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"clean" Nukes And The Ecology Of Nuclear War Studies

nuclear weapons1960ies nuclear war

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#1 Panzermann

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 1130 AM

Makes me think Strangelove...

"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
(...)

from and links to the archied docs: http://nsarchive.gwu...ogy-nuclear-war

Edited by Panzermann, 31 August 2017 - 1132 AM.


#2 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 1150 AM

Thats quite interesting timing. That would be around the same time as they were exploring such diverse ideas as an atomic starship (that would achieve forward thrust by dropping a small atomic device through a hatch at the bottom), an atomic construction company to build a second Panama canal and, my personal favourite, nuclear fracking. The last one worked out great, the only problem was it created radiological contamination of the gas, which is something of a problem for those living near the test site as it occasional leaches out the ground.

 

I love the cold war. Its conclusive proof that mankind, despite all the high minded ideas, is at its core completely insane.:)



#3 KV7

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 1203 PM

I read that as atomic warship for a second, and imagined some carrier dropping tactical nukes behind the stern as a propulsion method.



#4 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 1207 PM

Its funny you should say that. There was a documentary on Discovery channel all about the project (they actually got as far as building an engine to test in Nevada I gather). Supposedly when unveiling the project to President Kennedy, they showed him a model of an atomic spaceship for the military, with turrets and laser weapons on it. He was supposed to be unimpressed and ordered the project to be canned.

 

It remains the best option of mankind getting to the stars. The only negative is poisoning the planet, getting off of it.:D



#5 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 1212 PM

https://en.wikipedia...ear_propulsion)

 

The nuclear engine at Nevada would probably be one of the later projects, possibly Project Longshot.

https://en.wikipedia...roject_Longshot



#6 Josh

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 1228 PM

When nuclear power was new, everyone wanted to figure out a new way to employ the limitless energy of nuclear explosives. In practicality most of these were so environmentally damaging as to be laughable now. But on the other hand some promising tech was sidelined once nuclear power because less popular. Nuclear rockets were perfectly viable way of increasing delta v for inter planetary missions and the Orion project still is about the most achievable interstellar propulsion system proposed to date.

#7 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 1246 PM

The best solution all round would be to assemble it in orbit, and then fire it up from there.  Or get North Korea to launch it. :)



#8 shep854

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 1654 PM

Project Orion:

 

https://en.wikipedia...ear_propulsion)

480px-ProjectOrionConfiguration.png

The Orion Spacecraft



#9 shep854

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 1657 PM

Further, a model concept:

OrionBattleshipBoxArt-600.jpg

Project Orion was one of the most ambitious -- and radical -- spacecraft concepts ever developed.  Central to the concept was substituting conventional chemical rockets with a string of low-yield nuclear bombs "spit" out the rear to create a series of powerful blast waves that would accelerate the spacecraft to high velocities.

The "piece de resistance" of the Orion development project was the Orion Battleship, a 10-story-tall spaceborne "doomsday" weapon that would carry more nuclear firepower than a nuclear submarine.  Its proposed armaments included 500 20-megaton thermonuclear missiles, 3 naval Mk 5-inch gun turrets, at least six Casaba Howitzer nuclear directed-energy weapons systems and numerous 20-mm close-in weapons.  Propulsion would consist of several thousand 5-kiloton nuclear pulse weapons (that would also serve as powerful EMP weapons if detonated in the upper atmosphere). Six "landing boats" were on board for use in crew transfer, resupply, emergency escape, etc.

When the Battleship concept (including a scale model) was shown to President Kennedy in 1963, JFK was reportedly so freaked out that he immediately cancelled the project altogether.



#10 Burncycle360

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 2324 PM

Project Pluto / Vought SLAM was a pretty damn scary thought. They even test-ran the engine.

 

Other ideas I'm surprised they didn't mess around with is a Nuclear Ontos (6x Davy Crockett with W54 warheads) or a B-52 stuffed with modified W48's (I reckon you could get about 250 of them in there)

 

I always thought Project Orion nuclear pulse drive would be a neat thing to see if they only fired it up once it got out of orbit.  Of course I'd like to see ultra heavy lift vehicles like Sea Dragon to launch it!

 

I guess nukes on the moon would be about as fail deadly as it gets... enemy would have to either take them out first and show your hand, or first strike your enemy only to get plastered a couple days later.


Edited by Burncycle360, 31 August 2017 - 2326 PM.


#11 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 0313 AM

Supposedly the USAF flirted with the idea of nuking the moon, ostensibly to demonstrate to the Communists the superiority of American nuclear firepower.

