[fa.arms-d] Arms-Discussion Digest V0 #146

C70:arms-d (07/24/82)

>From HGA@MIT-MC Sat Jul 24 00:43:42 1982

Arms-Discussion Digest                            Volume 0 : Issue 146

Today's Topics:
                          US/USSR arms sales
                        Effects of Nuclear War
                  Response to flame on end of world
                     Nuclear War and UV Radiation

Date: 22 Jul 1982 0005-PDT
From: Herb Lin <LIN at WASHINGTON>
Subject: US/USSR arms sales...

Just as a point of information, it is not clear who is the "leading"
supplier of arms to the rest of the world; along certain measures, the
US and the USSR can each claim that (dubious) distinction.  In

- Totaled over the last two years (1980-81), the Soviet Union leads
the US in arms exports.  (take that, all you doves!)

- In the last year (1981), the US leads the Soviet Union, as it has in
most previous years.  (take that, all you hawks!)

- If you exclude military assistance to Israel from the US total, the
Soviet Union once again leads.  (take that, everyone; is this a hawk
or a dove point?)

Meta-comment: I really wish that people who make claims that X is
ahead of Y in area Z make more clear the assumptions they employ in
their claims.  For example, how is Z measured?


Date: 22 Jul 1982 1137-PDT
From: Paul Dietz <DIETZ at USC-ECL>
Subject: Effects of Nuclear War

There is an interesting article in the August issue of Reason.  Called
"Don't Plan to Die", it is written by a plant ecologist who points out
the fallacies in the common belief that nuclear war means the end of
the world.  The author, Bruce Clayton, spends some time rebutting
claims made by Dr. Helen Caldicott in Nuclear Madness.

An incomplete condensation follows:

The author decided to confirm his belief (picked up from popular
books) that nuclear war meant the end of the world.  He went to the
library and found, to his suprise, much material on the effects of
nuclear weapons, radiation, studies of the results of nuclear wars,
etc.  To his suprise, he found that most people would survive a
nuclear war, and that with concerted effort any person could guarantee
himself a near 100% chance of survival.


"A full scale nuclear confrontation could last about 30 to 60 minutes
from beggining to end." -- Caldicott, page 63

The soviets don't believe this (if you believe their publications).
Indeed, a counterforce strike against US silos would take much longer
because you'd have to be careful that the debris left by explosions
over northern silos would not knock out warheads targeted on southern


"A 1000 megaton bomb detonated in outer space could devastate an area
the size of six western states." -- Caldicott, page 65

Clayton claims this figure is wildly exagerated, but his argument
betrays a lack of physical intuition.  He (probably incorrectly)
extends the empirical cube-root scaling law of damage caused by
nuclear weapons to space-based weapons, where the damage scales

At any rate, there probably aren't any 1000 megaton bombs.  How would
you test one?


Clayton then goes on to the claim that there are enough weapons to
kill everyone many times over.  This figure comes from Hiroshima,
where a 12.5 KT bomb killed 70K people.  This gives 5.6 people per
ton, so our current 10GT stockpile could kill 56 billion people.  The
problems with this argument are readily apparent.


"Between them the US and the Soviet Union, alone, have deployed over
50000 nuclear bombs which stand ready to exterminate virtually all
life in earth." -- Caldicott, page 61

Considering only radiation (blast and heat won't do it, and I'll
consider ozone later), a 1975 study showed that people in nonwarring
countries will receive 10 rems of radiation (total) in the 30 years
following a nuclear war.  This will result in a slight increase in
cancer (more later), but hardly the extermination of virtually all


"A war fought with nuclear weapons would put an end to civilization as
we know it." -- Caldicott, page 61

People in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa might
disagree.  Not to mention non-english speaking countries.  This
depends, of course, if the Soviets can launch the conventional war
they plan to follow up with.


"The detonation of a single weapon of this nature over any of the
world's major cities would constitute a disaster unprecedented in
human history."  -- Caldicott, page 62

The black death in the 1400's kill 25% of the known world, but a
nuclear war (not just one bomb) will kill only 5% of the world
population!  Let us also not forget the 25 miilion russians who
starved to death in the 20's, the additional 20-30 million russians
who died in WW2, the Romans and Crusaders who were wont to completely
level conquered cities, killing *everyone*.

