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View Full Version : What if atmospheric testing had continued after 1963?



wd40
2012-Sep-26, 11:47 PM
After 600 atomic explosions, due to rising C14, atmospheric testing was mostly stopped in 1963.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLCF7vPanrY

WI due to ignorance, obtuseness or military exigencies, testing had continued unabated in the air?

What by now would have been the medical consequences on humanity?

As with Fukushima, a small increase in thyroid cancers?

Or much worse?

Swift
2012-Sep-27, 02:32 AM
wd40

We have told people for a long time not to embed videos and it is clearly stated in rule 8. I might excuse a newbie, but you've been here a long time and should know better by now

Solfe
2012-Sep-27, 03:44 AM
After 600 atomic explosions, due to rising C14, atmospheric testing was mostly stopped in 1963.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLCF7vPanrY

WI due to ignorance, obtuseness or military exigencies, testing had continued unabated in the air?

What by now would have been the medical consequences on humanity?

As with Fukushima, a small increase in thyroid cancers?

Or much worse?

The medical effects might be a little more varied that just thyroid cancers. Radiation, pollutants, etc. can cause all kinds of thyroid diseases. Interestingly enough, there is a study of pollution (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1240619/pdf/ehp109s-000845.pdf) (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov link) correlating disease rates by zip code in Buffalo, NY vs the rest of the state. The rates for these zip codes are noticeably higher than the average for NY State.

A few years ago, I wrote paper for school about the rates and if memory serves me, thyroid disease affects 1 in 14 people in the US, 1 in 8 if you are female. On a couple of occasions I have heard that Western New York has a rate of 1 in 3 but was unable to track down any proof that it was anywhere near that high. However the study above does point to a higher rate for some areas around New York. I am not a "medical anything" so apply some salt liberally, but looking at that one study, there are places with rates 15-20% higher than the general population.

I don't discount thyroid problems as an effect of testing weapons, but I would think all of the other problems would be harder to tackle.

wd40
2012-Sep-27, 04:11 AM
I believe reading that the radiation and fallout from 200 Hiroshima size bombs exploding in non-populated areas around the world simultaneously could end humanity. But 600 over 18 years, many over 20kT and including many H bombs, seems to have had hardly any measurable effect.

primummobile
2012-Sep-27, 04:56 AM
I believe reading that the radiation and fallout from 200 Hiroshima size bombs exploding in non-populated areas around the world simultaneously could end humanity. But 600 over 18 years, many over 20kT and including many H bombs, seems to have had hardly any measurable effect.

Do you have a source for that? I have a very hard time believing that

Antice
2012-Sep-27, 04:59 AM
I believe reading that the radiation and fallout from 200 Hiroshima size bombs exploding in non-populated areas around the world simultaneously could end humanity. But 600 over 18 years, many over 20kT and including many H bombs, seems to have had hardly any measurable effect.

well.. those 200 bombs wouldn't do all that much damage wise if the areas are unpopulated. the biggest effect from a nuclear weapon is the immediate heat flux and pressure wave from the blast itself. but 200 Hiroshima sized bombs IS a lot of energy released at once. I don't know about ending humanity, but something like that would definitely be noticeable. if nothing else, then as a short lasting disruption of current weather patterns. (for a couple of days at most). Environment wise i think dust particles kicked up into the atmosphere would have the biggest impact short to mid term. The radioactivity is the least of the issues with this. the fallout products aren't all that hot. the bad stuff tends to not disperse all that far from the blast zone. 10 years later one would never even guess the event happened however except as a slight increase in the average background radiation.

primummobile
2012-Sep-27, 05:07 AM
well.. those 200 bombs wouldn't do all that much damage wise if the areas are unpopulated. the biggest effect from a nuclear weapon is the immediate heat flux and pressure wave from the blast itself. but 200 Hiroshima sized bombs IS a lot of energy released at once. I don't know about ending humanity, but something like that would definitely be noticeable. if nothing else, then as a short lasting disruption of current weather patterns. (for a couple of days at most). Environment wise i think dust particles kicked up into the atmosphere would have the biggest impact short to mid term. The radioactivity is the least of the issues with this. the fallout products aren't all that hot. the bad stuff tends to not disperse all that far from the blast zone. 10 years later one would never even guess the event happened however except as a slight increase in the average background radiation.

Wasn't the Little Boy yield around 5 kt? Exploding 200 5 kt devices gives a total yield of 1 Mt. Not much to get excited about.

Ara Pacis
2012-Sep-27, 05:08 AM
WI due to ignorance, obtuseness or military exigencies, testing had continued unabated in the air?

I didn't know Wisconsin had The Bomb... but after MNF, I can see how they would be mad enough to use one.

It depends on where in the atmosphere they tested it. If it's an airburst, then there wouldn't be much fallout because there wouldn't be a lot of dust pulled up into the rising cloud of hot air. The higher the better, WRT fallout. The radioactive residue would create smaller particles when they condense out of the hot cloud and would be carried high in the atmosphere where they would start to decay and many would be inert by the time they finally fell to the ground.

