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The Effects of Nuclear Weapons: Terrorist Threat Purpose The purpose of this presentation is to provide the reader with an overview of nuclear weapons and their effects. Topics will include: Types of weapons Energy release Types of Detonation Historical Information Effects

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Presentation Transcript
  • The purpose of this presentation is to provide the reader with an overview of nuclear weapons and their effects.
  • Topics will include:
    • Types of weapons
    • Energy release
    • Types of Detonation
    • Historical Information
    • Effects
nuclear weapons vs radioactive dispersal device rdd or dirty bomb
Nuclear Weapons vs Radioactive Dispersal Device (RDD or Dirty Bomb)
  • Nuclear weapons
    • Use conventional explosives to create super-critical mass of fissionable nuclear material
    • Super-critical mass is capable of self-sustaining, prompt, uncontrolled chain reaction
    • Resultant explosive yield can be orders of magnitude higher than possible with conventional materials
  • RDD
    • Use conventional explosives to spread or disperse radioactive material
    • No chain reaction or nuclear yield
    • In most cases the explosion will cause more damage than the radioactive material dispersion
remaining discussion
Remaining discussion
  • The remainder of this presentation describes nuclear weapons
  • For further information on RDD weapons see:
nuclear weapons types
Nuclear Weapons Types
  • Fission devices
    • Uranium (235U) or Plutonium (239Pu)
    • Gun Type
      • Explosively combine two sub-critical assemblies
    • Implosion Type
      • Symmetrically implode a sphere of sub-critical density
      • Required for 239Pu
    • Terrorist Threat
      • Stolen military device
      • Improvised Nuclear Device (IND), i.e. “home made”
      • 235U Gun-type Weapon easiest to construct
      • Likely 20 kT or less
nuclear weapons types con t
Nuclear Weapons Types, con’t.
  • Thermonuclear (Fusion) devices
    • Unlikely to be a terrorist device
    • Military application
    • High-technology
energy equivalents of one kiloton of tnt
Energy Equivalents of one Kiloton of TNT
  • Complete burn-up (fission) of 56 g (~2 ounces) of 235U or 239Pu
  • 1.15 x 106 kilowatt-hours
  • 1.8 x 109 British thermal units
  • 14,500 Gallons of Gasoline
  • 4/5 the energy produced by the Hoover Dam in 1 hour
types of detonations from a terrorist threat
Types of Detonations from a Terrorist Threat
  • Most likely
    • Surface: Truck
    • Underwater: Boat
  • Less likely
    • Air: Private plane
    • Sub-surface: Subway
  • Least likely
    • High Altitude: Military Delivery Only
distribution of energy of an air burst below 100 000 ft
Distribution of Energy of an Air Burst below 100,000 ft

Blast and Thermal account

for 85% of the Energy released

nuclear weapon experience two non testing detonations
Nuclear Weapon Experience Two non-testing detonations
  • Hiroshima
    • Little Boy
    • 235U Gun-Type Device
  • Nagasaki
    • Fat Man
    • 239Pu Implosion Device
results of a nuclear explosion
Results of a Nuclear Explosion
  • 80,000 deaths in Hiroshima and 20,000 deaths in Nagasaki
  • Nearly all deaths due to Blast and Thermal
  • Few deaths attributed to Radiation
    • Prompt or Delayed
results of a nuclear explosion12
Results of a Nuclear Explosion
  • Expect few, if any, survivors near ground-zero
  • However, little experience in “urban” environment
  • Buildings will provide shielding
    • Blast
    • Thermal
    • Radiation
  • Residual radioactive environment, significant impact on rescue operations

Hiroshima Before

Hiroshima After

weapon effects
Weapon Effects
  • Prompt effects higher with airburst
    • Blast
    • Thermal
    • Prompt Radiation
    • Prompt effects 30-50% reduced with surface burst
    • Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)
      • Primarily results from a high-altitude explosion
      • Not a likely effect from a terrorist detonation
  • Residual effects higher with surface burst
    • Residual Radioactivity (Fallout)
weapon effects based on a 20 kt low altitude airblast
Weapon Effects(Based on a 20 kt low-altitude Airblast)
  • Peak shock wave overpressure
    • ~14 psi @ ¼ mile
  • Thermal energy
    • ~18 cal/cm2 @ 1 mile
  • Prompt radiation dose
    • Neutron ~ 0.8 Gy @ 1 mile
    • g-ray ~ 1.2 Gy @ 1 mile
residual radiation fallout
Residual Radiation (Fallout)
  • Difficult to predict impact to a specific area
  • Depends on:
    • Type of weapon
    • Type of burst
      • Air
      • Surface
    • Wind patterns
    • Terrain
      • Little data for an “Urban” Environment
fallout con t
Fallout, con’t.
  • Decay rate:
  • t can be any time unit
  • Average photon energy ~0.7 MeV
  • A terrorist use of a nuclear weapon would most likely involve:
    • 235U Gun-type device
    • Surface detonation
    • Yield of 20 kt or less
  • The major injuries and effects would be caused by:
    • Blast and shock
    • Thermal
  • Rescue efforts pertain mostly to injuries distant from ground zero
  • Radiation protection necessary for rescue of shielded survivors nearer ground zero
  • Little experience with explosion in an “Urban” environment
  • Glasstone and Dolan, “The Effects of Nuclear Weapons,” Published by US DoD and Energy Research and Development Administration, Washington DC, 1977.
  • Ferguson and Potter, “The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism,” Monterey Institute – Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey, CA, 2004.
  • Auxier J, “The Effects of Nuclear Weapons,” Health Physics Summer School, Gaithersburg, MD, July 2004.
  • Public Protection from Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Terrorism, Ed. by Brodsky, Johnson and Goans, Medical Physics Publishing, Madison, WI, 2004.