If you are thanking you’re lucky stars for being born in a commonwealth country such as Canada, Australia or New Zealand because, according to the release of The Economist – Intelligence Unit’s, “the best cities to live in the world” report, nine of the top eleven are in these countries, be glad and grateful. Based on stability, healthcare, culture, environment, and including such things as education, what type of crime is prevalent, levels of censorship and availability of good quality housing and goods, the top ten cities to live in the world are Melbourne (Aus), Vienna, Austria, Vancouver (Can), Toronto (Can), Calgary (Can), Adelaide (Aus), Sydney (Aus), Helsinki, Finland, Perth (Aus), and Auckland, New Zealand. Such places are also some of the most expensive places to live in the world.
If you would like to gloat for awhile, please, I didn’t. Because in reality, no matter where one lives, many find life is a struggle most days, especially trying to keep ones sanity intact. But if you are jumping around and fist-pumping, the following article should perhaps not be read at such a time.
It is a piece that formed in my head August 6th, the day of remembrance of Hiroshima, and I started thinking about some research into radiation sickness I had been doing, my knowledge and research over the decades of the accuracies of World War II, and not the Hollywood version, and how in a heartbeat, everything could change, because a few countries have nuclear power in both warheads and reactors, with most of the reactors run past their forty year life-spans. So if you do not need distraction from your distractions, or your bubble popped, the following might be a downer. But then as stated, it could all shatter in seconds anyways.
Such a looming threat though should only make us more concerned into making each day count, for ourselves and those around us and within our communities, and to be aware of such threats, and most importantly, allowing ourselves to talk about such things. If you are going to venture forth and read further, next time you have to vote, think about to whom you will be bestowing upon such a right and who you are hiring, and that your concerns will be acknowledged. It’s supposed to be our voice, not theirs. And if being the eternal optimists, to remember it is not too late to stop nuclear madness.
In the final months of World War II the States were in the process of becoming the new and dominant world empire, since the British Empire had torn her guts out over the course of two world wars and had roared its last hurrah. As for those still alive who actually think Germany would have stormed North America, and we’d all be speaking German are delusional. They could not even take Britain. As for the Japanese, they had no interest in North America, there plan was to delay the Americans, while they took control of the natural resources in Southwest Asia. They felt they had only about a year to sixteen months to take what they could, before the industrial might of the States would produce enough to stop them. They were correct. On a side note, if the American carrier fleet was not at sea the day Pearl Harbour was attacked; the Japanese might have had a few more months’ leeway, at the most.
All over the world, many countries were shaken to their cores, on their knees retching after the previous years of war. Some countries lost a generation of their population, especially when the majority of deaths in World War II, by far, were civilians. All together, including deaths from war-related disease, famine, and in captivity, 85 million people died in World War II, nearly four per cent of the world population at the time.
Military deaths totaled 22 to 25 million, the remainder, 55 million, were civilians. It was what war would become in the 20th century. Drop bombs on cities. Where destroying another’s industry, was deemed far more important than nearly exterminating entire populations. And as the war went on, the bombs became only bigger, and more and more civilians felt their wrath.
In Nov 44’ the Americans were close enough in their island hopping to begin fire-bombing Japanese cities. The majority of Japanese homes and businesses were made of wood and paper. It was a turkey shoot.
By March 45’ a typical bombing raid over Japan had escalated to operations such as Operation Meeting House, carried out that month, where 279 B-29’s, flying at an average altitude of about 2100m (7000ft) above Tokyo, would drop 1665 tons (3.3 million lbs) of incendiary bombs, mostly 230kg (500lb) cluster bombs, which would explode at about 659m (2250ft) releasing 38 napalm carrying incendiary bomblets. The effect was total destruction. Forty square kilometers (15.8 sq mi) of the center of Tokyo disappeared in firestorm tornados. Twenty-five per cent of the city ceased to exist. Over 280,000 buildings and homes were destroyed.
At the time, Tokyo was the most densely populated area in the world, with about 103,000 people every 2.59 sq km (one sq mi). And while there is an array of estimated deaths, with such a density, logic would dictate that it was probably much worse than the estimated 90,000 to 150,000 deaths, and over 200,000 injured. It would become the single most destructive bombing raid on a civilian population in history, more than even Hiroshima and Nagasaki, four months later.
