and
(2) provided a mechanism to deter and control escalation in the event of a war started by accident, error, or miscalculation.
A war that amounts to a “failure of deterrence” would not be a complete failure of deterrence:
“… to the extent that we try to use the threat of a general war to deter the minor provocations … the threat is too dangerous to be lived with. … Therefore, in the long run the West will need ‘safe-looking’ limited war forces to handle minor and moderate provocations.”
– Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, Princeton University Press, 1960, p155 (italics by Kahn).
WORLD GOVERNMENT PLANS HAVE CAUSED (RATHER THAN ENDED) WARS
It is misleading to claim that all the problems of nuclear weapons can be negated by some kind of "simple" political idea like World Government, although that was claimed by the Moscow-based World Peace Council for propaganda purposes during the Cold War, the idea being to spread communism using nuclear fear. Many people would prefer to believe in a convenient and pleasant myth, than face up to an unpleasant reality. This political view allows a widespread head-in-the-sand avoidance of civil defense, so it is harmful to the state of civil preparedness against possible nuclear terrorism, so it is not entirely inappropriate to comment here on some of the problems which have arisen with "World Governments". The Roman Empire was an early world government. World government does not prevent war in reality, but only in semantic myth, because all wars in a system of world government are ironically called “civil wars”. Rebellions occur for many reasons. The break up of the Roman Empire, the British Empire, the USSR and the debt crisis and riots in the European Union demonstrate the mechanisms for creating conflict, not resolving it, by imposing “democratic” world government. With nation states, people within a region are able to vote people to control that region. This minimises interference by people outside that region. With any kind of world government, by definition you increase interference in your lives and other’s lives by some central authority that has control over the entire world, basically a dictatorship of the majority over regional minorities. Instead of regional conflicts, rebels must now conspire to overthrow the world government, so you end up with bigger civil wars, like world wars, renamed “civil war within world government”. Both the USSR and Nazis tried to achieve a “world government”, causing (rather than preventing) conflicts.
To overcome civil war you might be tempted to make “exceptions to the rule” to grant autonomy to those minority groups who use violent terrorism to make their voices heard, but exception making simply encourages violence by all others who also oppose majority oppression of minorities. (Just as appeasing kidnappers with payoffs simply encourages more kidnapping, rather than creating a utopia.) So the system’s integrity disintegrates, and you end up with a central government that heavily taxes in order to do nothing constructive except to fund statistics-fiddling propaganda which is “all bark and no bite.” This system is along the lines of the 1930s (non)League of Nations or modern (un)United Nations today, where endless vetoes, groupthink dogma, ignorance of the facts, propaganda by activists and other delay tactics prevent early action where it is needed, permitting tragedy. If you make no exceptions, regional minorities perceive the system to be an intolerant imperialistic dictatorship, thus rebellions and “civil wars”. These wars are anything but civil, and are coercive attacks on the government system. Ideologues promising peace and morality through world government, do not employ convincing objective evidence. Instead they ignore the evidence which contradicts them and employ emotional appeals and subjectivity, ignoring history.
RADIATION HYSTERIA AFTER 447 MEGATONS OF ATMOSPHERIC NUCLEAR TESTS FROM 1945-62, DISTRIBUTING 5 TONS OF PLUTONIUM IN THE ATMOSPHERE
Edward Teller points out on page 177 of his 1962 book The Legacy of Hiroshima (Macmillan and Co., London edition) that the fallout from the 1945-62 atmospheric nuclear weapons testing was identical to that from large nuclear attack, yet the fallout doses were very well below the observed 1,000 rad (or 10 Gy or about 1,000 roentgens) threshold for bone cancer at low dose rates in the radium dial painters:
"The bones of humans throughout the world today are getting an average of about 0.002 roentgens a year from Strontium-90 in the fallout. The rest of the body is being exposed to about the same amount of radioactivity, mostly from the fallout's Cesium-137. ... People living at sea level in the United States are exposed to 0.034 roentgens of radiation from cosmic rays each year. This is 17 times the amount obtained from Strontium-90 in the world-wide fallout. Exposure to cosmic rays in Denver, about 5,000 feet above sea level, is 0.05 roentgens a year. If such small doses of radiation really were dangerous, we had better evacuate Denver."
