Civil Defense Perspectives July 2013 Vol. 29 No. 5
[published April 2014]
“We can turn USA into radioactive dust,” stated Dmitry Kiselyov, head of the new Russian state television outlet, reminding the world that because of some 8,500 nuclear warheads, Russia can do whatever it pleases (John Ransom, Townhall 3/18/13).
The perceived apocalyptic threat may well have helped keep the Cold War from becoming hot. However, 3 years after Hiroshima, William H. Hessler warned against reliance on nuclear weapons (“The A-Bomb Won’t Do What You Think,” Collier’s 9/17/1949, http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6450/). Its rightful place in military policy is very restricted. It is an instrument of destruction, not of victory. We need to keep it ready for retaliation, to deter an attack, he wrote.
Scientists may calculate the destructive power of the bomb, but the military is only interested in the results, knowing that very little of the energy expended in warfare has an effect on the enemy. “The more powerful the bomb, the less efficient it is.”
The Hiroshima bomb killed 78,500 people, or 15,000 to the square mile. In the fire raids on Tokyo of Mar 9, 1945, about 80,000 people were killed. That took about 300 B-29s instead of one. As the population density of Tokyo is perhaps four times that of Hiroshima, it is commonly assumed that an atom bomb would have killed four times as many people in Tokyo and that, therefore, one B-29 with one atom bomb is the equivalent, in killing power, to 1,200 B-29s with full loads of explosive and incendiary bombs. Not so. Total surprise accounted for the high casualty rate in Hiroshima; only a few hundred people were in shelters that could have accommodated 100,000.
Note that an atom bomb is more likely to be used in a surprise attack against us than the other way around.
One scientist estimated that at least 1,000 atom bombs would be needed to do the same damage to Russia as was inflicted by the Germans in the Stalingrad campaign alone. Dr. Stefan T. Possony concluded that it would take about 6,500 atom bombs to totally destroy a major enemy’s cities.
Hessler noted that the American concept of strategic air power was guiding war into a pattern of blind devastation, from which the U.S., with its urban concentration and high technology, would suffer most disastrously.
He noted the importance of American industrial strength and technologic superiority—in 1949.
Radiation is the effect that Americans seem to fear the most. Yet it was responsible for only about 15% of Hiroshima casualties. Moreover, troops could attack through the ravaged area immediately after the blast, writes Captain Richard P. Taffe (Collier’s 1/26/52, http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6451).
The State of the Balance of Terror
The nuclear arms race is by no means over, even if the U.S. no longer competes. While Russia and China are modernizing their arsenals, Barack Obama has indicated willingness to cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal by one-third unilaterally, without awaiting congressional approval. That would limit the total to about 1,000 compared with the 1,550 deployed warheads agreed to in the 2010 New START agreement (Larry Bell, Forbes 6/4/13, http://tinyurl.com/lg9omam). This means a reduction of 75% to 80% during Obama’s term in office, starting from 5,113 in 2009 (Dave Jolly, http://tinyurl.com/n6gwpmx). The George C. Marshall Institute describes it as a “slouching toward zero” policy.
There is “deep uncertainty in estimating the adequacy of nuclear forces,” writes Robert Butterworth in April 2013 (http://tinyurl.com/mubg6ep). The most recent warhead was built in 1991, and the most recent test was in 1992. Remanufacturing in the Life Extension Program must use some different materials, the original materials being unavailable because of environmental protection dictates. Critical facilities have not been modernized or even kept in good working order. Judgments on which test-free assessments depend must increasingly be made by people with no direct experience in design and testing of nuclear weapons. All test-experienced physicists will have retired by 2020.
“No more nukes means no more experts,” writes Col. J. Douglas Beason (USAF Ret.). First stringers know how adversaries store their weapons, how they hide emissions, and how to stop a nuclear detonation (WSJ 5/31/13).
Additionally, nuclear survivability of conventional forces has been neglected for two decades. Unless and until these deficiencies are corrected, if general purpose forces were subjected to a nuclear event the President would not have options, but rather a dilemma: “use nuclear weapons that might not work, or conventional ones that will probably fail” (Butterworth, op. cit.).
