The effects of nuclear weapons. Credible nuclear deterrence, debunking "disarm or be annihilated". Realistic effects and credible nuclear weapon capabilities for deterring or stopping aggressive invasions and attacks which could escalate into major conventional or nuclear wars.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Online repository of declassified nuclear weapons effects reports

Above: colour film of the British 1.8 megatons Grapple X - Round A thermonuclear shot at Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean (air burst at 7,200 ft altitude on November 8, 1957), including some illustrations of the toroidal fireball, delayed blast wave, and accidental blast damage effects. This device had a 3-layer secondary charge (subcritical fissile core surrounded by lithium-6 deuteride, in turn finished with a layer of natural uranium called the 'pusher', which receives x-rays from the physically separate fission primary, ablates sending off a stream of high-velocity vaporizing heavy metal, thereby compressing the entire secondary stage by Newton's 3rd law of motion, i.e. the application of the rocket principle that an action has an equal and opposite reaction; an inward-directed implosive recoil of the uranium 'pusher' occurs in response to the explosive outward ablation of surface material from the 'pusher').

Above: films of high-yield British tests at Christmas and Malden Islands.

Above: on 30 October 1961, the 50 Mt RDS-220 or TSAR BOMBA, the world's highest yield nuclear weapon test, 8.0 m long, 2.1 m diameter and weighing 26 tons, was dropped with parachute retarded fall from a Tu-95 Bear bomber flying at an altitude of 10.5 km. (These precise bomb size details were published in: V. N. Mikhailov, et al., USSR Nuclear Tests, vol. 2, Technology of Nuclear Tests, Begell-Atom, 1999, pp. 82–84.) It exploded at an altitude of 3.9 km some 188 seconds after being dropped, at 73.85 degrees north, 54.50 degrees east. In the film you can see the fireball expanding spherically until the shock wave bounces off the ground and back up into the fireball, flattening the bottom of the fireball and pushing it upwards ahead of the usual slow development of buoyant toroidal rise. Windows were partially broken (cracked) by the high altitude refraction and focussing of the shock wave out to distances of 900 km. When the detonation was triggered at the correct altitude, the white-painted Tu-95 and accompanying Tu-16 photographic aircraft were both 45 kilometres from the bomb (see earlier post for a listing of the top ten nuclear bomb tests of all time: six are Russian including the top five which are Russian air drops over Novaya Zemlya; only four of the top ten tests are early high-yield American shots from 1952-4).

The top ten human explosions of history

(1) 50 Mt, 30 Oct 1961 USSR clean 2-3 % fission air burst at 3,900 m altitude over Novaya Zemlya. (100 Mt design with U-238 pusher replaced by lead to reduce fission yield from 50% to 2.5% and total yield from 100 Mt to 50 Mt.)

(2) 24.2 Mt, 24 Dec 1962 USSR air burst at 3,750 m altitude dropped from Tu-95 (carried externally) over Novaya Zemlya. (50 Mt design with U-238 pusher replaced by lead to reduce fission yield from 50% to 2.5% and total yield from 50 Mt to 24 Mt.)

(3) 21.1 Mt, 5 Aug 1962 USSR air burst at 3,600 m altitude over Novaya Zemlya

(4) 20 Mt, 27 Sep 1962 USSR air burst at 3,900 m altitude over Novaya Zemlya

(5) 19.1 Mt, 25 Sep 1962 USSR air burst at 4,090 m altitude over Novaya Zemlya

(6) 14.8 Mt, 28 Feb 1954 US Castle-Bravo 67 % fission reef surface burst on the northern reef at Bikini Atoll

(7) 13.5 Mt, 4 May 1954 US Castle-Yankee 52 % fission water surface burst on barge over Bikini Lagoon

(8) 12.5 Mt, 23 Oct 1961 USSR air burst at 3,500 m altitude over Novaya Zemlya

(9) 11 Mt, 26 Mar 1954 US Castle-Romeo 64 % fission water surface burst on barge in Bikini Lagoon

(10) 10.4 Mt, 31 Oct 1952 US Ivy-Mike Elugelab Island surface burst, Eniwetok Atoll

It's interesting to compare these documentary films to the earlier Hollywood based U.S. Air Force Lookout Mountain Laboratory film production of the first American megaton range thermonuclear test (Mike, 10.4 megatons, 1 November 1952 at Eniwetok Atoll):

Above: ‘Operation Ivy’, produced by the U.S. Air Force Lookout Mountain Laboratory, Hollywood, California for the U.S. Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, and presented very impressively by Western cowboy film star Reed Radley: ‘You have a grand stand seat here to one of the most momentous events in the history of science. In less than a minute you will see the most powerful explosion ever witnessed by human eyes. The blast will come up on the horizon just about there, and this is the significance of the moment: this is the first full-scale test of a hydrogen device. If the reaction goes, we’re in the thermonuclear era. For the sake of all of us, and for the sake of our country, I know you’ll join me in wishing this expedition well.’