By June 45’ sixty-seven cities had been firebombed in such a way, with over half a million civilian dead, untold numbers injured and burned, and over five million people homeless. In contrast, and if you do not include the 9,500 members of the US Merchant Marine who died, the States lost only 2,500 civilians over the course of the entire war, while the Soviets lost over 19 million.
After breaking the Japanese military code in 43’ the Americans had been listening in on Japanese communications, and after June 45’ were receiving a lot of traffic concerning the Japanese perhaps surrendering. Though officially the Japanese, like Winston Churchill, continued to give word that they shall never surrender, behind the scenes steps were being made towards peace.
The Japanese Islands were surrounded, with nothing going in and nothing coming out. Forty per cent of the urban areas of their largest six cities ceased to exist, with the guts of what remained of their industry totally devastated. And having lost nearly five per cent of their population, over twenty-five per cent of both their army and navy, millions injured, and cities no longer existing, there was no doubt the Japanese were losing the ability to continue or even defend their homeland.
Their last ditch effort kamikaze and banzai attacks, expending men, aircraft, and ships were their last gasps. It’s getting desperate when after losing one of the heaviest and most powerful armed battleships ever made, the Musashi, in Oct 44’ during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, sunk after absorbing seventeen bombs and being torpedoed nineteen times, the other, her sister-ship the Yamato, would steam out with a full complement of crew (3,332 men), and a full payload of ammunition on a one way trip to Okinawa in April 45’. The Americans were on her like a pack of wolves, and after eleven torpedoes and six bombs had crashed into her, she keeled over, her magazines exploded and scattered what was left of her into dust and pieces. Of the crew there were only two hundred and eighty two survivors.
The Japanese and the Americans, also knew that Russia was on its way, with the Trans-Siberian railway running full out since the defeat of Germany in May 45’, as Russian troops and material were being priority posted to their east coast in preparation for the assault on Japan. The Japanese also knew that if the Russians were to assault them, Stalin would not worry about how many of his soldiers died to take Japan. And no matter how well they defended their island, the Japanese people knew they would no doubt be nearly exterminated. As it turned out, over the coming months the Americans would give a shot at doing the exact same thing.
The Russians had already beaten the other Allies to Berlin, now their intentions were on beating them to Tokyo as well. This was something the American leadership could not accept. So in typical American logic, to speed up any peace negotiations, they decided to obliterate even more Japanese cities and force them to surrender to America alone. Further deciding to drop nuclear bombs instead of conventional bombs, and call them funny names like Little Boy and Fat Man.
But proving karma can very often be a bitch, after delivering parts and enriched uranium for the Little Boy atomic bomb (destined for Hiroshima) to Tinian, in the North Mariana Islands, the heavy cruiser, USS Indianapolis would continue onto Guam, leaving there on July 28th 45’ and steaming for the Philippines.
At ten minutes past midnight on the 30th, the Japanese submarine I-58 would put two torpedoes into the Indianapolis, and a mere twelve minutes later three hundred sailors would go down with her, while the remaining nine hundred went into the water. Four days would go by until by chance, a PV-1 Ventura, patrol bomber on routine patrol would spot men adrift. Doing a flyby, all they could do was to drop a life-raft and a radio transmitter and get the word out. Later that day a PBY Catalina arrived on scene, and against orders landed on the open sea, picking up fifty-six survivors. Thereafter, the destroyer Cecil J. Doyle would show up and begin coordinating the rescue. Within twenty-four hours, six more destroyers would show up to assist.
While nearly nine hundred went into the water ten days previous, by Aug 8th, when the search was called off, only three hundred and seventeen would come out. The sinking of the Indianapolis is the greatest single loss of life at sea in the history of the US Navy.
Meanwhile, on August 6th Little Boy had been put together, armed and loaded into a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, named the Enola Gay. Named by its pilot, Paul Tibbetts, Jr, Enola Gay was his mother’s name, who he honored for her support and strength when earlier he had given up a medical career to become a military pilot. So instead of healing and caring for people, he could instead drop bombs on them.
Before this mission the Enola Gay had practised by participating in the fire bombings of Kobe and Nagoya, two of Japan’s most populated cities. To simulate dropping an atomic bomb, they dropped five-ton pumpkin bombs. Similar in size and shape, as well as ballistic and handling characteristics, they proved to be nearly as destructive, carrying 6,300 lbs of explosives each.
