A new study by researchers at the Center for Mass Destruction Defense (CMADD) at the University of Georgia details the catastrophic impact a nuclear
attack would have on American cities.
The study, which the authors said was the most advanced and detailed simulation published in open scientific literature, highlights the inability of
the nation’s current medical system to handle casualties from a nuclear attack. It also suggests what the authors said are much needed yet
relatively simple interventions that could save tens of thousands of lives.
“The likelihood of a nuclear weapon attack in an American city is steadily increasing, and the consequences will be overwhelming” said Cham
Dallas, CMADD director and professor in the UGA College of Pharmacy. “So we need to substantially increase our preparation.”
Dallas and co-author William Bell, CMADD senior research scientist and faculty member of the UGA College of Public Health, examined four high-profile
American cities – New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta – and modeled the effects of a 20 kiloton nuclear detonation and a 550 kiloton
detonation. (For comparison, the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were in the 12 to 20 kiloton range). Bell explained that a 20 kiloton
weapon could be manufactured by terrorists and fledgling nuclear countries such as North Korea and Iran, while a 550 kiloton device is commonly found
in the arsenal of the former Soviet Union and therefore is the most likely to be stolen by terrorists.
The study, which took three years to complete and appears in the current issue of the International Journal of Health Geographics, combines data on
the impact of the devices, prevailing weather patterns and block-level population data from the U.S. Census Bureau to provide a level of detail
Among the study’s findings:
* A 20-kiloton detonation would leave debris tens of feet thick in downtown areas with buildings 10-stories or higher. Roughly half of the population
in downtown areas would be killed, mainly from collapsing buildings. Most of those surviving the initial blast in downtown areas would be exposed to a
fatal dose of radiation.
* While the main effects from a 20-kiloton explosion would be from the blast and the radiation it releases, a 550-kiloton explosion would create
additional and substantial casualties from burns. Such an explosion would superheat the blast zone, causing buildings to spontaneously combust. Mass
fires would consume cities, reaching out nearly four miles (6.3 km) in all directions from the detonation site.
* A 550 kiloton detonation in New York would result in a fallout plume extending the length of Long Island, resulting in more than 5 million
* A 550 kiloton detonation in Washington, D.C. would destroy hospitals in the District, but its fallout plume would also incapacitate hospitals in
Baltimore, nearly 40 miles away.
The researchers note that in all four cities studied, hospitals are concentrated in the area most likely to be destroyed. Another weak link is the
inability of the nation’s hospital system to treat the burn victims a 550-kiloton detonation would create. A 550-kiloton detonation in Atlanta, the
least densely populated of the four cities studied, would result in nearly 300,000 serious burn victims.
“The hospital system has about 1,500 burn beds in the whole country, and of these maybe 80 or 90 percent are full at any given time,” Bell said.
“There’s no way of treating the burn victims from a nuclear attack with the existing medical system.”
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[edit on 13-9-2009 by ^anubis^]
[edit on 13-9-2009 by ^anubis^]