After caving to Russian demands to discontinue building antimissile defenses in Eastern Europe, Obama has now offered to restrain antimissile defenses in Asia, and cancelled deployment of two destroyers with Aegis antimissile systems. While North Korea has the capability to launch over the South Pole, the U.S. has no early warning or missile defenses devoted to threats coming from the south (Bell, op. cit.).
Russia is allocating some $770 billion from 2014 to 2020 to modernize its military-industrial facilities, allocating up to 20% of its State Armament Program to aerospace defense. A brand new ballistic missile system could be deployed around Moscow this year. While Russia does not describe Iran or North Korea as enemies, it does perceive them as threats (Jana Honkova, Marshall Institute, April 2013, http://tinyurl.com/l5q3bj7).
Some speculate that North Korea may have tested a bomb for Iran. While its first tests used a plutonium trigger, the latest may have used highly enriched uranium, the type of weapon being pursued by Iran (James S. Robbins, USA Today 2/28/13).
On top of devastation by blast and fire, paralysis could ensue on the basis of the least dangerous but most feared effect: ionizing radiation. Fearmongering about low-dose radiation, which has crippled development of nuclear power, began very early, according to the late Galen Winsor. At Hanford, in a GE fuel fabrication plant, workers initially handled plutonium bare-handed until draconian regulations were imposed without explanation. Winsor tells how he, while serving as safety officer at a nuclear plant, swam in the pool holding spent fuel rods, and drank the water (“The Nuclear Scare Scam,” 1986 video, http://tinyurl.com/knbsoku). Winsor died at age 82 of Parkinson’s disease.
Atomic Bomb Survivors and Cancer
“The leukemia incidence of 96,000 Hiroshima atomic bomb survivors is compelling evidence that the LNT [linear-no threshold] model is wrong,” writes Jerry Cuttler. The 1958 data from UNSCEAR fit a hormetic J-curve, not a straight line, and clearly demonstrate a threshold for leukemia at 500 mSv or 50 rem (Arch Toxicol doi: 10.1007/s00204-014-1207-9).
Tubiana et al. also concluded that the atomic-bomb survivors’ data did not provide evidence for the LNT, noting that the bombs and fires released far higher levels of nonradioactive toxins. Firefighters have increased cancer risk (Radiology doi: 10.1148/radiol.2511080671).
Any calculations based on survivors’ data is valid only in the extremely high A-bomb dose-rate range. When applied at an environmental level, they will substantially overestimate effects.
The importance of dose rate should be obvious when considering that patients receiving radiotherapy may get a total dose ten times greater than the threshold for acute radiation sickness to large healthy parts of their body. Just one day between doses of 1,000 mSv (100 rad) allows the healthy tissue to recover, while the tumor, which gets double the dose, cannot. Without repair, all patients would die before the end of their treatment (Wade Allison, “Man’s Fear of Nuclear Technology Is Mistaken: Better and Safer Than Fire,” 12/8-9/13, http://tinyurl.com/m5xahcq).
Consumption of food containing cesium-137 and other radioactive isotopes could affect persons far from the scene of an event, and has been a huge concern about Fukushima.
In 1987, a Cs-137 source was removed from an abandoned cancer-therapy clinic in Goiânia, Brazil., and sold to a scrap yard. Fragments fell into the hands of people who were intrigued by its blue light, and 249 people were contaminated, of whom 28 suffered skin burns, which required surgery in some cases. Four people died from acute radiation syndrome (ARS), one who had ingested > 1 million kBq, which would give a monthly dose of >6,500 mGy (650 rad), and three who had ingested between 100,000 and 1 million kBq. In 25 years, there have been 0 (zero) cases of cancer in the contaminated persons. In addition to receiving significant external radiation, 69 persons had ingested at least 10 kBq of Cs-137 (monthly dose > 0.065 mGy).
