Is a nuclear attack on U.S. soil inevitable?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Darth Fierce, Jun 3, 2002.

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  1. Darth Tunes SfC Part III Commissioner

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Nov 26, 2000
    star 10
    Admiral, i guess you're right. the tallest building here is Library Tower, & it's 75 stories tall, which is about 1018 ft. high.
  2. fn_clone Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    May 2, 2002
    star 3
    Just out of curiosity, how much damage would a nuclear weapon detonated on the ground actually do? I know that to get the most out of a nuclear weapon, it must be detonated some distance above ground level. How much more/less damage would a nuclear explosion on ground level be compared to one that detonated above ground level.
  3. CUBIE_HOLE Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 15, 2001
    star 4
    fn_clone, it's hard to tell how much damage would be caused, because it also depends on how powerful(the yield) of the weapon is.

    The bombs dropped on Japan were about 20 kilotons roughly. If I remember correctly, they completely destroyed about a 4 square mile area, but like you said, they were detonated in the air.

    Of course today, such weapons are much more powerful. The US has tested bombs that measure into the 20 megaton range, and at one point, the USSR claimed they had tested a 100 megaton bomb. To give a sense of the power, the 100 megaton bomb would leave a crater that had like a mile diameter, and was either 100 or 300 feet deep(sorry, I can't remember exactly).

    Put more simply:

    1 kiloton = 1,000 tons of TNT

    1 megaton = 1,000,000 tons of TNT

    In reality, if such people were able to get the materials to make such weapons, I still don't think they could make a high yield weapon. At best, or worst depending how you look at it, their bomb would probably create an area of complete destruction with a diameter of 1 or 2 miles, with the devastion becoming less the further out you go.

    Also, I'm assuming if there was a bomb, it would probably be a fission bomb. A fission bomb is relatively easy to make. The hardest part is really getting the plutonium or uranium. Fission bombs(A-bomb) aren't weak by any means, but they're nothing when compared to fusion bombs(H-bomb), and luckily, fusion bombs are harder to make, so I figure at best, these people could only make some sort of weak, crude fission bomb, but I still have my doubts about that.
  4. tenorjedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 2000
    star 5
    That's the reason why NYC Washington DC or LA are the biggest targets. Because their bombs would be small in comparison to what we imagine a nuke to be. With a small detonation they could kill the most people and the most famous or influencial people than anywhere else in the country.
  5. Coolguy4522 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Dec 21, 2000
    star 4
    Not inevitable, but I would say it is very likely.
  6. citizen-tom Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2002
    star 5
    I dont think terrorists will stirke NYC or DC or LA. Why? Because you guys are saying thats where it gonna happen. Terrorists like to suprise. They want to do something that your not expecting. This is about as far as i can get into the evil mind of a terrorist. But i would push some fear in the way of a Boston or Philadelphia.

    -Tom
  7. Admiral_Thrawn60 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 2000
    star 6
    I'm a bit of a newbie when it comes to the yield of nuclear bombs and such. Let's suppose a nuclear bomb of X megatonnes was set off in New York City. Now, let's suppose X megatonnes is the standard type of weapon these terrorists are most likely to get. My question is: what would the blast radius be? The city? The state? Also, what would be the distance the radiation would travel, in standard wind conditions? The state? The eastern seaboard? The eastern United States? Canada?
  8. MariahJade2 Former Fan Fiction Archive Editor

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Mar 18, 2001
    star 5
    As far as conventional nuclear weapons go, I think it is more likely to happen across the pond than here for logistical reasons. It might be hard for terrorists to get the nuke to us. I think we are more likely to see a dirty bomb. It would be a lot easier for them to load up a regular missle with stolen radioactive material and release that. Just as effective and deadly in it's own ugly way.
    Either way I worry for my kids future. :(
  9. Sarajevo Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 6, 2002
    star 3
    I'm glad ton live in Bentonville, AR.


    Darth Zane, like you I am an Arkansan.(I live in Rison)Bentonville is not all that safe. Have you forgtten the Pibe Bluff arsonal? I'm not sure what all is in there, but I know there are lots of dangerus chemicals. Anywaz, you're right about the livng here thing.Go hogs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  10. citizen-tom Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2002
    star 5
    I live just outside Philadelphia, so using math, i figure if a nuke went off in center city, id probably be exposed to some serious radiation. Maybe the blast if it had an extreme amount of megatons. :(

    -Tom
  11. citizen-tom Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2002
    star 5
    It might be hard for terrorists to get the nuke to us.


    i think it may already be here, but i'm a serious bear


    -Tom
  12. MariahJade2 Former Fan Fiction Archive Editor

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Mar 18, 2001
    star 5
    I live just outside Philadelphia,

    Ah, a fellow fluffian. Me too. Either way, we are probably toast if it went off in center city. We never did hear anything more about all those explosives and detonators they found at the bus depo.
  13. RoboNerd Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2001
    star 2
    For you perusal;

    An Analysis upon the feasability of a nuclear strike upon the United States.