While bombs are large, cities are larger.  Civil defense experts
anticipate that an attack on Los Angeles would involve 40 bombs, each
about a megaton.  This would still leave a good fraction of the
population alive (granted, until fallout gets them).


"Every American city with a population of 25,000 or more is
targeted....  Both major and minor population centers would be smashed
flat." -- Caldicott, page 65

This may have been true when russian guidance systems were inaccurate,
but not any longer.  Targets today are (in dcreasing order of
priority): strategic weapons, other military bases, electrical plants,
followed by government facilities, transportation, industry and mines.

Clayton also points out that nuclear reactors are among the hardest
targets in the country (next to silos) because of their thick
containment structures, so the russians would need to use silo busting
weapons to spread the radioactive cores around.  It would be far
easier to use ordinary bombs to destroy the rest of the plant
(turbines, support facilities, operators).  Perhaps the reactor would
then meltdown, but then the core would not be dispersed by the


"Every weapon's powerful shock wave would be accompanied by a searing
fireball with a surface temperature greater than the sun's that would
set firestorms raging over millions of acres.... Every 20-megaton bomb
can set a firestorm raging over 3000 acres." -- Caldicott, page 65

First, compare "millions of acres" to 3000 acres.

Second, note that 3000 acres is 4.5 square miles.  This area would be
pounded flat by a 20MT bomb anyway, as such a bomb can damage a frame
house up to 36 miles away.

Modern cities have little to burn.  They are mostly steel, concrete,
glass and other noncombustible material.  Note also that there were no
firestorms at Hiroshima or Nagasaki.  Fire, yes; firestorm, no.

[Note from the Moderator: My third edition (1977) of The Effects of
Atomic Weapons says that Hiroshima did suffer a firestorm.  - Harold]

Finally, actual contact with a fireball is not the cause of the fires.
The fireball of a 1MT bomb is about 1-2 miles in diameter.  Therefore,
it should not touch the ground.  The quote about the shock wave being
accompanied by a fireball is misleading.  The fires would be set, not
by the shock wave or the fireball, but by the light emitted by the
fireball, the "thermal pulse".


"The long-term fallout effects in the countries bombed would give rise
to other epidemics.  Within five years, leukemia would be rampant.
Within 15 to 50 years, solid cancers of the lung, breast, bowel,
stomach and thyroid would strike down survivors." -- Caldicott, page

Firs, does this mean long-term effects of (short term) fallout, or the
effects of long-term (stratospheric) fallout?

The stratospheric fallout would cover the globe, but by the time it
reachs the ground it isn't very radioactive, giving that 10 rem dose
in 30 years.  This could hardly cause epidemics of cancer.

The short-term fallout deposited within 24 hours near the explosion
could cause leukemia.  It would hardly affect the whole population.

But an epidemic?  Let's look at the numbers.  Leukemia peaks 5-10
years after exposure.  A 100 to 200 rem dose causes, in adults, 2 to 4
cases per thousand.  Children under ten are twice as susceptible.  A
generous estimate of 1% of those getting leukemia is hardly an

Of the 5700 heavily irradiated A-bomb survivors in japan, 47 died of
cancer between 1960 and 1970 against an expected 30.  We're up to 25
years after exposure in these statistics, and there's no epidemic yet.


"Exposure of the reproductive organs to the immense quantities of
radiation in the explosions would result in reproductive sterility in
many.  An increased incidence of spontaneous abortions and deformed
offspring, and a massive increase in both dominant and recessive
mutations, would also result.  Rendered intensely radioactive, the
planet Earth would become inhabited by bands of roving humanoids --
mutants barely recognizable as members of our species."  -- Caldicott,
page 66

"Reproductive genes will mutate, resulting in an increased incidence
of congenitally deformed and diseased offspring -- not just for the
next generation, but for the rest of time." -- Caldicott, page 3

Sterility: Most japanese sterilized by radiation did not survive. (I'm
not sure if they died because of blast or radiation).  Also, the
radiation in the explosion is unimportant, since its range is much
less than the range of the thermal pulse and shock wave.