If they tested on the ground, then you'd get more debris sucked into the hot cloud and covered with condensing radioactive residue. The larger particles would fallout of the cloud fairly quickly, within a few miles for the largest particles, with the smaller particles lingering for tens of miles to maybe a hundred miles or more depending on weather.


I believe reading that the radiation and fallout from 200 Hiroshima size bombs exploding in non-populated areas around the world simultaneously could end humanity. But 600 over 18 years, many over 20kT and including many H bombs, seems to have had hardly any measurable effect.

Nope. Not unless there was some changes to the bomb to increase radioactivity. There are people who survived Hiroshima's fallout. if you pop several nukes close together, you might make a small area deadly radioactive for a while, a few days to a few weeks. If you spread them out across the globe, then you dilute that small effect even more.

korjik
2012-Sep-27, 05:34 AM
I believe reading that the radiation and fallout from 200 Hiroshima size bombs exploding in non-populated areas around the world simultaneously could end humanity. But 600 over 18 years, many over 20kT and including many H bombs, seems to have had hardly any measurable effect.

Well, considering that Castle Bravo was 1000 Little Boy all at once, I think there is a flaw in the logic.

Jens
2012-Sep-27, 07:33 AM
Did atmospheric testing really end in 1963? I thought that China was testing weapons later than that.

Ivan Viehoff
2012-Sep-27, 11:08 AM
Attempts to detect radionuclides were made to assess whether various things N Korea amounted to exploding a bomb.

Since coal burning has increased background radiation very substantially over the last 200 years, double or something, completely overwhelming any ovearll radiation exposure issues from bombs on this scale, except very locally, we need to ask if there something specific about exploding nuclear bombs that is more dangerous than that? I'm only aware of the iodine issue, which gives rise to the thyroid problem. Iodine is quickly washed out of the atomosphere, so becomes located in the ecosystems localised to the area of the bomb or reactor failure. It decays rather quickly. Proper prophylactic treatment of people exposed should avoid health problems for them.

spjung
2012-Sep-27, 03:40 PM
Did atmospheric testing really end in 1963? I thought that China was testing weapons later than that.
According to the Wikipedia article on Nuclear weapons testing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_testing), France didn't stop until 1974. China didn't stop until 1980. Neither country signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty.

wd40
2012-Sep-27, 03:49 PM
So is the premise that the drifting fallout from an atomic war confined to the Northern hemisphere could kill a year later everyone in the Southern hemisphere as in the film "On the Beach" 1959
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mxvx9gQ8k0
exaggerated?

geonuc
2012-Sep-27, 04:06 PM
So is the premise that the drifting fallout from an atomic war confined to the Northern hemisphere could kill a year later everyone in the Southern hemisphere as in the film "On the Beach" 1959
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mxvx9gQ8k0
exaggerated?

Originally a novel by Nevil Shute.

I'm not sure the premise that the people in the southern hemisphere would be killed off in a year is exaggerated; we aren't really sure how bad the war was - how many weapons were detonated and in what manner. However, the premise that radiation is what killed all the people is probably incorrect. I'd think that nuclear winter is still the prevailing hypothesis for global doom after a full-scale nuclear war. But maybe not.

John Jaksich
2012-Sep-27, 04:20 PM
Actually, the VELA satellite system of nuclear monitoring did "catch" China exploding an atmospheric device and may have played a role in getting China to stop atmospheric testing--eventually.


Ivan Viehoff wrote:

"Attempts to detect radionuclides were made to assess whether various things N Korea amounted to exploding a bomb.

Since coal burning has increased background radiation very substantially over the last 200 years, double or something, completely overwhelming any ovearll radiation exposure issues from bombs on this scale, except very locally, we need to ask if there something specific about exploding nuclear bombs that is more dangerous than that? I'm only aware of the iodine issue, which gives rise to the thyroid problem. Iodine is quickly washed out of the atomosphere, so becomes located in the ecosystems localised to the area of the bomb or reactor failure. It decays rather quickly. Proper prophylactic treatment of people exposed should avoid health problems for them."


Another radionuclide to worry about is Strontium---if my memory serves me correctly--it tends to settle in the bones rather readily.

wd40
2012-Sep-27, 06:03 PM
If the above about the relatively minor long-term health danger of fallout is correct, that a national leader is at this very moment addressing the UN General Assembly about the possible imminence of a nuclear exchange involving 'only' 10-20 atom bombs, now seems somewhat less worrying for those >200 miles from the area.

Swift
2012-Sep-27, 06:05 PM
Another radionuclide to worry about is Strontium---if my memory serves me correctly--it tends to settle in the bones rather readily.
Yes it does. Strontium chemistry is close enough to calcium chemistry that it is taken up quickly and stored in bones.

Swift
2012-Sep-27, 06:08 PM
After reading the above about the relative insignificance of fallout, that a national leader is at this very moment addressing the UN General Assembly about the imminence of a nuclear exchange involving only 10-20 atom bombs, now seems somewhat less worrying for >500 miles from the area.
Please do not go there. That comment could have been made without even a mention of the UN General Assembly. Any mention of current global politics is going to quickly drag this into forbidden territory. Please stick to ONLY technical and scientific matters.