On August 6th, Tibbetts and a crew of eleven would take off from Tinian, and soon rendezvous with two other B-29s, The Great Artiste, carrying instrumentation, and the Necessary Evil, to take photos, because they still did not have any idea how it’d go and how destructive it would be, nor did anyone know anything about how radiation affected humans. They were like babes in the woods thinking they were explorers.
Hiroshima was selected because of the three possible choices, the weather was sunny and clear, which was excellent for the Americans because they wanted to take pictures and see what these atomic bomb things could do. Little Boy was dropped from 9,470m (31,000ft) and detonated at about 600m (1968ft) above Hiroshima, which at the time had a population of about 350,000. Though considered very inefficient, with only perhaps 1.7 per cent of its fissile material (140 lbs of uranium) fissioning, it still created a blast equivalent to sixteen kilotons of TNT (14.5 million kg / 32 million lbs).
One square mile of Hiroshima’s center disappeared, with resulting fires destroying an estimated 12 sq km (4.4 sq mi) of the city. 80,000 people would die, with more than 70,000 people injured and mostly burnt. Nearly 70 per cent of Hiroshima’s buildings ceased to exist.
The Enola Gay was 18.5km (11.5mi) away by the time they felt the shock waves from the blast. Looking back, pilot Tibbetts would describe what he saw as simply “that awful cloud.” It was undoubtedly the moment when some say that the possibility of the apocalypse was passed from the so called gods’ hands, and into our hand.
The next day the longest medical experiment in history would begin and continues to this day. Red Cross Surgeon, Terufumi Sasaki, arrived at Hiroshima and started the first intensive research study to understand the symptoms and dangers of radiation exposure, which we humans had not experienced before at such levels.
In 1946, the States jumped on board and commissioned the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC), of the National Academy of Sciences – National research Council. Made up of scientists, the ABCC felt that a “detailed and long-range study of the biological and medical effects upon the human being” was “of the utmost importance to the United States and mankind in general.” In 1956 a detailed description of all the data they had collected was released.
In 1975 the Atomic Energy Commission would change the administrative organization of the ABCC, where it was to be funded by both the States and Japan and be now called the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), and which is still in operation today.
Four days after Hiroshima, on August 9th 45’, the B-29 “Bockscar”, piloted by Major Charles Sweeney, dropped Fat Man on the city of Nagasaki. While Little Boy was classed as a simple atomic bomb, Fat Man was a more technologically, sophisticated design, and far more powerful. Containing a core of about 6.4 kg (14lb) of plutonium, (not uranium like that of Little Boy) it exploded at 503m (1,650ft) with a blast yield equivalent to 21 kilotons of TNT (19 million kg / 42 million lbs). It generated heat estimated at 3,900 Celsius (7,050 Fahrenheit) and winds estimated at 1,005 km/h (624 mph) at detonation. As at Hiroshima, one square mile of Nagasaki was instantly destroyed, and then quickly engulfed in ever spreading multiple tornados of fire. Deaths from the blast were estimated in the range of 40,000 to 80,000 people. Dropped 3 km (1.9mi) off the planned center, the surrounding Urakami Valley and its intervening hills protected much of the actual city. The death toll could have been much higher.
Aug 9th was also the day Russia began their, Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation, which would be the last campaign fought in WWII. Perhaps the horns blew to attack and the tanks moved forward, just after they had all witnessed this second bright flash of light that had burst out from the eastern sky.
Russian troops would take Manchuria, Inner Mongolia and North Korea down to the 38th parallel in eleven days. The Japanese had ten times as many casualties as the Russians, with over 80,000 dead and more than 640,000 troops taken prisoner. It is the worst Japanese army defeat in history.
On August 14th, with the Russian offensive winding down on the mainland, having only taken five days thus far, and ending on the 20th. Keeping the pressure on, and though for all intents and purposes not needed, the Americans would send 828 B-29’s, escorted by 186 fighters over Japan, firebombing and devastating the cities of Iwakuni, Osaka, and Tokoyama during the day, and Kumagaya and Isesaki that night. Estimated deaths range from 250,000 to 850,000 people.
