Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

April 8, 2010

Thinking the Unthinkable

Filed under: CyberKill,Frank Remarks — Frank Fiore @ 8:01 AM

Though CyberKill deals with a dirty bomb attack, a real nuke with real consequences can not be ignored in this day and age of terrorism.

Just what are we facing if a Hiroshima – aka: a ‘crude’ nuclear device about 10-12 kilotons – size nuke was detonated by Al Qaeda in a major city in the US.

  • “A 12.5 kiloton nuclear explosion in New York Harbor will produce casualties more than one order of magnitude greater than those inflicted at the World Trade Center. Blast and thermal effects would kill 52,000 people immediately. Another 238,000 would be exposed to direct radiation from the blast, and of these 44,000 would suffer radiation sickness and more than 10,000 of these would receive lethal doses. In addition to this direct radiation from the explosion, fallout would expose another million and a half people. For this group, the 24 hour cumulative dose would be high enough to kill another 200,000 and cause several hundred thousand cases of radiation sickness. In addition there would be many thousands of people with mechanical and thermal injuries. Casualties on this scale would immediately overwhelm medical facilities leading to a high mortality rate among those injured but not killed by the initial blast and thermal effects. Over 1000 hospital beds would be destroyed by blast, and 8700 beds would be in areas with radiation exposures high enough to cause radiation sickness.”

The most obvious delivery system that al Qaeda would use is what has come to be known as a ’suitcase bomb’. A nuclear ‘backpack’ or ‘suitcase’ bomb would appear to be in the one to ten kiloton range. According to Roland Watson, let’s see what kind of damage a 1 kiloton bomb would do.

  • “As the fireball expands rapidly to its maximum diameter of 460 feet, its centre rages at a temperature of 10,000,000° C for its brief lifetime. Note that temperatures in the WTC attacks were unlikely to have exceeded 5,000° C. Metallic objects up to 450 feet from ground zero of the initial flash will vaporize. Metallic objects up to 670 feet away will melt. It is needless to guess what happens to people caught out in the open at these ranges – they cease to exist in any meaningful sense of the word and join the raw material for the later fallout. At 1400 feet from ground zero, rubbers and plastics will ignite and melt whilst wood will char and burn. For victims out in the open, 3rd degree burns are inflicted up to 0.4 miles away, 2nd degree burns up to half a mile away and 1st degree burns at up to nearly a mile away. It is at the extremity of this range that we have the “open oven door effect” which needs no further explanation. Meanwhile, those buildings which survived the melting effects of the heat radiation will be finished off by the high winds further into the city centre as winds approaching 670 mph will level or badly damage even steel concrete structures within 740 feet of the blast. No one inside this perimeter can hope to survive unless they are in good underground shelters. Where the wind speed drops to 380 mph at about 1050 feet, tall multi-storey buildings will be lucky to be left standing and survivors of the heat pulse will suffer potentially fatal lung injuries. As the speed drops to 225 mph at about 1650 feet, most dwelling houses will be wrecked and the streets blocked by debris. Flying fragments become the killer rather than sheer air pressure at these distances. What the initial radiation pulse did not ignite, the blast does by igniting new fires due to damaged power lines, gas mains and oil tanks. Asphyxiation can also occur at these ranges as much of the air is devoted to fueling uncontrollable firestorms, which have no mercy on wooden housing.”

And what unlucky American city could be the target?

  • “Which is the unlucky American city? Certainly, it will be a city and it will be American as far as an Islamic fanatic with an extremely rare and potent weapon is concerned. New York? Los Angeles? San Francisco? New York has had a hard time of it with the two WTC attacks and the downing of flight 587 (yes, I believe it was a terrorist attack), so we may be forgiven for thinking the next attack will happen elsewhere. However, the Eastern seaboard is the favored route for bringing in smuggled items and terrorists will not want to spend critical time in long, hazardous journeys westwards. We know that some of the WTC terrorists were based and trained in Florida and that the alleged terrorist on trial just now was caught in the mid-southern state of Oklahoma (ominously he had undertaken Cessna flight training). I suggest that coastal cities further south or even into the Gulf of Mexico may be at greater risk. Furthermore, a city with a flat topology may be favored above more contoured cities since hills will deflect and absorb the blast waves as was the case in Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks. Hiroshima was a flatter city than Nagasaki and paid for this with a greater death toll and destruction per square mile. Seeking to get the last iota of destructive power out of their devilish device, the terrorists would also favor southern cities because of the hotter conditions and better atmospheric conditions. In other words, clear, sunny skies are better “tinderbox” conditions as would that time of day since Bin Laden would want clear conditions for the infamous mushroom cloud to be recorded by the world’s media.”

There are two sites on the Net where you can simulate the effects of nuke attack on a US city. One is the Nuclear Weapon Effects Calculator which provides an interactive tool intended to give an idea of the devastating blast effects of ground-level, shallow subsurface, and low-altitude nuclear weapon detonations. You can choose a yield from 1 kiloton to 4 megatons on one of several major US cities. The other site is even more interesting. Plug in your zip code and see the effects of a nuke dropped on your neighborhood.

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