    By RoboNerd, nuclear weapons historian & amateur psuedo-expert.

    ---

    Let us journey into the perspective of those who would wish harm upon the United States, and attempt to piece together a practical, real-world model of how to actually detonate a nuclear weapon within the borders of the 48 states. For this purpose, let us use Washington, D.C. as our victim city.

    Given:

    * The plutonium core comes from a former Soviet source,

    * The terrorists in question are Arab in origin,

    * Since a fully assembled weapon would be a dead giveaway upon a chance inspection, it would be wiser to assemble the weapon within the borders of the U.S. and smuggle in the core. My scenario will reflect this.

    The core is smuggled in French leaden works (due to the ease of penetration by Arab nationals), like yard ornamentation for wealthy estates, where the core could be actually dropped into a mold, using the uranium tamper to protect the plutonium from melting into a useless slag. The immediate cooling of the lead would be necessary to prevent the core from being destroyed, but this could be done by quenching with water.

    The lead would then shield the core from radiological detection until it had reached its final destination, where a new tamper would have to be constructed because it would most definitely be inseparable from the lead cocoon. However this is fairly simple, since the tamper is constructed of naturally occuring uranium.

    The construction of the outer explosive lenses is a major logistical problem in constructing a nuclear weapon. First, the timing of the explosives must be within microseconds of each other to create a perfectly spherical shockwave, otherwise the core will not implode properly. Furthermore, the necessary precise shockwaves on modern nuclear weapons cores cannot be acheived by publicly available explosives -- only military grade weapons explosives will work properly.

    Therefore it will be necessary to either improvise by purifying a common explosive or by obtaining a semi-compatible explosive (C-4 may work, but I would suspect that it would not provide full yield). Next they would find a slower-detonating explosive (TNT does the job here) to create the shaping of the shockwave.

    The timing devices would most likely be integrated circuit based, but the trick is to have exactly the same length and composition of circuit paths to the firing mechanism. Again, timing is everything.

    (In order to make myself feel a little better I have kept things rather vague and left out two key components, but this should give you an idea of just how precise things have to be in order to construct the weapon).

    I would assume that given the events of recent years, the person who is responsible for the weapon will be a suicide bomber. Unfortunately at this point I doubt that there would be little anyone would be able to do in order to stop the inevitable conclusion.

    Therefore it would be necessary to prevent:

    A -- The construction of the weapon itself

    B -- The smuggling of the core

    C -- The unlawful entry of unwell-wishers.

    I would like to say I'm optimistic about this sort of thing, but really everything comes down to B.

    If a plutonium core were to be smuggled in to the United States we should definitely expect a nuclear weapon being constructed and exploded. Therefore let us hope that our homeland security team is up to the task!

    +=o RoboNerd o=+
  14. Admiral_Thrawn60 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 2000
    star 6
    I asked what the damage would be, not how to make a nuke, and quite frankly, RoboNerd, the amount of stuff you know about building nuclear bombs scares me. :p

    To those who live on the outskirts of Philly and wonder if they would be affected if the bomb exploded in the city centre:

    Recall the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those were pretty decent sized cities. They were levelled.

    Modern nuclear weapons are, as far as I know, at least a thousand times more powerful than those bombs.

    I'm still looking for an answer to my question, but I'm guessing that if a nuke were to be exploded in Philadelphia, everything from New York to Baltimore would be a memory, and everything from Boston to Raleigh would be radiated.

    RoboNerd, you know about this stuff. How accurate do you think these estimates are?
  15. citizen-tom Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2002
    star 5
    but I'm guessing that if a nuke were to be exploded in Philadelphia, everything from New York to Baltimore would be a memory, and everything from Boston to Raleigh would be radiated

    oh ****

    -Tom
  16. RoboNerd Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2001
    star 2
    Admiral_Thrawn60, I do not concur with that analysis, simply because it would be infeasable. Perhaps the ridiculous "Tsar Bomba" that the Soviet Union constructed a half-yield version in 1961 could do such a thing. The full-scale version was 100 Megatons, and air-deliverable! Of course the Tsar Bomba wasn't really supposed to be used in combat, however -- it's just one of the interesting objects that the Russians have made over the years which are really huge in size, but are practically useless -- for example, a giant bomb, a giant bell and a giant cannon.

    But I digress.

