-Z- (z@gundam.com)
Mon, 12 Jun 2000 18:15:34 -0700

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-gundam@1u.aeug.org [mailto:owner-gundam@1u.aeug.org]On
> Behalf Of Blackeagle
> Sent: Sunday, June 11, 2000 17:49
> To: gundam@aeug.org
> Subject: RE: [gundam] Nukes in CCA
> >Yes, blowing up a fission device doesn't trigger a nuclear reaction. It
> >however, spread the critical mass (on the order of 10 kg or 22 pounds) of
> >fissionable material, which is toxic in microgram doses, over several square
> >miles. This stuff has a half-life measured in millennia. Such an event is
> >potentially more devastating than any explosive yield.
> I think you're dramatically overstating the effect. While contamination
> with U235 or Pu240 is nasty, it is far less intense and covers a far smaller
> area than the effects of a nuclear detonation.
> For example, in 1962 a Thor missile carrying a live nuclear warhead blew up
> on the launch pad during the Dominic Bluegill Prime test. The explosion of
> the missile effectively destroyed the launch complex and the destruction of
> the warhead spewed about a sizable quantity of Plutonium. Workers managed
> to decontaminate the area AND rebuild the launch complex in less than three
> months.

In the incident to which you refer, the rocket blew up, but not the warhead;
that only ruptured and, as you note, scattered the critical mass over a small
area, in relatively large pieces.

There have been other incidents in which the shaped charges that are supposed to
slap the subcritical masses together instead blew them apart. Same story:
relatively large chunks scattered over a relatively small area.

But an explosion that incinerates the warhead would blast the plutonium to
powder and scatter it far and wide, where it could poison an entire ecosystem.

You get some of that when a plutonium based fission bomb detonates as planned.
It's called "fallout" and, believe me, it's considered more dangerous than the
blast. I know, because I was a Disaster Preparedness NCO for the 3600th Bomb
Wing at Offutt AFB, headquarters to the Strategic Air Command, from 1983 to 1985
and one of my duties was to maintain the shelters and decontamination gear to be
used in the even of a nuclear war.


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