Teller's point here is simply that this demonstrates plain dishonesty. If you are worried about radiation, the biggest source of radiation is natural background radiation, which varies widely. Why not campaign to ban air travel to reduce exposure to cosmic radiation which increases rapidly with altitude. At sea level we have atmospheric shielding which is equivalent to a radiation shield of a 10 metres thickness of water, i.e. 10 tons of atmospheric shielding per square metre. But you have much less atmospheric shielding in an aircraft at high altitude, or even in a city at high altitude like Denver, which is a mile above sea level. So if radiation is bugging you, your first concern is to campaign about the biggest hazard and to ban unnecessary exposures to natural radiation, not the trivial fallout from nuclear tests! Teller proves thus that the radiation-informed anti-fallout people weren't bothered about nuclear radiation at all; they were using it as a propaganda tool to get appeasement of the USSR. This fact is very useful, because it allows us to tell who the liars really are.
Note that 3% of the 67,500 nuclear bombs ever made were actually exploded in nuclear tests (a total of 2,065 actual nuclear test explosions). That's pretty substantial because detonating all the nuclear bombs every made would be 33 times as many as the tests. Yet the nuclear testing fallout is dwarfed by natural background radiation. After Rongelap Island was repopulated in June 1957, three years after its evacuation due to heavy fallout 110 miles downwind from the 15 megaton Bravo test in March 1954, the total lifetime fallout dose commitment from June 1957 onwards was just 17 mSv from external gamma rays, plus an internal exposure of 22 mSv from Cesium-137 internally (mainly from coconuts, arrowroots and coconut crabs), 1.9 mSv from Zinc-65 in fish, 0.53 mSv from Strontium-90, 0.48 mSv from Iron-55, and 0.34 mSv from cobalt-60. (Edward Lessard, et al., 1984.) The point is, cesium-137 was far and away the most important long-lived nuclide for long-term fallout exposure. It was proved that simply adding 2 tons/hectare of potassium (in potassium chloride) to the soil around the coconut trees on Bikini Atoll reduced the cesium-137 uptake by a factor of 10-20. (Only 300 kg of potassium per acre helpfully reduced Cs-137 in other crop plants too. Potassium is chemically similar to cesium, so even a small addition of potassium dilutes the small mass of cesium-137 in highly contaminated soil, thereby reducing uptake substantially. This is precisely the same principle as used in blocking the iodine-131 uptake in thyroid glands by taking KI tablets.) In addition, it has been found at Bikini, Eniwetok and Rongelap Atoll that the effective half-life of biologically-available Cesium-137 is only 9 years (not the 30 year radioactive half life) because it gets washed out of the soil by rain and diluted to insignificance in the sea (where naturally radioactive potassium-40 dwarfs all the cesium-137 ever produced by nuclear weapons tests). You don't have to bother about the plutonium, which is insoluble and is rejected by plants.
None of the anti-radiation campaigners argued that we should protect against the bigger and more easily preventable risks of "natural" cosmic rays before dealing with global fallout, despite the fact that cosmic rays are high-LET radiations which cause more biological damage than bomb fallout (plutonium occurs in insoluble compounds, which is discriminated against by plants and animals, and is coughed up, swallowed and rapidly eliminated when inhaled or ingested).
The plutonium alpha radiation hazard myth is one of the worst deceptions of nuclear weapons and anti-nuclear media propaganda. The 5.5 MeV alpha particles from fallout have range of only 4.1 cm in air and only 35 microns (or 0.035 mm) in human tissue or water. Since plutonium had a relatively high boiling point compared to gaseous fission products, it doesn't coat the outer surfaces of fallout particles, but ends up trapped inside in the solidified silicate glass, which seals in the plutonium in an insoluble form and also shields the alpha radiation! Plutonium-239 isn't even the major source of alpha radiation in fallout, since alpha emitters with shorter half lives have a higher specific activity. As Dr Edward T. Bramlitt - the health physicist who ensured safety during the decontamination of Eniwetok Atoll - pointed out, 80% of the alpha particles from the 1952 Mike nuclear test is now from Am-241, not plutonium-239. Am-241 is the familiar ionization sources used in household smoke detectors, so nobody campaigns against the widespread use of Am-241! In fallout Am-241 forms from the decay of Pu-241, which is a beta emitter which has a half life of 13 years.
