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.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Key Facts

What matters at the end of the day is how to minimize casualties if terrorists or dictators use nuclear weapons. Convincing as many people as possible that Hiroshima ended civilization in 1945 or that any nuclear explosion would cause a firestorm in concrete buildings and freeze the planet is just the kind of weapons effects exaggerations tried by loud media big shots in the 1920s, in the "belief it would prevent another war by making everyone disarm". Yeah, sure they disarmed, and then Hitler came along and rearmed Germany and they couldn't stop him (or wouldn't, because they had exaggerated the effects of bombing to justify their disarmament, so their lying web of deceit trapped them into doing nothing).

Glasstone and Dolan's "Effects of Nuclear Weapons" points out that in modern concrete buildings in Hiroshima, 50% mortality occurred out to 0.12 mile, while for the general population it was 1.3 mile. Taking cover in concrete buildings thus reduced the median lethal area by a factor of (1.3/0.12)^2 = 120. That would reduce 120,000 killed to 1,000 killed.

Mainstream opinion today ignores such facts, assuming falsely that there is no way of reducing casualties. This was like the gas warfare exaggerations of the 1920s (gas masks were issued to all in the UK in WWII, making tabun nerve gas bombing practically worthless to Hitler, who had thousands of tons of tabun nerve gas manufactured).

People assume that exaggerating the effects will promote disarmament, when actually it is fear-mongering which gives an incentive to terrorist states to acquire such weapons! If you want peace, don't make yourself vulnerable by lying to yourself about weapons effects. Be prepared to cut casualty rates with simple duck and cover countermeasures verified by nuclear test data - that's one way to reduce the terrorist threat. Exaggerating the effects just makes the threat bigger by

(1) ensuring your people will not duck and cover, and
(2) telling enemies that you are inviting an attack in which you will not take protective actions to mitigate effects.

Professor Freeman J. Dyson, Disturbing the Universe, Pan Books, London, 1981, pp. 127-9, and 142:

“In the summer of 1959, as my time with Orion was coming to an end, I tried to do what I could do to improve the project's chances of survival. ... I went for two weeks to Teller's weapons laboratory at Livermore and worked there with the team ... And I wrote an article for publication in the respected political journal Foreign Affairs, arguing against the test ban with all the eloquence I could muster. ... For two weeks I worked hard, trying to design a bomb that would reduce the fallout from Orion by a factor of ten. This was the only time in my life that I worked directly as a bomb designer. I was there only because I wanted to explore the universe ... But I learned at Livermore that it is not possible to make a clean separation between peaceful and warlike bombs, or between peaceful and warlike motives. Motives in each of us tend to get mixed. The colleagues with whom I worked at Livermore were inventing devices that later came to be known as neutron bombs. I helped them and they helped me. In two weeks I made friends with them and became to some extent one of their team. To that extent I share the responsibility for the existence of neutron bombs. … I was deeply impressed by the fragility of the efforts at Livermore to design radically cleaner explosives. Inside the barbed-wire fence at Livermore, all the serious thinking was being done by five or six gifted young people, who worked under depressing conditions of physical and mental isolation. They might at any moment decide to quit. Outside the fence, the whole society was indifferent or actively hostile to their efforts. …

“In 1940 the French collaborators, choosing the path of nonviolence, made their peace with Hitler. A few years later the Jews of Europe went peacefully to their deaths at Auschwitz. Seeing what happened in France, I decided it was after all better to fight for England. Seeing what happened at Auschwitz, the surviving Jews decided it was better to fight for Israel. Nonviolence is often the path of wisdom, but not always. Love and passive resistance are wonderfully effective weapons against some forms of tyranny, but not against all. There is a tribal imperative of self-preservation that compels us to use bullets and bombs against the enemies of the tribe when the tribe’s existence is threatened. When it is a question of survival, passive resistance may be too slow and too uncertain a weapon.”

Professor Freeman J. Dyson, “The Future Development of Nuclear Weapons”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Apr., 1960), pp. 457-464:

“Any country which renounces for itself the development of nuclear weapons, without certain knowledge that its adversaries have done the same, is likely to find itself in the position of the Polish army in 1939, fighting tanks with horses.”

