Below a brief description of the major effects of nuclear explosions on the people and structures in urban areas. The details of such effects would vary according to weapons design, the exact geographical layout of the target area, the materials and methods used for construction in the target area, and the weather (especially the amount of moisture in the atmosphere). Thus, the reader should bear in mind that the statements below are essentially generalizations, which are subject to a substantial range of variation and uncertainty.
To convey some sense of the actual effects of large nuclear explosions on urban areas, the potential impact of explosions is described in two real cities—Detroit and Leningrad. To show how these effects vary with the size of the weapon, the effects have been calculated in each city for a variety of weapon sizes.
The descriptions and analysis assume that there is no damage elsewhere in the country. This may appear unlikely, and in the case of a surface burst it is certainly wrong, since a surface burst would generate fallout that would cause casualties elsewhere. However, isolating the effects on a single city allows the setting forth in clear terms of the direct and immediate effects of nuclear explosions. The result is a kind of tutorial in nuclear effects. Subsequent sections of this report, which deal with the effects of larger attacks, discuss the indirect effects of fallout and of economic and social disruption.
Although it is outside the scope of a discussion of “nuclear war, ” there has been considerable public interest in the effects of a nuclear explosion that a terrorist group might succeed in setting off in an urban area.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF EFFECTS
The energy of a nuclear explosion is released in a number of different ways:
- an explosive blast, which is qualitatively similar to the blast from ordinary chemical explosions, but which has somewhat different effects because it is typically so much larger;
- direct nuclear radiation;
- direct thermal radiation, most of which takes the form of visible Iight;
- pulses of electrical and magnetic energy,
called electromagnetic pulse (EM P); and
- the creation of a variety of radioactive particles, which are thrown up into the air by the force of the blast, and are called radio active fallout when they return to Earth.
The distribution of the bomb’s energy among these effects depends on its size and on the details of its design, but a general description possible.
For Full Report. A NUCLEAR WEAPON OVER DETROIT OR LENINGRAD