The Marshall Islands were invaded by the Japanese during World War II, before liberation by America. Because of their remoteness, Bikini and Eniwetok Atolls were used for nuclear testing from 1946-58. Since the testing ended, America cleaned up both Atolls. Because of the coral (calcium carbonate) soil, there was never any significant long-term danger from strontium-90, since it's similar to calcium which is preferred by living things (strontium uptake is only a problem where there is a deficiency of calcium in the soil, which isn't the case on a coral atoll). The lagoon water gets mixed with the open sea water at such a rate that after about three weeks, half the water has been flushed out of the lagoon. So there is no long-term hazard in the lagoon (the immense natural potassium-40 radioactivity of sea water actually exceeds the fallout concentration in the seawater relatively soon after a nuclear explosion). Plutonium uptake is trivial (it is not concentrated in living things), so the only substantial long-term problem at those coral atoll islands was caesium-137, which gets taken up in fruit trees, concentrating in fruit which naturally contain potassium (caesium is chemically similar to potassium). America discovered that this caesium-137 uptake hazard was essentially due to a shortage of potassium in the coral soil, so it could be blocked by adding soluble potassium compounds to the soil around the trees. This dilution trick is also used to block iodine-131 uptake for a few weeks after a nuclear explosion, when it is concentrated in milk (giving people iodine mineral tablets can saturate the thyroid gland with the non-radioactive mineral, preventing significant uptake of the radioactive version). Actually, of course, potassium is naturally radioactive with potassium-40, which reminds us that the whole business of decontamination becomes unnecessary when you get down to background radiation levels. Adding sufficient potassium chloride to the coral soil of Bikini Atoll (scene of 76.8 Mt of tests) in the 1990s reduced the Cs-137 in coconuts from 3,700 Bq/kg to 185 Bq/kg.

Anyway, America cleaned up the islands and then declassified and put online a database of fallout research reports at a 'Marshall Islands Historical Documents' website. For example, the address at that site was the PDF version of the 1957 edition of The Effects of Nuclear Weapons. I had numerous online-links to PDF downloads from that site on this blog, none of which work any longer. The database has been closed on that site and a new site exists at which is completely non-functional (for any search, you get the good old 'HTTP Error 404 - File or directory not found'. In other words, they haven't transferred the files there yet).

One purpose of this blog is to assemble some background information as references for a book being written. Recently Wordpress gave 3 GB storage for files, so I'm storing the key PDF documents there while the above mentioned site is down. Below are links to the reports, as added, generally in the order of importance. I have notes and extracts from all the reports of importance on the Marshall Islands Historical Documents site, but I am not aware whether I actually have all of the reports in complete original PDF form. They may exist in my backup DVD's from literature searches going back nearly ten years. In some cases I will just have extracts of the vital information, accompanied by full citation details. But here are some vital PDF files:

Declassified fallout reports

AD0476572, Biological and Radiological Effects of Fallout from Nuclear Explosions: Chapter 1, The Nature of Fallout, and Chapter 2, Formation of Fallout Particles, by Carl F. Miller, Stanford Research Institute, March 1964. (This excellent report is full of vital data and was originally unclassified, so it is interesting to compare the data in it for the Redwing fallout fractionation data to the two reports below; both of which were originally secret.)

USNRDL-466, A Theory of Decontamination of Fallout from Nuclear Detonations, Part II: Methods for Estimating the Composition of Contaminated Systems, by Carl F. Miller, U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, 29 September 1961. (This PDF version summarizes briefly the key technical data from nuclear tests compended on fallout fractionation, neutron induced activity in fallout, and the mass of deposited fallout.)