Pu-241 is present in "bomb-grade" plutonium as a minor impurity, but it is present to a larger extent in normal reactor waste plutonium and in hydrogen bomb fallout; in both cases this due to repeated neutron capture in uranium-238 and subsequent beta decays. In addition, of the remaining alpha activity in Mike and Bravo test fallout, over 50% is due to Pu-240, not Pu-239. This is due to the higher specific activity from the shorter half life of Pu-240. The longer the half life, the fewer atoms decay each second, so the lower the radio activity emission rate per atom! This fact is never mentioned by anti-nuclear propaganda, which claims falsely that long half lives are bad! Actually, if the naturally radioactive carbon-14 and potassium-40 in our bodies had short half lives of a few seconds, instead of very long half lives, the radiation would be lethal. Very long half lives ensure that the radiation emitted per atom per second is extremely low. (Reference: Bramlitt's discussion of alpha radiation from fallout, published in the book: Jack C. Green and Daniel J. Strom, editors, Would the insects inherit the earth, and other subjects of concern to those who worry about nuclear war, Pergamon, London, 1988.)
Teller backs this up by discussing the abusive reception of his proposal to reduce heavy fallout by replacing uranium-238 pusher's in nuclear weapons with non-fissionable X-ray ablation materials like lead or tungsten. Teller supported the development and testing successfully in 1956 of the Redwing-Navajo 4.5 megaton land surface burst of only 5% fission and 95% fusion yield and also the 3.53 megaton 15% fission Redwing-Zuni test, which also produced much lower fallout doses than the dirty 87% fission Redwing-Tewa test (a survivable 150 rads maximum even without any shielding in the downwind area over 48 hours from Zuni, compared to a lethal 1000 rads outdoor dose from Tewa), as seen in the declassified nuclear Weapon Test report WT-1316:
Teller explained the fact that nobody in the "peace" and "anti-fallout" movement campaigned for these cleaner weapons, but instead opposed them, demonstrated that the real issue for those radiation campaigners was nothing to do with nuclear radiation fears. Instead, they were campaigning against nuclear deterrence in general, wanting to return the world to the more "conventional" weapons which led to two world wars.
Teller wrote on page 70 of The Legacy of Hiroshima about the tragic accident leading to the cancellation of Dr Mark M. Mills's Hardtack-Pinion 1958 clean nuclear test, a 4% fission, 96% fusion 9 megaton bomb designed to prove to United Nations observers (who would measure the fallout) that no dangerous fallout was created:
"Mills, in April of 1958, was working in the Pacific Proving Grounds. A new series of tests was approaching, and Mills was involved in some important preparations. On the evening of April 7, he found it necessary to move from one island to another in the Eniwetok chain, and he requested a helicopter. ... Dr Harry Keller, and an Air Force medical officer, Col. Ernest A. Pinson, flew with Mills in the helicopter's cabin. Flying low near the edge of the lagoon, the helicopter was caught in a squall. It crashed into 8 feet of water. ... The passengers were trapped ... Colonel Pinson was able to float and breathe from the air bubble that formed ... he kicked out a cabin window ... he returned with the pilots to rescue his friends from the cabin. They found Harry Keller unconscious ... Mark Mills ... was found, still strapped in his seat, dead."
Mills had convinced President Eisenhower of the need for a clean bomb fallout demonstration on 24 June 1957, when he attended the White House with Ernest Lawrence, Edward Teller and Lewis Strauss. The same year, Mills had testified about fallout to the Congressional Hearings on The Nature of Radioactive Fallout and Its Effects on Man. Without his drive, the clean bomb demonstration program was soon shelved, ostensibly due to (1) "bad weather" at Eniwetok for fallout (it was always bad weather at Eniwetok for fallout, since the prevailing winds blew towards the east, while the safe fallout area was to the north), and (2) the nuclear test cessation time limitation (atmospheric testing was halted from 1959-61). It's tragic that relatively clean nuclear weapons technology has been discarded as an arms control measure, to limit fallout and the possibility of rain-out (in thunderstorm weather) in case of the use of surface burst nuclear weapons against hardened targets that require appreciable total yields.
