Blast, Heat, and Radiation

In Blast, Heat and Radiation, Tsipis summarizes some of the products of and effects of a nuclear weapon explosion. I thought the most interesting theme throughout his description of these products and these effects was the importance of the height of the explosion. It seems as if the effects of nuclear fallout and that of the air blast are both dependent on how high the explosion occurred. The development of a crater is also dependent on the explosion height. I think this is interesting because the user of the weapon can arguably control at what height they chose to explode their weapon, at least to the point choosing to explode it from an aircraft, or exploding it on the ground. So then, where the user explodes the weapon may speak a good deal about their intentions.

I also found the graph, Estimated Fallout Contours for the Bravo Test, on page ninety-five, to be rather interesting. It demonstrates that the fallout from the test traveled nearly 300 miles in just sixteen hours. This made me curious about the potential impacts of a “hostile” country (maybe Iran, North Korea or Pakistan) testing their weapons. If they hypothetically tested their weapons somewhere within 300 miles of the United States, nuclear fallout may arrive on our shores. So then, the logical question is, are countries limited to the amount of weapons they can test, and where they can test them? And if so, how is this enforced? — Anya

One thought on “Blast, Heat, and Radiation

  1. To your second paragraph:

    As far as I know, the Partial/Limited Test Ban Treaty, which is signed by all nuclear states except France, China, and North Korea, bans nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, in space, on land, and underwater (i.e. everywhere but underground).

    The characteristic “double flash” of a nuclear weapon makes it very easy to distinguish from most other explosions, as long as you can see the explosion itself, so in all cases except for underground testing it’s not too difficult to verify whether a test is nuclear or not.

    There are no real enforcements to the Partial Test Ban Treaty. It dates back to the 1960s as a sort of measure of trust between the USA and the USSR. Well maybe not a true measure of trust as much as a measure to reduce the chance of accidental misinterpretation of a nuclear test.

    There’s also a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which is signed and ratified by the UK, France, Russia, and most of the world’s non-nuclear states. The US, China, Iran, and Israel have all signed but not ratified this treaty, while North Korea, India, and Pakistan are neither signatories nor have ratified the treaty. Again, there are no real enforcement mechanisms to this treaty, which bans all nuclear weapons testing even underground, either.

    If a nuclear test went off within 300 miles of the United States without advance permission from the White House, I imagine it would be interpreted as an act of war, in which case the fallout from that single test would be the least of our concerns.


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