WT-1317, OPERATION REDWING, Project 2.63, Characterization of Fallout, by Terry Triffet and Philip D. LaRiviere, U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, 15 March 1961. (This is a compendium of results on deposited fallout: it's nature, it's physical appearance, the amount of mass deposited per unit of time, the arrival time, time of peak dose rate, and cessation time for the arrival of fallout mass on the ground, the radioactivity build up and decay rates for two clean and two dirty weapons - Navajo and Zuni had fission yields of 5% and 15% respectively and so were clean; while Flathead and Tewa had fission yields of 73% and 87% respectively and were dirty- and the fallout patterns, fission product fractionation as a function of location, and neutron induced activities. The report also compares the deposited activity to the measured dose rate on land and sea, which throws light upon terrain shielding, instrument response to fallout field gamma radiation, and the sinking of fallout in the sea. This version is edited by me to focus on the key scientific facts which are vital. One thing omitted is the nature of the incremental fallout collectors, which were hundreds of automatic machines which exposed one-by-one a series of fallout collection trays for a given period of time, say 5 or 15 minutes, to fallout. The deposits in each fallout collection tray at each location were then examined in a laboratory to determine the time-dependent characteristics of fallout. Radiation meters accompanied these incremental collectors and allowed the deposit rate of fallout masses to be correlated with radiation hazards.)

WT-1315 OPERATION REDWING, Project 2.61, Rocket Determination of Activity Distribution Within the Stabilized Cloud, by R. R. Soule and T. H. Shirasawa, U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, 28 April 1960. (Mushroom cloud toroidal radioactivity distribution in 1956 thermonuclear tests at Bikini Atoll, as measured by firing rockets with radioactivity meters in them through the cloud at 7 and 15 minutes after detonation. This report was cited - with a now non-working hyperlink - in my post Fallout prediction and common sense in the 1950s. I also cited it elsewhere for providing information on the fallout neutron induced activity 'atoms/fission' ratios for Redwing nuclear weapons tests.)

WT-915 OPERATION CASTLE, Project 2.5a, Distribution and Intensity of Fallout, by R.L. Stetson, et al., U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, January 1956. (This report shows the truth about what American planned to do concerning fallout from Castle-Bravo shot that contaminated about 236 people: if you look at figure 2.5 on page 32, the fallout collector rafts were all set out to the West of the detonation because it was intended to only fire the bomb when the wind was blowing in that direction. Because Dr Alvin Graves authorized the firing with the wind blowing towards East-North-East, the fallout missed most of the fallout sampling stations and landed on inhabited islands towards the East, as well as a Japanese tuna trawler, the Lucky Dragon. But to cut a long story short, the report also completely messed up the presentation of the fallout patterns, by using the wrong scales on the maps of Bikini and Eniwetok Atolls. This error was then inherited in the fallout pattern compilation DASA-1251. WT-915 gives the distance from Enyu to Namu Islands to be 54 km, whereas it is actually 32 km, an exaggeration factor of 1.69 for the upwind fallout maps on Bikini Atoll for Castle shots Bravo, Koon, and Union. Since area depends on the square of distance, this means that the fallout areas are exaggerated by the factor 2.86. Morgenthau, et al., corrected the scale on the Bravo map of Bikini Atoll, but made the situation worse for the Koon and Union maps, where the distance from Enyu to Namu becomes 59 km and 56 km, and the distance exaggeration factors are 1.84 and 1.74, for Koon and Union, respectively. These imply fallout area exaggeration factors of 3.39 and 3.03, respectively. Apparently I was the first person to spot this, because the fallout pattern errors have been copied by numerous other reports without correction for nearly fifty years.)

WT-615 OPERATION IVY, Report to the Scientific Director: Nature, Intensity and Distribution of Fall-Out from Mike Shot, by W. B. Heidt, Jr., et al., U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, April 1953. (Shows the contruction of automatic incremental fallout collectors used to collect fallout, gives contours for the amount of mass of fallout deposited per unit area from the Mike test of 1952, and also the contours for dose rates. Because of the huge mass of the Mike bomb - 82 tons including a massive thick steel case - the cratering action due to radioactive case shock was highly efficient and a significant proportion of the fission products were deposited on large fallout particles before they fell out of the fireball locally, which maximised the upwind fallout dose rates. In nuclear tests such as Bravo in 1954 which had a smaller bomb case mass, despite an overall higher explosive yield, less radioactivity was carried on the large flakes of upwind fallout. This effect is important for determining the fallout hazard in the damaged area around ground zero, because the possibility of rescuing people injured and trapped is critically dependent on the fallout near ground zero, including that which falls upwind and crosswind.)

(To be completed... This project will be lengthy and I will upload files with brief notes as and when time permits, concentrating on the most important ones first.)

Here's a copy of a somewhat relevant recent comment of mine about the causes of conflict and the pacifist solution to the problem:

Thanks for posting this discussion. RE: the discussion of how to get around the problems of string promotion, e.g. could string theory have been opposed in a less public way?