Explaining the facts about the effects of nuclear weapons against a tide of propaganda
Above: Samuel Glasstone (left), 3 May 1897 – 16 Nov 1986, and Philip J. Dolan (right), 5 October 1923 – 5 January 1992, the Editors of the 1977 edition of The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, both had Secret - Restricted Data security clearance and thefefore were limited in what they could include in the way of references to secret reports in that book. They debunked many of the myths of nuclear weapons, but without always being able to give the references to secret technical reports that provided the back-up data. However, Dolan's now-declassified 1972 Secret - Restricted Data Effects Manual EM-1, Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons, provides much more information, as does his two informative contributions to two major 1980s studies: Appendix A, Characteristics of the Nuclear Radiation Environment Produced by Several Types of Disasters, Summary Volume, in the 1981 U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements symposium, The Control of Exposure of the Public to Ionizing Radiation in the Event of Accident or Attack, and Dolan's discussion of nuclear terrorism risks on pages 17-21 of the 1988 book Would the insects inherit the earth, Pergamon, London.
The biography in the 1988 book states:
"Mr Dolan has more than 37 years of experience in research areas dealing with nuclear weapons and their effects, beginning with an assignment to the Manhattan District at Los Alamos in 1948. Subsequent Army assignments included those in the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C. (both of which were successor organizations to the Manhattan District and predecessors to the Defense Nuclear Agency); he was appointed as an instructor in Nuclear Weapons Employment at the Army Command and General Staff College, and as Nuclear Effects Project Officer for the Ballistic Missile Defense Office of the Advanced Research Projects Agency. After retiring from U.S. Army in 1967, Mr Dolan worked as a physicist at the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute for one year, and then managed the Nuclear Studies Program at Stanford Research Institute (later SRI).
"In 1981, he joined Lockheed Missiles and Space Company. Mr Dolan's experience includes fabrication of special nuclear components in the laboratory, as well as analytical studies. He had published over 70 technical papers and reports, including several on both nuclear weapons proliferation and assessments of the nuclear technologies of existing nuclear powers; publications include U.S. Army FM 101-31, Nuclear Weapons Employment (1963), DNA-EM-1, Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons (1972), and with S. Glasstone, The Effects of Nuclear Weapons (1977). Mr Dolan received his B.S. from the United States Military Academy, West Point (1945) and his M.S. in physics from the University of Virginia (1956)."
In that 1988 book, pages 17-21, Dolan responds to the question "Do you think it is inevitable that sooner or later some terrorist organization will fabricate a perhaps crude but nevertheless workable nuclear device, and either seriously threaten its use, or actually cause it to be detonated?" Dolan replies:
"I will give a qualified yes in answer to the question. I think that it probably is inevitable that a nuclear device will be used by terrorists at some time in the future, either as a serious threat or with an actual explosion. The qualification arises from the fact that I believe that there is some probability that the acquisition may come about by theft of a weapon rather than by fabrication. That is not to say that fabrication would be impossible. A great deal has been written about clandestine fabrication of nuclear weapons during the last decade. ... In addition to the popular press, various unclassified journals and other technical publications contain such details as the chemical and metallurgical properties of plutonium and uranium. No doubt, there is enough information available in the open literature to enable a group to build a nuclear warhead. ... We must agree that a dedicated group could put together a possibly very inefficient device that would produce somewhere between a few tens of tons and a few kilotons of yield, which would be adequate for their purpose. ...
"Natural uranium consists mainly of two isotopes, U-235 (about 0.7%) and U-238 (about 99.3%). The less abundant isotope is the readily fissionable species, and the uranium must be highly enriched in U-235 to be of practical use in a weapon. Two processes, gaseous diffusion and gas centrifuge, make use of the mass difference between the isotopes to selectively remove U-238. ... Plutonium is made by bombarding U-238 with neutrons to produce U-239 by neutron capture. Subsequently, two beta decays produce first Np-239, which has a short half-life, and then the long-lived Pu-239. Similarly, U-233 is made by neutron capture in the thorium-232 ... Pu-239 is the most widely available special nuclear material. In addition to being produced for weapon use, it is made as a by-product within the fuel of power reactors. ... Plutonium represents only about 0.5% of the spent fuel from a light-water power reactor. ... More than a ton of this spent fuel must be processed to obtain enough plutonium for one weapon. ... some of the plutonium atoms capture neutrons and become Pu-240. Subsequently, neutron captures can also produce Pu-241 and Pu-242. Plutonium that is made for weapons is removed from the reactor before large amounts of these heavier isotopes can be formed.