And please no inappropriate responses to that post

cjl
2012-Sep-27, 10:48 PM
Wasn't the Little Boy yield around 5 kt? Exploding 200 5 kt devices gives a total yield of 1 Mt. Not much to get excited about.

Closer to 15-20kt, but even so, single bombs have been tested with yields greater than 200 simultaneous Little Boy detonations.

swampyankee
2012-Sep-27, 10:50 PM
I believe reading that the radiation and fallout from 200 Hiroshima size bombs exploding in non-populated areas around the world simultaneously could end humanity. But 600 over 18 years, many over 20kT and including many H bombs, seems to have had hardly any measurable effect.

The amount of radiation was significant enough so that pre-atomic steel, which was not contaminated in production by airborne radioactive particles, is quite valuable for equipment that needs to be especially well shielded against radiation. I'd call that a significant effect.

Solfe
2012-Sep-27, 11:44 PM
An exchange of "only 10-20 bombs" is relative to the size of the countries and targets of those who participate. If you picked targets like Canada, Rhode Island and Ransomville, NY (Its a real place and the name name of a band). Most of Canada could be 500 miles away from the targets, while all of RI would be within 500 miles of the targets and Ransomville would be a big hole in the ground.

Its all scale.

Ara Pacis
2012-Sep-28, 07:57 AM
An exchange of "only 10-20 bombs" is relative to the size of the countries and targets of those who participate. If you picked targets like Canada, Rhode Island and Ransomville, NY (Its a real place and the name name of a band). Most of Canada could be 500 miles away from the targets, while all of RI would be within 500 miles of the targets and Ransomville would be a big hole in the ground.

Its all scale.

If you explode it on the ground, you'll get bit of a crater, but it would limit the blast damage radius significantly. If you do an air-burst optimized for 5 PSI a Hiroshima-size bomb will damage moderate to light structures for several blocks in either direction up to maybe a mile, but heavy reinforced masonry structures would survive, including roads and a lot of bridges, even closer to the hypocenter (ground zero).

Solfe
2012-Sep-28, 01:27 PM
If you explode it on the ground, you'll get bit of a crater, but it would limit the blast damage radius significantly. If you do an air-burst optimized for 5 PSI a Hiroshima-size bomb will damage moderate to light structures for several blocks in either direction up to maybe a mile, but heavy reinforced masonry structures would survive, including roads and a lot of bridges, even closer to the hypocenter (ground zero).

Oh, downtown Ransomville is no bigger than 500 meters and mostly houses. I guess you could use the extra bombs to make crop circles. :)

wd40
2012-Sep-28, 02:35 PM
It seems that the actual figure of nuclear bombs exploded in the air 1951-63 was 390 http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn1993-nuclear-test-fallout-killed-thousands-in-us.html
and that "only" 17,000 extra fatal cancers in the USA could be attributed to it. So continued unabated atmospheric testing in to the 70s would seem not to mean the end of mankind.

The 1961 explosion of the 50mT "Tsar Bomba" that scared everybody in to the treaty actually produced very little fallout
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsar_bomba

kzb
2012-Sep-28, 02:58 PM
These tests produced big spikes in the atmospheric tritium and carbon-14 levels, which are still very slightly elevated above the natural levels to this day. At their peak they where many times their natural levels over the whole N. hemisphere.

The health effects of these radionuclides is rather small, so there is only a very tiny increase in radiation dose above what it would have been.

But carbon-14 is used for carbon dating. If the tests had carried on unabated, the major result would be to confuse future archeologists as they carbon-date things to their future.

ravens_cry
2012-Sep-28, 08:33 PM
One effect is that for certain experiments, we are hard pressed to find lead non-radioactive enough to serve I believe.

swampyankee
2012-Sep-28, 09:27 PM
One effect is that for certain experiments, we are hard pressed to find lead non-radioactive enough to serve I believe.

Metals, in general. Ships sunk before 1945 are quite valuable because of it.

ravens_cry
2012-Sep-28, 09:39 PM
Metals, in general. Ships sunk before 1945 are quite valuable because of it.
Luckily there was quite a few sunk from around that time.

KaiYeves
2012-Sep-28, 10:42 PM
Metals, in general. Ships sunk before 1945 are quite valuable because of it.
I'd heard about that before and it seems to be true (http://journals.lww.com/health-physics/Abstract/2007/08002/A_Historically_Significant_Shield_for_In_Vivo.3.as px) in the general way Raven's Cry stated it according to a quick Internet search, but the specific claim I'd heard that such metal has been sought out for satellite construction seems to be a bit more sketchy.

Ara Pacis
2012-Sep-28, 11:52 PM
Has anyone considered mining metal ores from layers of rock below the contaminated surface?

swampyankee
2012-Sep-29, 02:53 AM
Has anyone considered mining metal ores from layers of rock below the contaminated surface?

Yes, but current methods of steel production blow above ground air through the molten steel, so contaminated air is blown through them. Remelting steel -- especially vacuum remelting -- avoids that issue.