Glasstone and Dolan's book The Effects of Nuclear Weapons (1977, page 546) shows that the median (50%) lethal distance in Hiroshima's modern city buildings (not wooden ones) was 0.12 mile, compared to 1.3 miles for persons outside.

(These data were compiled in A. W. Oughterson and S. Warren, Medical Effects of the Atomic Bomb, Report of the Joint Commission for the Investigation of the Effects of the Atomic Bomb in Japan, Office of the Air Surgeon, NP-3041; see the graph above. The median lethal distances for the air bursts in Japan depend on the floor in concrete buildings near ground zero, since the ground floors had more radiation shielding than the upper floors.)

Thus, the protective effect due to modern city buildings is a (Pi*1.32)/(Pi*0.122) = 120-fold reduction in median lethal areas and casualty rates. Therefore, from the data in Hiroshima, taking cover away from windows in modern concrete buildings can reduce 120,000 casualties to 1,000 casualties. Civil defense is not useless.

This is because most casualties were due to easily avoided exposure to radiation, thermal flash burns, flying glass, and other blast carried flying debris. Unlike wood, concrete and steel do not burn, so simple civil defense countermeasures in modern cities do offer significant protection against blast, fire and radiation effects. Firestorms do not burn concrete, brick or steel. Unlike the wooden multistorey buildings of Hamburg, Dresden, and Japan, modern brick, concrete and steel built cities do not suffer firestorms.

Casualty rates are directly proportional to the size of the exposed population, but are only proportional to the two-thirds power of the weapon yield (equivalent megatonnage for diffraction damage to modern city buildings). Therefore, the precise weapon power is not the major factor determining casualties, which is instead the number of people who are directly exposed outdoors. Mass media anti-civil defense propaganda tried during the Cold War to censor out these facts from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instead presenting the exaggerated data for an unprotected population outdoors or in obsolete wooden city buildings, and falsely claiming that such data is valid for all circumstances. In fact, duck and cover countermeasures control response since the exposed body area is the determining factor in the mortality rate due from either 2nd or 3rd degree thermal flash burns:

Above: relationship between area of skin burned and mortality from 2nd (blistering) and 3rd (surface charring) degree thermal flash skin burns in Nagasaki. Data are from the analysis of 35,000 casualty records by William L. Baker, L. Wayne Davis, and Donald L. Summers, in their 322 pages long report, Analysis of Japanese Nuclear Casualty Data, Dirkwood Corporation, Albuquerque, New Mexico, AD653922, April 1966:

“The report summarizes the results of a detailed data reduction and casualty study made on over 35,000 persons who were subjected to the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. Both graphical and tabular presentations are made of pertinent data to show that an excellent base exists for more reliable conclusions of a wider variety than have heretofore been available. Total mortality and total injury curves are given as well as injury curves by type (blast, thermal, and initial nuclear) for thirteen shielding categories, which includes a breakdown of seismic reinforced-concrete buildings by floor divisions. Further breakdowns of the blast and thermal injuries are also given here, but considerably greater detail will be presented in a follow- on effort directed towards predicting the medical load following a high-yield nuclear attack on the United States. The free-field weapons effects are presented for both Japanese cities to allow the association of a given effects level with a particular percent mortality or injury.”

Long term effects from nuclear radiation exposure in Japan

“The excess risk of leukemia, seen especially among those exposed as children, was highest during the first ten years after exposure, but has decreased over time and has now virtually disappeared.” - REFF.

“Doses from residual radioactivity in both cities are now far below the annual background dose (0.001-0.003 Sv); hence, there are no detectable effects on human health. Radioactivity was ... less than the background level by one year.” - RERF.

The Radiation Research Effects Foundation (RERF) is funded jointly by America and Japan to research the effects of radiation on 86,500 survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, of whom 50,113 were located within 2.5 km of ground zero, 28,770 were within 2 km, 11,400 were within 1.5 km, and 810 were within 1 km. It published the long-term effects between 1950-1990 in Radiation Research, v146, 1996, pp. 1-27:

(1) Within 1 km, a total of 150 cancer deaths occurred in 810 people, which is 18.5% spread over 40 years.