At Fukushima, the adult dose of Cs-137 is less than 12 Bq in all cases, and in children less than 1.4 kBq, between Nov 2011 and Feb 2012. Normal body content of K-40 is 4.4 kBq (Wade Allison, http://tinyurl.com/mp76ut5).
Allison concludes: “The Cold War gave a premium to nuclear angst with its threat of a holocaust. But, only the blast and fire of a nuclear weapon live up to such a reputation, not the radiation whose main influence is psychological” [emphasis added].
In mice exposed to Cs-137 for 400 days, there were no radiation effects on cancer or chromosome aberration at dose rates of 1 or 20 mGy per day (20- and 400-fold higher than background). In the 20 mGy per day group (total exposure 8 Gy or 800 rad), there was a significant increase in cancer, which was two to three -fold less than for a dose rate of 1 Gy/min on the same strain of mice (J Rad Res, doi: 10.1093/jrr/rru009).
Nevertheless, write Tatsumi and Tanooka (ibid.), the atomic-bomb dose rate is applied at Fukushima. “Overestimation of…risk results in unnecessary psychological and economical burden.”
Radiation Standard Must Be Changed
The aftermath of Fukushima (see September 2012 issue) showed the human cost of the LNT-based limits of radiation exposure. The 1934 “tolerance dose” of 0.2 roentgen/day (680 mGy/y) was based on 35 years of medical experience. It “was changed in the 1950s because of strong political pressure by scientists and other influential people to create a social fear of low radiation from a-bomb testing during the arms race and abhorrence of nuclear war,” writes Jerry Cuttler (doi: 10.2203/dose-response.13-008.Cuttler).
At a dose rate of 1,100 mGy/y (110 rad/y), which is more than 1,000 times the recommended limit of 1 mGy/y for the general public, the hematopoietic system provides full function and stability without increased tumor incidence (ibid.).
The antinuclear LNT idea has survived 58 years despite lack of evidence of genetic effects or congenital malformations in A-bomb survivors. In fact, low radiation reduces the normal mutation rate in fruit flies by a factor of three, Cuttler stated to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on Jun 25, 2013.
The standards are not “conservative.” As Swedish radiobiologist Gunnar Walinder stated in 1995, “The LNT hypothesis is a primitive, unscientific idea that cannot be justified by current scientific understanding.” Further, “as practiced by the modern radiation protection community, the LNT hypothesis is one of the greatest scientific scandals of our time.” Chernobyl victims, Cuttler said, suffered a “psychosis of fear” (ibid.).
Farmer Stays near Fukushima to Feed Animals
Constantly exposed to 17 times the “safe” level of radiation, Naoto Matsumura is the only remaining inhabitant of the town of Tomioka, 6 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant. He left for a short time, but returned because he couldn’t endure the thought of animals left to fend for themselves. He now feeds his own 50 cows and two ostriches and makes rounds to feed neighbors’ animals as well. Unfortunately, he was too late to save some of the hundreds of cattle left to starve in a barn.
Researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency told him that he had the highest radiation level of anyone they had tested—but he wouldn’t get sick for 30 or 40 years. Mr. Matsumura, disobeying government orders, intends to die at home (MailOnline 3/12/13, http://tinyurl.com/kfogkbm).
The Japanese government has told some evacuees that they will never be able to go home. Areas where radiation doses exceed 50 mSv/y (5 rad/y) are designated “no go” zones. Because of radiation fears, only 12% of evacuees in Tomioka, one of the most heavily contaminated zones, want to go back.
As of August 2013, the number of people who have died from evacuation-related illnesses stood at 1,539, just short of the 1,599 deaths caused by the tsunami (Guardian 11/12/14, http://tinyurl.com/qb2jhk5).
A Dystopic Nuclear-Free Future
In a novel written in the 1990s, the Ecophiles have come to power. Everyone can see “the glow that lights the sky at night,” which is “power plant poisons shining bright”—except a girl suffering from “disharmony.” Read excerpts from Moonshine by Jane Orient and Linda Wright at www.janeorient.com. Progress toward this future appears relentless.