Some remaining heavily irradiated japanese who had been judged sterile
subsequently had normal children.

Unrecognizable mutants: This is pure sci-fi.  Any fetus that is
unrecognizable will almost certainly spontaneously abort, or die after

Mutations: National academy of science reports indicate that a 10GT
war would cause siginicant but temporary damage to the human gene
pool.  Natural selection would weed out damaged genes over a 1000 year
period.  (The decay is exponential, and dominant genes would be
removed much faster.)  Birth defects would rise from 60 per thousand
to 61 per thousand.  The 30 year followup of japanese A-bomb survivors
and offspring revealed no abnormal genetic disease, nor any increase
in birth defects.


"In the aftermath, bacteria, viruses and disease-carrying insects --
which tend to be thousands of times more radiation resistant than
human beings -- would mutate, adapt and multiply in extremely virulent
forms." -- Caldicott, page 66

The mutation rate of bacteria, viruses and insects is already high
enough to adapt to any conceivable condition.  Radiation wouldn't
change that much.  Also, mutations of disease organisms tend to be to
*less* virulent forms.  After all, diseases are parasites, and a
parasite that kills its host also dies off.  That's why the most
common diseases are things like the cold (comes in hundreds of types)
instead of Lhasa fever.


"Those who survive, in shelters or in remote rural areas, would
reenter a totally devasted world, lacking in lifesupport systems on
which the human species depends.  Food, air and water would be
poisonously radioactive."  -- Caldicott, page 66

Deep wells will not be contaminated, and surface water can be filtered
through ordinary dirt or a water softener.  Air will be dangerous for
a short time if you are directly downwind of a blast, but all you need
is a filter to keep dust and iodine out of the lungs.

(Clayton doesn't mention contamination of the food chain.)

Ozone layez and UV: If a sixfold increase in UV does occur, the
effects will be tolerable.  Among the crops that can tolerate this
level of UV are wheat, rye and corn.  Most wild plants could survive
for a few years until the O3 builds up by growing under trees or on
the north side of hills.  Animals tend to be inactive except at night
and during the evening and morning, so many of these will survive.
Wild flucuations will occur, but no collapse. (Clayton is an
ecologist, so he knows what he is talking about.)


Finally, the author points out that most immediate injuries caused by
the bombs will be crushing injuries and burns.  If you wanted to die
instantly in the fireball, sorry, it doesn't work that way.


Date: 23 Jul 1982 03:07:01-PDT
From: pur-ee!Physics.els at Berkeley
Subject: Response to flame on end of world

    Concerning the starving masses in Calcutta, if I uttered a
falsehood, it is a VERY widely held one.  I've been hearing such
things since my earliest memories in elementary school.  The Catholic
church has also propagated this in their appeals to the parishs on
behalf of Mother Theresa.  There have also been a number of TV
programs dealing with world hunger, which relate tales of starvation
of this magnitude (though certainly just because it can happen doesn't
mean it will).  If I have been duped concerning Calcutta, I admit it
and come away a little wiser.

   Concerning the CIA, the laws are such that they can barely do their
job of gathering intelligence without Congress butting in, much less
cause anarchy on a global scale as the Soviets do.  I'm certain that
there are those in the CIA who want to overthrow particular
governments, but they do not have a free hand to do this.

                                  els [Eric Strobel]


Date:     23 Jul 82 01:20:01 EDT  (Fri)
From:     John Q Walker <jqw.unc@UDel-Relay>
Subject:  Nuclear War and UV Radiation

   The main problem with ultraviolet radiation after a war is that
many plants are very sensitive to the shorter wavelength (UV-B) light
and produce lower yields or even die.  The extent of ozone depletion
is one of the great unknowns and possibly the most important factor
after a nuclear war.
   The industry which supports farming will also be devastated after a
nuclear war (especially because of targeting of oil refineries and
large oil fields).  Without the farm equipment, fuels, and
fertilizers, food production will be SEVERELY REDUCED. (Not to
mention, in many places, radioactive.)


End of Arms-D Digest