The next day, Aug 15th, with well over one million of her citizens incinerated over the past nine days, Japan surrendered to the Americans. In reality and confirmed by many who were involved and as already noted, the Japanese were already ready to surrender, whether their remaining cities were further fire-bombed and two atomic bombs dropped on them or not. And in reality, they would have surrendered long before any such American or Russian invasion, because before such an invasion they would have been first bombed back to the Dark Ages, or even earlier.
In fact, America’s original plan was to drop another atomic bomb in the third week of August, three more in September, and if still needed, another three in October. If this had actually happened I wonder if I would be sitting here pecking on a computer, and would you be sitting there reading?
The Russians were extremely disappointed with Japan’s surrender to the Americans, but now realized they themselves will have to start producing their own atomic bombs, much like the Nazi’s were doing before their defeat, and the deadly game began.
In total, the States dropped 160,800 tons of bombs on Japan; ninety per cent of this was dropped in the last five months of the war. Arms manufacturers made over $4 billion (1945 dollars) from these raids. They had also made another $30 billion on bomber operations in Europe. Overall, they made over $330 billion on World War II and thought, why stop there.
Beginning in 1952, the first generation of atomic bombs, those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would evolve into thermonuclear weapons, which were developed for maximum weapon energy yield (the amount of energy released when detonated, expressed in TNT equivalent). Such weapons, also known as hydrogen bombs or H-bombs, can have yields greater than 50 kilotons. In comparison, Little Boy was a gun-type uranium-235 fission gravity bomb, and as already mentioned had a yield of about 16 kilotons or 32 million pounds. Fat Man, an implosion type plutonium-239 fission bomb, and had a yield of about 21 kilotons (42 million lbs). Both of these bombs could just about fit into the back of a full size pick-up truck.
From 1946 to 1958 the States would use the Marshall Island group, in the South Pacific, as their testing laboratory, having no consequence or care for the thousands of Marshall Islanders who lived there. Undoubtedly, because of the Americans continued belief in their exceptionalism which allows them to disregard the health and welfare of all others. The human guinea pigs which the Marshall Islanders became were exposed to horrible and often deadly levels of radiation, and used by the Americans for studying the effects of radiation on human beings. The surviving Islanders would eventually all be re-located to the island of Ebeye, be paid $150 million “for all claims, past, present and future”, and delegated to live in a typical American-style slum there.
Exacerbating what has already been done to the Marshall Islanders, today they also have the unfortunate distinction of being at the forefront of global warming and one of the most affected by climate change. The islands that make up their land are on average only about two meters (six feet) above sea level. Through continuing erosion and imminent rising of the sea level, in fifty years nobody will be living there.
The Islanders continue to speak out against the existence of nuclear weapons, and bring their case to the higher courts. For they know all too well the horrifying risk nuclear weapons pose to human beings. They also continue to, in an ever louder voice, speak out against global warming, because they know the horrifying risk climate change also poses to human beings.
For twelve years the Americans would detonate 67 nuclear devices in the Marshall Islands, the equivalent of one point five Hiroshima bombs daily, including the detonation of the Castle Bravo device in 1954. The scientists expected a yield of about 4 to 8 megatons from the device, but were thrown back when instead they got 15 megatons (15 million tons), their most powerful test to-date. It was more than one thousand times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Hooray?
By the early Sixties their new favorite nuclear weapon of choice would become the B41, the most powerful nuclear bomb ever developed by the United States, with a maximum yield of 25 megatons.
Not to be outdone in the race, in 1961, over the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Sea, north of the Arctic Circle, the Russians detonated their Tsar Bomba device. It is the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated, with a yield of 50 megatons (50 million tons) which equals over 2,600 Hiroshima’s.
The Russians had tested their first nuclear device in 1949, and besides the Tsar Bomba device, have detonated another 454 devices since then, affecting thousands of people, and much of the local environment around the test sites.
Today there are nine countries that have successfully detonated nuclear weapons. Five of them, the States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China are members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India, Pakistan and Israel are not, while North Korea used to be in the NPT, but withdrew in 2003.
Much of the world’s nuclear arsenals today consist of warheads either in the 400 kiloton range, about 200-270 kg (440-600 lbs) in weight, or the B-series of nuclear bombs, which have yields up to 1.2 megatons. Though only weighing just over a ton (2200 lbs), their yields are seventy-five times more powerful than Little Boy’s. All living things within 7.4 km (4.6 miles) would instantly die in a firestorm.