(2) At 1-1.5 km, a total of 1,235 cancer deaths occurred in 10,590 people, which is 11.7% spread over 40 years.

(3) At 1.5-2 km, a total of 1,658 cancer deaths occurred in 17,370 people, which is 9.5% spread over 40 years.

(4) At 2-2.5 km, a total of 1,820 cancer deaths occurred in 21,343 people, which is 8.5% spread over 40 years.

For comparison, the lifetime risk of death from all forms of cancer in America is 23%. In total, in the 50,113 Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors within 2.5 km of ground zero, there were 4,863 cancer deaths (including 176 leukemia deaths) from 1950-90, which is 9.7% of the population. In 1990, 54% of the total population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attack survivors were still alive, and over 90% of the survivors who were under the age of 20 when exposed were still alive. “As of 2007, about 40% of the RERF study population was still living, and more than 90% of the survivors exposed under the age of 10 were still living. As of 2007, the average age of the RERF study participants was 74 years.” – RERF.

These survival facts discredit the pseudo-scientific, politically-motivated popular media spread lie that any survivors of a nuclear war would envy the dead (this lie was started by Premier Khrushchev, who also used tanks to suppress the 1956 civilian Hungarian uprising, built the Berlin Wall to imprison his citizens, and put 42 nuclear armed intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba).

Equivalent megatonnage to compare nuclear and conventional weapons effects

In Indo China (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) from 1965-73 America dropped 6,727,084 tons of bombs, compared to 2,700,000 tons dropped by the Allies in Europe during WWII and 656,400 tons dropped by the Allies in the Pacific war against Japan. Blast overpressure damage areas and related casualties from collapsing buildings and flying glass and debris scale as the two-thirds power of yield which is called "equivalent megatonnage (EMT)", so 1 megaton of TNT in the form of a million separate ton of TNT bombs is equivalent to 1,000,000(1/1,000,000)2/3 = 100 separate one-megaton nuclear explosions. Assuming the 6,727,084 tons of bombs on Indo China were 1 ton TNT bombs, the damaged area and casualty rate is equivalent to 6,727,084(1/1,000,000)2/3 = 673 separate one megaton nuclear explosions which failed to win the war.

The U.S. nuclear stockpile warhead average yield is now only 257 kilotons (4,552 nuclear warheads and bombs with a total yield of 1,172 Mt), which is equivalent to 4,552(0.257)2/3 = 1,840 separate one megaton nuclear explosions. Hence, the 1,172 megatons in the U.S. stockpile is 1,840/673 = 2.7 times the 673 equivalent megatonnage of the conventional bombs it dropped on Indo China in 1965-73. Compare this fact to the naive comparison of total energy (used by politicians and media propaganda), which gives a "more impressive" looking ratio of 1,172/6.73 = 174.

The Effects of Nuclear Weapons

Compiled and edited by Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan

Third Edition



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, D.C. 20402



12.14 The high incidence of flash burns caused by thermal radiation among both fatalities and survivors in Japan was undoubtedly related to the light and scanty clothing being worn, because of the warm summer weather prevailing at the time of the attacks. If there had been an appreciable cloud cover or haze below the burst point, the thermal radiation would have been attenuated somewhat and the frequency of flash burns would have been much less. Had the weather been cold, fewer people would have been outdoors and they would have been wearing more extensive clothing. Both the number of people and individual skin areas exposed to thermal radiation would then have been greatly reduced and there would have been fewer casualties from flash burns.

12.17 The death rate in Japan was greatest among individuals who were in the open at the time of the explosions; it was less for persons in residential (wood-frame and plaster) structures and least of all for those in concrete buildings. These facts emphasize the influence of circumstances of exposure on the casualties produced by a nuclear weapon and indicate that shielding of some type can be an important factor in survival. For example, within a range of 0.6 mile from ground zero over 50 percent of individuals in Japanese-type homes probably died of nuclear radiation effects, but such deaths were rare among persons in concrete buildings within the same range. The effectiveness of concrete structures in providing protection from injuries of all kinds is apparent from the data ... in Hiroshima. School personnel who were indoors had a much higher survival probability than those who were outdoors at the times of the explosions.