    A modern nuclear weapon is designed with a "dial-a-yield" function, where you can choose from the primary (fission implosion weapon with deuterium/tritium "boosting") and primary+secondary (boosted fission + thermonuclear). The W80 warhead, currently in the U.S. stockpile, has 5/150 kiloton (Kt) settings, from a weapon no larger than a canister vaccum cleaner, and less than 300 pounds! (For reference, the Hiroshima blast was about 15 Kt, and Nagasaki was about 18-21 Kt).

    However I find it rather unlikely that a full-scale thermonuclear device can be brought into the United States for detonation. There are many safeguards against detonating warheads at ground level, for example, accelerometers which will only arm the weapon if it is travelling above a certain speed.

    No, the more likely scenario will be someone having to construct the detonation device here within the U.S. Therefore access to the proper materials to construct even a "boosted" weapon would be difficult to find, not to mention Lithium-6 fusion fuel.

    The most likely scenario I can forsee would be a small sub-Kt, maybe as high as 2 Kt, detonation within the heart of a major city, which would likely destroy 3-5 blocks with a high overpressure extending .75 miles from the hypocenter.

    The real problem would be the residual radioactive material left over, especially should they be able to construct a boosted weapon, but given enough manpower I believe that the majority of the localized fragments from the core could be detected and removed (radioactive material is easy to detect, fortunately). Radioisotopes thrown into the air are a different story; they will propogate into the atmosphere and settle into crops, and especially dairy products.

    As unthinkable as the idea of nuclear weapons being detonated here are, I don't think it would be any higher death toll than 9/11 was. However I would just as soon not find out if I'm right.

    +=o RoboNerd o=+
  17. Waning Drill Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 30, 1999
    star 5
    The east coast would be the ideal place to detonate one. Even if it wasn't particularly powerful it could still damage the nuclear power plants we have over here.
  18. Vaders_leash Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 29, 2001
    star 3
    My reply to this thead: Why do you think "Sum of All Fears" has gotten so much attention. Probably not by some hateful or jealous other nation, but by some hateful, paranoid group on our own soil. IMO, us Americans are our own worst enemy.
  19. PowerfulJedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 17, 2000
    star 4
    My question is that, who said terrorists have to smuggle it in? Who's to say they can't get an airplane from say Mexico? They pay the right people enough money, boom you get a plane with your nuke. Whatever happens, I hope they don't get Chicago because if they did me(here in Milwaukee) would die the slow horrible death. That would suck wouldn't it?
  20. RoboNerd Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2001
    star 2
    PowerfulJedi wrote:
    My question is that, who said terrorists have to smuggle it in? Who's to say they can't get an airplane from say Mexico? They pay the right people enough money, boom you get a plane with your nuke. Whatever happens, I hope they don't get Chicago because if they did me(here in Milwaukee) would die the slow horrible death. That would suck wouldn't it?

    Nowadays it is nearly impossible to enter the U.S. via airplane and not have someone know about it. The ARSR-4 (air route surveillance radar) is a very effective radar system, with look-down capability (that is, you can't fly underneath it). Any target which enters its range (250 NM) is automatically interrogated.

    Furthermore, nuclear weapons are high-maintenance. I somehow doubt that terrorist organizations have the capability to keep one operational for the time necessary to get it to its destination, bypass the necessary protection measures without killing the arming circuits (they are safeguarded), bypass the physical safeguards, and then actually place the weapon and detonate it. The logistics are just highly unlikely for the kinds of people we're talking about.

    +=o RoboNerd o=+
  21. citizen-tom Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2002
    star 5
    Can you shoot down a plane with a Nuke? Cuz I don't think that would be smart. What would you do, if you do detect such a plane comin across the border. Also, if coming over the Mexico border is what they're gonna do, would that make such places as houston and fort worth a target??
  22. RoboNerd Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2001
    star 2
    Actually apart from scattered radioactive material, it is very safe to shoot down a plane carrying a nuclear weapon, because it requires an extremely precise implosion to produce nuclear detonation. If the warhead were destroyed by any other means it would cease to function as a real weapon.

    +=o RoboNerd o=+
  23. Tupolov Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 24, 2002
    star 4
    I don't believe that it's inevitable, but we have a very good chance of it happening because some of our enemies like Iraq have nukes and they might not hesitate to use them. We can, however, prevent them becuase chances are an attack of such magnitude would not be something spontaneous. Therefore, we should tighten our Middle-Eastern security net to prevent such attacks.
  24. Jotun Denal Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 4, 1999
    star 6
    I'm still waiting for Al Queda to target someone other than the United States. Perhaps when that happens, the true War on Terrorism will take place...
  25. PowerfulJedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 17, 2000
    star 4
    I doubt any other country would be hit. The ONLY other country I can see being hit is the UK.
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