While the smallest nuclear warheads are about 270mm (10.75 inches) diameter, about 400 mm (15.7 inches) long, and weigh around or 23 kg (50 lbs), with an estimated yield of about 10 tons, able to fit into a suitcase or a large backpack and capable of destroying two square blocks.
Further to perspective, a conventional bomb that contains ten thousand tons of TNT would have to be the size of a cargo train one hundred cars long, and would be hard to launch, or get up to speed. A ten kiloton nuclear device on the other hand will fit into the back of a pick-up.
Such a device would inflict 500,000 to 2 million deaths if released in a large city, killing by blast, fire and radiation, the effects of which cannot be contained in time or space. Besides the immediate deaths, there would also be millions of radioactive fallout casualties, civil liberties would be withheld, privacy would be non-existent, and the world economy would be affected. We have all already seen such scenarios at movie theatres our whole lives, as if being prepared for such an event.
As already mentioned, some of the B-series nuclear devices prevalent in today’s nuclear arsenals are over one megaton (one million tons). When they detonate they are 30 times brighter than the sun, seeing it as it went off from 43km (27mi) away would instantly burn your eyes out. At its core a firestorm would explode, sucking in oxygen and air and instantly replacing it with carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide. If the initial blast of fire does not kill you, you will immediately die of heat stroke, asphyxiation and/or gas poisoning. All fuel sources for kilometers around, whether cars, trucks, propane tanks, natural gas-lines, and gas stations would immediately explode. Over 9 km (6 mi) away, the heat wave will melt eyeballs, cause third degree burns and instantly ignite any wood. 64 km (40 mi) away, houses will shake, lighting fixtures will crash to the ground, and windows will all be blown out. There will be nothing left hanging on any walls or from exterior of house. Twelve seconds later the shock wave would remove it all.
As for medical care for the survivors, most injuries will be for 2nd and 3rd degree burns. Any with over 50% of their body burned will be left to die or be killed so that they do not die in pain. Thousands in all directions would be homeless, hungry and dazed, in coma-like states of shock and fear.
You could be half a world away and still be affected. Radiation is like that. When released into the air, it becomes minute moisture droplets, which gets inhaled, washed and blown out to sea and soil, contaminating crops, marine life and fresh drinking water. There is no way to decontaminate exposed people and if exposed to high levels of radiation, the human body immediately develops acute radiation sickness.
In two weeks your hair falls out, hemorrhaging under the skin begins, along with severe nausea and diarrhea, and then eventually dying from bleeding or infection. Men are rendered sterile; while women stop menstruating with spontaneous abortions occurring among those pregnant. Nearly everyone will have shortness of breath.
Children and fetuses are affected the quickest because radiation causes changes or mutations in DNA, which may then go on to cause cancer, especially thyroid, bone cancers and leukemia. The human body can repair DNA changes or damage, but only if the repair process happens faster than the time it takes the damaged or mutated DNA material to replicate. But in children and fetuses, their cells divide at a faster rate. Any babies that are born, most likely will be micro-cephalic, with tiny heads and severe mental disabilities.
In five years there will be a major epidemic of leukemia. Ten years later, solid cancers will begin appearing in all the organs, the lungs, breast, thyroid, brain and bone. Genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis, diabetes, dwarfism and metabolic disorders, along with epidemics of malignancy and random unavoidable genetic mutations, will be passed on for generations.
Back in the arms race, by 1960 the Americans had laid a plan for an all-out strike on the Communist world, and not just the Soviet Union. The Soviets also had such a plan, but their plan was based on their belief that it would be the States that would launch first, so their plan was to counter with everything they had, hell be damned, you nuke me I nuke you. Proving both countries’ governments were equally insane.
A year later, the Soviet leader, Khrushchev proposed sharp mutual reductions in offensive weapons. The just elected Kennedy administration rejected it, and instead began the largest strategic and conventional peace-time military build up in world history. The Cold War began.
Khrushchev continued dialogue for reductions in conventional forces and nuclear arms, but being so out-gunned and with his latest offer rejected, it forced him to deter somehow the further build-up of American nuclear weaponry by placing nuclear weapons in Cuba, which coincidence or not, the States had been planning on invading in a few months. But you know what they say about best laid plans.