"Weapon plutonium typically contains 6-8% Pu-240 and only trace amounts of Pu-241 and Pu-242. When the reactor is run to optimize fuel usage for power production, the heavier isotopes, together with some Pu-238 that is also produced, account for 30-35% of the plutonium in the spent fuel. Pu-240 and Pu-241 fission spontaneously, producing a continuous neutron background. Pu-241 and daughter products are gamma emitters. ... If during the assembly process, a chain reaction is initiated at or just after a state of criticality has been attained, the special nuclear material will return to a subcritical state before it ever reaches a significant degree of supercriticality, and a full-scale nuclear explosion will not occur. ... Slow assembly times and high neutron backgrounds both increase the probability of the pre-initiation described above. ... A gun-assembly weapon made with reactor-grade plutonium ... would have little chance of success. ... they likely will be constrained to an implosion-type weapon. Such a weapon requires a high degree of sophistication in the design and fabrication of the electronics and the high explosives. ... Theft of a weapon would be a formidable undertaking, but so would be theft of weapons-grade special nuclear material. Theft of reactor-grade plutonium might be easier to accomplish, but that would entail the additional difficulties of handling, design, and construction discussed above.
"The United States' weapons systems are equipped with tamper-proof protective devices that are designed to prevent unauthorized use even by legitimate custodians. Successful employment of these systems by terrorists must be considered an extremely remote possibility. On the other hand, if a weapon were obtained from a country other than the United States, the possibility of successful use is probably not so remote."
On page 41 of the same book edited by Greene and Strom, Stanley Martin, who was director of Stanford Research Institute's Fire Research Department (Martin worked at the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory during nuclear tests in the 1950s), debunked nuclear firestorms and related firestorm-smoke nuclear winter delusions:
"First, firestorms are a very unlikely result of nuclear explosions, even of air bursts of megaton yield. ... Fatalities due to fire in Hiroshima were estimated at less than 3% of the population at risk, and the fire severity was estimated to be less than in the firestorm events in Germany by more than an order of magnitude. ... I hope we will not repeat the mistake, and choose to ignore the lesson history teaches."
The biography of Stanley Martin included in the book states:
"His career, which started in the early 1950s ... began with the measurements of thermal radiation from the fireballs of atmospheric nuclear explosions, and was followed by impressively diverse experimental and analytical efforts to understand and forecast the incendiary potential of nuclear weapons. Subsequently, at URS Research Company and then Stanford Research Institute, Mr Martin's activities branched into peace-time concerns for fire and explosion safety."
On pages 56-57, Walmer Strope's ("Jerry" Strope's) 1960s nuclear weapons research program for civil defense is discussed, which first worked out the details of firestorm casualty assessment. Strope came to fame at the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory for his monumental 1948 analysis of the fallout pattern from the 1946 Baker underwater test (a terrific undertaking, which combined an innovative analysis of diverse dose rate and accumulated dose measurements from film-badge dosimeters and geiger counters, with photographs from different angles of the radioactive plumes falling from the mushroom cloud). Strope, along with Dr Carl F. Miller, in 1957 occupied a simple earth-covered fallout shelter 1 mile from ground zero at the 17 kt Plumbbob-Diablo nuclear test, which survived the blast and fallout (previously, shelters had been left unoccupied at nuclear tests). Strope became Assistant Director for Research in the U.S. Department of Defense's Office for Civil Defense in 1961, when President Kennedy authorized the first massive research budget for civil defense against nuclear weapons firestorms and fallout (the origin of this research effort was actually Herman Kahn's recommendations in the major 1958 RAND Corporation report on Non-military Defense, which Kahn repeated in his June 1959 testimony to Congressional hearings on Biological and Environmental Effects of Nuclear War, attended by Senator John F. Kennedy).