12.19 Patients were treated for lacerations received out to 10,500 feet (2 miles) from ground zero in Hiroshima and out to 12,500 feet (2.2 miles) in Nagasaki. These distances correspond roughly to those at which moderate damage occurred to wood-frame houses, including the shattering of window glass.

12.21 For people who were in buildings in Japan, the overall casualties were related to the extent of structural damage, as well as to the type of structure (§ 12.17). The data ... were obtained from a study of 1,600 Japanese who were in reinforced-concrete buildings, between 0.3 and 0.75 mile from ground zero, when the nuclear explosions occurred. At these distances fatalities in the open ranged from about 90 to 100 percent, indicating, once more, that people were safer inside buildings, even when no special protective action was taken because of the lack of warning. There may have been an increase of casualties in buildings from debris etc., but this was more than compensated by the reduction due to shielding against the initial nuclear radiation and particularly from the thermal pulse.

12.22 In two concrete buildings closest to ground zero, where the mortality rate was 88 percent, about half the casualties were reported as being early and the other half as delayed. The former were attributed to a variety of direct and indirect blast injuries, caused by overpressure, structural collapse, debris, and whole-body translation, whereas the latter were ascribed mainly to burns and initial nuclear radiation. Minor to severe but nonfatal blast injuries no doubt coexisted and may have contributed to the delayed lethality in many cases. At greater distances, as the threat from nuclear radiation decreased more rapidly than did that from air blast and thermal radiation, the proportion of individuals with minor injuries or who were uninjured increased markedly. The distribution of casualties of different types in Japanese buildings was greatly influenced by where the people happened to be at the time of the explosion. Had they been forewarned and knowledgeable about areas of relative hazard and safety, there would probably have been fewer casualties even in structures that were badly damaged. [Emphasis added.]

12.44 Studies have also been made of the displacement of anthropomorphic dummies weighing 165 pounds by the blast from a nuclear explosion. A dummy standing with its back to the blast attained its maximum velocity, about 21 feet per second, after a displacement of 9 feet within 0.5 second after the arrival of the blast wave. The free-field overpressure at the test location was 5.3 pounds per square inch. The dummy traveled 13 feet before striking the ground and then slid or rolled another 9 feet. A prone dummy, however, did not move under the same conditions.

12.57 The depth of the burn is not the only factor in determining its effect on the individual. The extent of the area of the skin which has been affected is also important. Thus, a first-degree burn over the entire body may be more serious than a third-degree burn at one spot. The larger the area burned, the more likely is the appearance of symptoms involving the whole body.

12.58 Persons exposed to nuclear explosions of low or intermediate yield may sustain very severe burns on their faces and hands or other exposed areas of the body as a result of the short pulse of directly absorbed thermal radiation. These burns may cause severe superficial damage similar to a third-degree burn, but the deeper layers of the skin may be uninjured. Such burns would heal rapidly, like mild second-degree burns.

12.79 It is of interest that, among the survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, eye injuries directly attributable to thermal radiation appeared to be relatively unimportant. There were many instances of temporary blindness, occasionally lasting up to 2 or 3 hours, but only one case of retinal injury was reported.

12.80 The eye injury known as keratitis (an inflammation of the cornea) occurred in some instances. The symptoms, including pain caused by light, foreign-body sensation, lachrymation, and redness, lasted for periods ranging from a few hours to several days. Among 1,000 cases, chosen at random, of individuals who were in the open, within some 6,600 feet (1.25 miles) of ground zero at the time of the explosions, only 42 gave a history of keratitis coming on within the first day. Delayed keratitis was reported in 14 additional cases, with symptoms appearing at various times up to a month or more after the explosion. It is possible that nuclear radiation injury, which is associated with delayed symptoms, as will be seen below, may have been a factor in these patients.

12.81 Investigators have reported that in no case, among 1,400 examined, was the thermal radiation exposure of the eyes apparently sufficient to produce permanent opacity of the cornea. This observation is not surprising since the cornea is transparent to the major portion of the thermal energy which is received in the visible and longer wavelength (infrared) parts of the spectrum. In approximately one-quarter of the cases studied there had been facial burns and often singeing of the eyebrows and eyelashes. Nevertheless, some 3 years later the corneas were found to be normal.