In October 1962 Khrushchev offered to withdraw missiles from Cuba, if the States would withdraw their missiles out of Turkey. Though Kennedy was counseled that there was a thirty-five to fifty per cent chance that nuclear war would break out, regardless, he refused the offer, and demanded that the Cuban missiles to be the only ones removed.
The Soviet’s indeed removed their nuclear missiles from Cuba, while the States moved a few more Polaris nuclear submarines into the Mediterranean to replace the few out-dated de-commissioned missiles they had in Turkey. With the crisis over but the cold war to continue, America’s attention was removed from Cuba, and was now being focused on Vietnam.
But Khrushchev continued calling for reductions in nuclear warheads, and in 1963, in gesture, he withdrew forces from East Germany and called on the Americans to reciprocate. Once again the States rejected such an offer. Meanwhile the Russians, who had been invaded and nearly completely destroyed many times over the past hundred years, especially the last forty, became ever the more concerned about America’s buildup of its military and nuclear capabilities, and ever the more paranoid about the fact most of the American’s nuclear arsenal was pointed at them.
As tensions rose, accidents began, and continue to happen, for we are but only humans. A close call happened in 1983 when Russia’s early-warning systems picked up an incoming missile strike from the States. Immediately putting their own nuclear systems on high-alert, the Russians prepared to follow protocol and retaliate with a strike of their own. Russian Officer Stanislav Petrov disobeyed orders and did not report the warnings, and sure enough what was detected was a blip and false. Though he was officially reprimanded, Petrov disobedience might have saved the world.
In 1995 Russian radar mistook a Norwegian weather rocket for an American nuclear missile. While senior military members advised Russian president Boris Yeltsin to immediately launch a counter-strike, he refused.
Close calls with nuclear weapons in the States include, in January 1961, a B-52 bomber broke up over North Carolina, dropping two nuclear bombs on rural Goldsboro County. Recently released reports have found that “By the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted.”
Other accidents include an B-47 that crashed into a nuclear weapons storage facility at Royal Air Force base Lakenheath, in Suffolk, England, a hydrogen bomb accidently dropped over Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and not exploding, and in 2007, a B-52 that flew across the States from coast to coast with six nuclear cruise missiles on board, armed and ready to go, which the pilots and crew did not know they had.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) 2011 report estimates that there are over 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Ninety-five per cent of these weapons are controlled by the States and Russia. At the height of the Cold War there were 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Of these weapons only four countries have actual deployed nuclear warheads, meaning warheads that are already placed on missiles or located on bases, close at hand and always ready to launch.
In 2011, there were about 5,027 missiles, deployed on either land or on a submarine, and ready to fire. The States had 2,150 of them, with about 2,000 kept on high operational alert and ready to fire at a moment’s notice. Russia had 2,427, though it is estimated that five years previous, the Russians had only 25 to 50 per cent of their nuclear warheads actually secured and accounted for, which is sort of scary don’t you think?
By 2013 the number of active nuclear warheads had reduced to about 4,100 from the previously mentioned 5,027, and the total number of nuclear warheads in the world dropped from 20,000+ to about 17,300.
Under the terms of the New Start Agreement, ratified in 2010, the States and Russia are supposed to reduce their nuclear arsenals to 1,550 each, by 2017. The other two countries with deployed nuclear weapons are the United Kingdom with 160 deployed weapons and France with 290 deployed weapons.
Besides their deployed nuclear weapons, the States also has an additional 6,350 weapons for a total of 8,500, Russia has another 8,570 weapons for a total stockpile of 11,000, the UK has an additional 65 warheads for a total of 225, and France has another 10 for a total of 300. China has about 240 weapons, India 90, Pakistan 100, and the Israeli’s, supposedly; wink-wink nudge-nudge, 80 weapons are non-deployed. North Korea is also included though the exact number of weapons is very small, probably under 10.
Yes and to a certain extent, the States and Russia have been very modestly reducing their nuclear arsenals over the past few years, but continue to keep them at a ludicrously high level of overkill. The UK, France, China and Israel meanwhile have held steady with their arsenals, while India and Pakistan are locked in a race for even more weapons. Another nuke me nuke you moment waiting to happen.