Strope, as Assistant Director for Research, headed Post-Attack Research Division from 1962-73, and in 1973-74 he was the Deputy Assistant Director for Research of the DCPA (Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, forerunner to FEMA), editing the DCPA Attack Environment Manual which summarized some of the research data. Strope points out on page 56 of the 1988 Greene and Strom book:
"In 1956, a computerized damage assessment system was developed by FCDA (Federal Civil Defense Administration) that permitted analysis of a nationwide nuclear attack. The early studies demonstrated that relatively modest fallout protection factors could be effective in preventing fatalities from fallout radiation."
Strope's Table 1 on page 57 shows that from 1962-71 he spent $28,682,094 on shelter research, $20,217,292 on support system research (firestorms etc), $16,169,570 on post-attack research (fallout and other medical after effects of nuclear war) and $21,035,001 on systems evaluation (including strategic analysis, attack sociology and psychology), a total of $86,103,957. Most of this research ended up in secret, limited or simply unpublished research gathering dust in archives. It's time these facts were published.
“Ever since the first atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima, millions and millions of words have been … written … [claiming] that a war fought with these weapons will result in the sudden extinction of civilisation. The historian, of course, knows better. He knows that few civilisations and few nations have been wiped out by mechanical means. Civilisations and nations die, as a rule, from a disease of the soul, a paralysis of the spiritual force that gave them birth and sustained their growth.”
- Australian Army Journal, Editorial, October-November 1949.
“If a man reads or hears a criticism of anything in which he has an interest, watch whether his first question is as to its fairness and truth. If he reacts to any such criticism with strong emotion; if he bases his complaint on the ground that it is not in ‘good taste,’ or that it will have a bad effect - in short, if he shows concern with any question except ‘is it true?’ he thereby reveals that his own attitude is unscientific. Likewise if in his turn he judges an idea not on its merits but with reference to the author of it; if he criticizes it as ‘heresy’; if he argues that authority must be right because it is authority; if he takes a particular criticism as a general depreciation; if he confuses opinion with facts; if he claims that any expression of opinion is ‘unquestionable’; if he declares that something will ‘never’ come about, or it is ‘certain’ that any view is right. The path of truth is paved with critical doubt, and lighted by the spirit of objective enquiry... We learn from history that in every age and every clime the majority of people have resented what seems in retrospect to have been purely matter of fact … We learn too that nothing has aided the persistence of falsehood, and the evils resulting from it, more than the unwillingness of good people to admit the truth … Always the tendency continues to be shocked by natural comment, and to hold certain things too ‘sacred’ to think about. I can conceive no finer ideal of a man’s life than to face life with clear eyes instead of stumbling through it like a blind man, an imbecile, or a drunkard – which, in a thinking sense, is the common preference. How rarely does one meet anyone whose first reaction to anything is to ask: ‘is it true?’ Yet, unless that is a man’s natural reaction, it shows that truth is not uppermost in his mind, and unless it is, true progress is unlikely.”
- Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart, Why Don’t We Learn from History?, PEN Books, 1944; revised edition, Allen and Unwin, 1972.
Update: the Queen's secret 1983 nuclear war draft message in the National Archives (1 August 2013)
Above: the British UK National Archives is reducing the standard secrecy period from 30 years down to 20 years, and has today (1 August 2013) issued a large number of vitally important declassified secret cold war nuclear weapons and nuclear war planning documents. (To bring down the backlog from 30 years to 20 years, the UK Government is now temporarily declassifying and issuing two years worth of secret records per year, so in December 2013 they will release the secret documents from 1984, and in 2014 they will release documents from both 1985 and 1986.) For an example of a previous useful declassification, see the scientific nuclear effects report on the first British nuclear test, Operation Hurricane, a 25 kt detonation in a ship in Monte Bello, 1952 (which was kept far too secret for far too long and thus adversely affected the public credibility of civil defence in Britain, which was based on solid nuclear weapons effects, not the widely believed armchair guesswork claimed by people like Duncan Campbell and the CND).
