from and links to the archied docs: http://nsarchive.gwu...ogy-nuclear-war
"Clean" Nukes and the Ecology of Nuclear War
Officials in 1960s Sought Studies of Longer-term Consequences of Nuclear Attacks on the Health of People or on Their Living Environment
The Environmental Impact of Nuclear War: The Beginnings of a Project, 1961-1963
During the early 1960s when the writings of natural scientist Rachel Carson were starting to inspire the modern environmental movement, scientists and officials at the Atomic Energy Commission initiated studies to consider the ecological impact of nuclear war. Believing that U.S. national security required a better understanding of what could happen if nuclear conflict broke out, in late 1961 AEC officials took steps to promote more systematic thinking on the biological and environmental impacts. Documents published today for the first time by the National Security Archive detail how the AEC created the Technical Analysis Branch [TAB] to study the long-term consequences of nuclear war.
AEC Chairman Glenn Seaborg, one of the moving forces behind this effort, wanted the Commission to continue its established research on the biological impact of nuclear war. Reflecting a grim awareness of the horrific second-order impact anticipated from such a conflict, he directed that the study take an even broader approach by considering the indirect effects on people resulting from direct effect of fallout and fire on wildlife, birds, insects, domestic stock, forests, and other factors of ecological importance, and the possible effects of large numbers of nuclear explosions on local and global weather.
The AECs new project built on the work during the 1950s and early 1960s of a National Security Council subcommittee that had been conducting net evaluations of the effect of a nuclear war on the United States and the Soviet Union. The AEC supported that work but wanted to take a more holistic approach. According to Hal Hollister, the Technical Analysis Branch chief, the purpose was to develop a better understanding of what nuclear war might do to mankinds health and his living environment so that the formulation of national security policy for both military and nonmilitary defense, can be guided. Such knowledge would contribute to more enlightened decisions on strategy and foreign policy, military operations, weapons systems evaluation, nuclear stockpile composition, civil defense, arms control, and postattack recovery.
This collection of documents from AEC and Department of Defense records focuses on the first two years of the effort to appraise the long-term consequences of nuclear war. This involved coordination between the two agencies, which Seaborg encouraged. At the Pentagon, communications would run through Gerald W. Johnson, Defense Secretary Robert McNamaras assistant on atomic energy matters. The Defense Department produced a number of studies that it deemed relevant to the AEC project. Tacitly, however, divergences appeared, with the Pentagon demonstrating less interest in the longer-term consequences of nuclear war far than in immediate casualty levels and the differences that deployment of clean and standard (dirty) nuclear weapons would make.
As strange as it seems now, the notion of clean nuclear weapons was taken fairly seriously in the late 1950s and early 1960s. U.S. government officials had been interested in the possibility of such nuclear weapons, which they believed would produce far less radioactive fallout than standard dirty thermonuclear weapons.%5B1%5D Yet, because clean weapons produced somewhat lower explosive yields, they found little support at the Pentagon, which relied on standard nuclear weapons to provide greater destructive power. By the 1970s, however, U.S. government interest in clean tactical nuclear weapons would lead to controversies over the deployment of Enhanced Radiation Warheads or neutron bombs in NATO Europe.
The pros and cons of clean nuclear weapons were not front-and-center in Hollisters efforts. His focus was on a full appraisal of the longer-term consequences of nuclear attacks on the health of people or on their living environment, which to our knowledge [have] never been made in this country. Thus, as long as dirty bombs were the mainstay of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, any appraisals would have had to take that into effect.
The sources for this posting are at the National Archives, College Park. One is a recently declassified set of files from the records of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Atomic Energy, Accession 69-A-2243: under the intriguing title: AW- Ecological Study, Volumes I and II. The other relevant collection is from Atomic Energy Commission records, the files of the Technical Analysis Branch [TAB] as maintained by branch chief Hal Hollister. Unfortunately, the folder documenting activities during 1963 is missing from the collection. Other Defense Department files on the long-term Ecological Study are undergoing declassification review and may provide grist for future postings.
READ THE DOCUMENTS
Edited by Panzermann, 31 August 2017 - 1132 AM.