I read pacifist history and in virtually every major war in history, the pacifists (both at the time and afterwards) claimed that if one side had tried a bit harder to explain their case in private to the other side, everything could have been solved without open hostility. (Wars were just a gigantic misunderstanding, and if people were less stupid and more talkative regarding issues, there would never be any hostility, you see.)

Every conflict could have been avoided if only one side had surrendered without a fight. The problem is not that they couldn't communicate but that they didn't want to agree a surrender peacefully and have other people's ideas imposed on them "peacefully". The stronger side gave the weaker side the choice of surrender or war. The weaker side chose war. They actually wanted to try to defend themselves. (It takes two fighters to have a war because peaceful surrender is not called a "war".) It's pretty analogous to the situation you're discussing.

The story of how Dr Woit's book was censored out from a university press (which would not have promoted it so sensationally) by a string theorist peer-reviewer who took a quotation out of context, changed the words to make it look stupid, and then gave it as an example of Dr Woit's alleged stupidity in criticising string theory, is something I'm well aware of.

I wrote the opinion page/editorial for the British "Electronics World" magazine issue of (I think) October 2003, criticising string theory censorship tactics, but it brought in abusive letters by pro-string theory PhD students at Nottingham University. (A google search showed that they were all students of the same professor.) The letters ignored the arguments and just made personal abuse about my intelligence in asking why so much funding was being given to unproductive areas, so the editor had to censor them out. However, the editor also decided not to commission any more articles on the subject.

It's human nature that people like Smolin and Woit have different reasons for objecting to string theory, but if you read the books the main reason comes down to the arrogance and abuse from the most outspoken (and thus media-hyped) string theorists to gentle criticism.

They are extremely defensive, to the point of taking any question or scientific criticism as a personal insult, ignoring the science of the question and then making personal insults to the person making the criticism.

This paranoia is a well-known groupthink symptom. You can't have a discussion which is rational with people who won't read your evidence and who won't keep to the science, but who prefer to personally attack those people who are being scientific and looking at nature factually, rather than to develop applications and unifications of many different speculative beliefs that can't be falsified. Almost exactly the same happens to anyone criticising the government of a despotic regime from within the country: their points are ignored, they are treated as traitors or criminals and are personally attacked. This is called "shooting the messenger". Bad news is dealt with by attacking those publicising the bad news, instead of tackling the underlying problem.

The problem with string theory, as both Smolin and Woit keep stating in their books, is nothing to do with the failure of string theory after twenty-five years of mainstream research, but is due to the effects of the arrogance of string theorists on the subject.

There is no shame in trying to do something and failing. There is only shame if you fail to get a working theory with falsifiable predictions yet keep obfuscating the facts in public hype, claiming you're on the brink of the theory of everything when actually you have an anthropic landscape of 10^500 vacua for the universe (none of which has even been shown to model the world), and then censoring out critics and alternative theories without even bothering to read any of them. That what's shameful. Not the failure, but the hype and the abuse of science by people who profiteer from failure.

It's the hype that makes the failure of string theory as a physical science "not even wrong". Even things like the AdS/CFT correspondence requires a negative cosmological constant, instead of the observed positive one, so it's applicability to the real world requires forces where there is not repulsion but attraction such as the strong nuclear force. Maybe it's a useful approximation for calculations of that, but it's not a falsifiable theory. Epicycles for an earth-centred universe were a "useful approximation" and were "self-consistent" mathematically for a thousand years before being disproved. String theory can't get even be disproved. Again, I'm not hostile to research in string theory (or anything else, because we thankfully live in a free world, where nobody has the right to force others to give up on anything), but the endless hype for mainstream speculations by extremely arrogant and abusive people who also "peer-review" physics journals and censor out alternative ideas, really pisses genuine scientists off. (By genuine scientists, I don't mean those who are the groupies of Witten or those who think "doing science" is the process of censoring out science without reading it, and instead publishing speculations that can't be falsified.)

There is a lot that can be done if you look at the empirical facts of quantum gravity (such as the fact it must satisfy certain empirical criteria of the real world as confirmed by certain tests of general relativity): you can try to unify those empirical facts with other empirical facts in cosmology. You don't need to go to view fundamental physics as seeking to unify speculations. You can instead work on the few empirical facts we actually do have, and get somewhere (falsifiable predictions) from that. However, this is ironically now dismissed as "crackpot" by the string theorists, so certain are they in their own hype of their own unchecked theory of spin-2 gravitons etc.