See also the 1957 declassified colour film (linked here) on the effects of the four 1956 Operation Buffalo tests, The British Atomic Trials at Maralinga, 1956, including an air burst of similar yield to Hiroshima and a 1.4 kt surface burst similar to the major terrorist nuclear threat today, which proves the protection given by clothing against thermal radiation burns. Key extracts on thermal, blast and fallout protection in Hiroshima and at nuclear tests from the Restricted-classified 1957 British War Office handbook, Precautions against nuclear attack, WO 9466, are also linked here.
The recent UK National Archives declassified nuclear war reports from 1983 include the following free PDF downloads:
|Nato versus Warsaw Pact military imbalance: taken from the PDF at pages 268-269 of UK National Archives CAB 129/216|
Cab-129-216: Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1983 (29 April 1983 by the Secretary of State for Defense) which states (at PDF document pages 220-222 of 400 pages):
"NATO STRATEGY. ... In the early days of the [NATO] Alliance the West could rely on the existence of the vastly superior nuclear forces of the United States to deter Soviet [conventional tanks and weapons] aggression against Western Europe. But as the Soviet Union moved towards broad nuclear parity in the late 1960s, NATO adopted its present strategy of 'flexible response'. The aim of this strategy is to deter by making plain to a potential enemy that NATO has the ability and determination to resist aggression by an effective military response at an appropriate level. The flexible response strategy has had the full support of successive British Governments, and indeed of the Governments of all the members of NATO, whatever their political complexion, for over 15 years. ... The aim of the Alliance is to convince the Soviet Union that we have at our disposal a range of defensive options that would enable us both to respond to any attack at an appropriate level and any gains which Soviet aggression might be designed to achieve would be outweighed by the damage which would be inflicted on them.
"4. There are several misunderstandings about the nature of the flexible response strategy. Firstly it does not commit NATO to an attack in a pre-ordained way. If its fundamental purpose of preventing war failed, the Alliances's objective would be to stop the conflict at the lowest possible level. Although NATO's forces are outnumbered by those of the Warsaw Pact, they are well trained and equipped; it should not be assumed that they would easily succumb to a conventional attack, even on a massive scale. ...
"5. The existence of substantial numbers of nuclear weapons as part of NATO's deterrent forces does not therefore mean that, if deterrence failed, they would inevitably be used; nor does it mean that NATO strategy is based on an intention of fighting and winning a nuclear war. ... To abandon the strategy of flexible response would only serve as a signal to the Soviet Union that they could undertake a conventional war in Central Europe without putting their own homeland at risk. But even if NATO should reach the point of considering the use of nuclear weapons, its objective would still remain the same: to convince the Soviet leadership that they had miscalculated the Alliance's resolve to resist and that by continuing the conflict they would be running unacceptable risks. ...
"7. The possession of nuclear weapons for deterrence does not make their use, and therefore nuclear war, more probable. Rather, by deterring attack it makes any kind of war - but especially nuclear war - less likely."
EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapons report to Prime Minister Thatcher: PREM 19/972 (click here).
|UK National Archives document PREM 19/1103: confidential transcript of a 1 hour long meeting between the Prime Minister and USSR dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn in 10 Downing Street on 11 May 1983. Apart from civil defense, USSR dissidents were the major problem for the hard left communists in the Western media, scientific, and political social unions during the early 1980s. Solzhenitsyn, a maths and physics graduate, served as an artillery officer in the Red Army from 1941-5, and was decorated for gallantry, but in February 1945 he was arrested for making a critical reference to Stalin in a letter, receiving as punishment 8 years hard labor, before being exiled in 1953. He was refused permission to collect his Nobel Prize for literature in 1970, and then was arrested for treason in 1974. He moved to Vermont, USA, in 1975. Prime Minister Thatcher started by saying she had heard his statement that "the West believed it had a free press but that in fact it had a censorship of fashion." Solzhenitsyn explained that Lenin in 1919 created Comintern to destroy Western capitalism: "The worst thing about the Politburo was not that they were mediocre. It was that they did not have the will or the possibility to choose their own course of action. The doctrine of Marxism ... obliged them to act in certain ways. ... He did not believe that there would be a nuclear war. For a nuclear threat was sufficient to paralyse an adversary."|