 

Why? Because it was there, dammit! Twinkling all that moonlight on those Godless Communists, making them all romantic and procreating. It clearly had to go! :D

 

 

Thanks for that on the nuclear battleship, I knew I hadnt imagined it. Kinda reminiscent of one of the 1980's Twilight zone episodes really.



#12 Josh

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 0934 AM

I suppose the Orion project falls on its face if you consider the political realities of putting that much bomb grade material in or above orbit. A nuclear thermal rocket for propulsion in system would be less of a proliferation scare though.

Was the 'Long Shot' project workable with todays tech? That seems like a less weaponizable form of propulsion.

#13 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 1011 AM

I admit thats all I have on Long Shot, im more familiar with project orion, for its self evident coolness. :)

 

Bear in mind some of the Soviet recce satellites (I think RORSAT's but I cant swear to it) apparently were nuclear propulsion, powered by Plutonium if I recall correctly. Caused a bit of a brown trousers moment when one deorbited over Canada if I remember rightly. I think they had to redesign them with a jettisonable core that could put them in high earth orbit where they wouldn't cause an issue in the event of a failure.



#14 Mr King

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 1248 PM



#15 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 1340 PM

Oh man, now thats hilarious. :D



#16 Inhapi

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 1421 PM

Great short talk by the George Dyson (son of "the Dyson") about Orion:

 

https://www.ted.com/...age=nl#t-400036

 

Inhapi


Edited by Inhapi, 01 September 2017 - 1423 PM.


#17 Adam_S

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 1529 PM



I admit thats all I have on Long Shot, im more familiar with project orion, for its self evident coolness. :)

 

Bear in mind some of the Soviet recce satellites (I think RORSAT's but I cant swear to it) apparently were nuclear propulsion, powered by Plutonium if I recall correctly. Caused a bit of a brown trousers moment when one deorbited over Canada if I remember rightly. I think they had to redesign them with a jettisonable core that could put them in high earth orbit where they wouldn't cause an issue in the event of a failure.

 

Not nuclear propulsion but they did have a nuclear thermal power source. Basically, you have a lump of something radioactive which produces heat as it decays. The heat is then used to generate electricity to power the satellite. It's been used to power deep space probes for decades including Voyager and New Horizons.

 

See https://en.wikipedia...ctric_generator.

 

The RORSATs took this a bit further and had a kind of minaturised nuclear reactor on board. Like the power sources on space probes, it used thermocouples to generate electricity but it used an enriched fuel source and a moderator which meant that it could produce a lot more power but also it could be switched on and off as required.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BES-5



#18 shep854

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 1735 PM

And of course, the NB-36:

300px-NB-36H_with_B-50%2C_1955_-_DF-SC-8

https://en.wikipedia.../Convair_NB-36H



#19 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 0156 AM

 



I admit thats all I have on Long Shot, im more familiar with project orion, for its self evident coolness. :)

 

Bear in mind some of the Soviet recce satellites (I think RORSAT's but I cant swear to it) apparently were nuclear propulsion, powered by Plutonium if I recall correctly. Caused a bit of a brown trousers moment when one deorbited over Canada if I remember rightly. I think they had to redesign them with a jettisonable core that could put them in high earth orbit where they wouldn't cause an issue in the event of a failure.

 

Not nuclear propulsion but they did have a nuclear thermal power source. Basically, you have a lump of something radioactive which produces heat as it decays. The heat is then used to generate electricity to power the satellite. It's been used to power deep space probes for decades including Voyager and New Horizons.

 

See https://en.wikipedia...ctric_generator.

 

The RORSATs took this a bit further and had a kind of minaturised nuclear reactor on board. Like the power sources on space probes, it used thermocouples to generate electricity but it used an enriched fuel source and a moderator which meant that it could produce a lot more power but also it could be switched on and off as required.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BES-5

 

I stand corrected, thank you for that.



#20 Blunt Eversmoke

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 1417 PM

And of course, the NB-36:

300px-NB-36H_with_B-50%2C_1955_-_DF-SC-8

https://en.wikipedia.../Convair_NB-36H

Every time I am reminded of that project and similar ones, one part of me is sad this direction has not been pursued further and found its way into civilian aviation. Imagine REAL big liners that only need refueling once a year or so and can fly distances and routes unimaginable with today's conventional tech.

Then another part of me remembers the terrorist threat specifically to airliners... Nah, it's just as right it hasn't become standard. As of now, at least.







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