12.121 There was no evidence of permanent loss of hair, and examination of 824 survivors some 3 to 4 years later showed that their blood composition was not significantly different from that of a control group in a city not subjected to nuclear attack.

12.138 Exposure of laboratory animals to external ionizing radiation while subjected to thermal burn has been found to cause a substantial increase in mortality over that expected from the insults received separately. The extent of the increase depends on the radiation dose and the severity of the burn. Severely burned subjects exhibit some anemia and the body is less able to cope with this stress if the immune mechanism and the activity of the bone marrow are depressed by the ionizing radiation. The enhanced mortality from the thermal burns combined with radiation exposure was not observed for doses of 25 rems or less and it is improbable that the synergistic effect would occur unless the dose is large enough to produce at least minimal effect on the immunologic and hematologic systems.

12.211 The exposure-rate effect in female mice, for radiation exposure rates of less than 90 roentgens per minute, is even more marked than in males. The radiation-induced mutation frequency per roentgen decreases continuously with the exposure rate from 90 roentgens per minute downward. At an exposure rate of 0.009 roentgen per minute [= 0.54 R/hour], the total mutation frequency in female mice is indistinguishable from the spontaneous frequency. There thus seems to be an exposure-rate threshold below which radiation-induced mutations are absent or negligible, no matter how large the total (accumulated) exposure to the female gonads, at least up to 400 roentgens. [Emphasis added.]

This evidence for a threshold dose rate of 0.54 R/hour for genetic damage to female mice in the 1977 edition of the U.S. Government’s Effects of Nuclear Weapons superseded earlier uncertainties such as the statement in paragraph 2.14 on page 14 of the 3rd edition (1974) of the British Home Office handbook Nuclear Weapons: “Whether or not there is a threshold dose of radiation, which must be exceeded before these long-term effects will occur, is still an open question.” However, notice that the key threshold is the dose rate not the dose. This is because the DNA repair enzyme mechanisms like the protein P53 in every advanced cell nucleus, are able to rejoin double strand breaks in DNA at a maximum rate equivalent to the damage caused by about 0.54 R/hour of radiation exposure. The distinction between “threshold dose” and “threshold dose rate” was exploited to obfuscate the physical mechanism and thus cause confusion, by anti-nuclear propaganda in the 1950s. The concept of a “threshold dose” is a complete fiction since it does not exist as a constant number irrespective of dose rate – the “threshold dose” is a variable, being small for damaging high dose rates but very large for low dose rates. But the concept of a “threshold dose rate” is physically real and a resultant of the fact that natural DNA repair enzymes only get overloaded when the rate at which damage to DNA is done by radiation exceeds the rate at which they can repair the damage. These facts were ignored by the media because of a scientifically false non-threshold dogma adopted tentatively in 1957 when testing fallout was front page news by the media, before the discovery of DNA repair enzymes like P53 and before genetic damage in mammals had been properly investigated in large-scale experiments. The data available in 1957 from short lived fruit flies and maize plants is irrelevant since these organisms don’t have advanced DNA repair mechanisms, unlike relatively more complex and long-lived mammals, where there is an evolutionary pressure for survival to longer reproductive age despite ultraviolet and background nuclear radiation exposure over that period.

Dr. James Seward and Dr. Terry Hamilton, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, “Misconceptions about the links between radiation exposure and genetic (birth) defects,” Marshall Islands Monitor, vol. 1, No. 1, 1 January 2009:

“No heritable birth defects from radiation exposure have ever been observed in humans. More specifically, the National Research Council found no statistically demonstrable adverse genetic effects attributable to radiation exposures sustained by the (Japanese) survivors and no significant adverse effects in more than 30,000 progeny from parents who received low doses of radiation. Similarly, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) says that up to the time a child is conceived, radiation exposure to the testes and ovaries of either parent has not been shown to cause birth defects in children.”

(See previous post for more information on radiation exaggerations versus the facts.)


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