After the breakup of the USSR in 1991, Kazakhstan, the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence and become the world’s largest landlocked country by land area, and ninth largest country in the world, also inherited over one thousand nuclear warheads, one hundred and ten ballistic missiles, and the nuclear testing infrastructure at Semipalatinsk. But by 1995 they had returned their entire nuclear arsenal, the fourth largest in the world, back to the Russians and closed down all testing facilities. It is a glaring example, because every other nuclear armed country would not dream, nor be allowed to do such a thing. How could they when nearly all their foreign policies are dictated by the military option and deterrence by force.
Even if the intentions of nuclear armed countries are strictly for nuclear deterrence, and have no ambitions to actually use them, the risk is still there of nuclear conflict by accident, miscalculation or by design. It’s why there are only two universally accepted principles of nuclear power. One is that as long as there are nukes someone will always want one, and two, sometime, somewhere, they will be used.
While many experts agree there are far too many nuclear warheads in the world, some believe that nuclear deterrence can still be achieved with less, say anywhere from 900 to 150 warheads globally, with each warhead, on average, six to eight times more powerful than Little Boy or Fat Man, with some, thousands of times more powerful. Such numbers of warheads are still plenty enough to eradicate us and many other species from the face of the planet, but at least not enough to do it thousands of times.
Meanwhile the Americans, increasingly ill-kept nuclear arsenal alone (7000 weapons), could destroy many earths, many times. Despite this, today the States’ nuclear budget is upwards of $56 billion per year. And in typical fashion, in 2014 president Barack Obama, with one side of his mouth saying he is working on abolishing nuclear weapons, announces plans to spend $1 trillion on the American nuclear arsenal in the next thirty years. Then attends the anniversary of Hiroshima, in Japan. I don’t get it.
Instead of some lunatic who gets possession of a smaller nuclear device and is able to set it off in a city, which would by itself kill tens of thousands and injure many more, what about simply just two countries going at it?
According to a computer simulation of the use of one hundred Hiroshima-size nuclear weapons on cities in South Asia, the smoke and ash from the resulting firestorms would fill the upper atmosphere, blocking sun light for perhaps ten years or more, and lowering temperatures to ice age levels. Rainfall will drop to nearly nil, causing most of the key agricultural areas on the planet to have significantly small windows to grow anything. This in turn would cause what the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) estimates will be, at least two billion people starving to death in the years following, more than 25 per cent of the world’s population.
As to immediate deaths, in the last two years of WWII one million people were dying each month, in this simulation; the deaths would be a million a minute. To achieve this, the one hundred weapons used, represents only six one-thousandths of the nuclear weapons that exist today. An all-out nuclear war could end civilization and most life on the planet quite easily. Yet countries spend billions upon billions to have such ability, even though they too would be affected. Why oh why are we such a crazy species? And so much more chimpanzee like than the Bonobo.
We are so powerful we can destroy all the living things on the planet, which includes us, yet are still not smart or moral enough, to control ourselves. We are already doing it to the climate, to each other, hell why not by nukes too. How deluded and arrogant have we become, as we continue shitting on the planet in which we live.
And though we are often reminded that the table is indeed slanted upwards, the nuclear industry, unequal societies, religious madmen, and human-induced climate change are all about our government’s policies, foreign and domestic, and how they are dealing with it, or as most often the case, not. This will not change because not enough of us are willing to stand up for what matters to us as humans, we are unable to disrupt our daily routines, and because of the sad fact that only about three or four people out of ten actually vote, on a good day. If it is raining this number often drops even lower.
Besides nuclear warheads, nuclear reactors are also scattered across the globe, many of them insanely built on fault lines, and all just as adept at spewing forth radiation into our midst.
In the Seventies, the nuclear industry and their governmental cronies in the States, dreamed of having at least one thousand nuclear plants spread across the country, including one hundred along California’s earthquake-prone coast, up and running by the year 2000. In reality, as of 2014, there are only one hundred reactors in all the United States, many of which are indeed aging, or already past their expiry date.
The energy engineer, and lawyer, David Freeman, encapsulates the history of the nuclear power industry as, “promoted as too cheap to meter, turned out to be too expensive to use, the road to nuclear proliferation, and the creator of radioactive trash that has no place to go.”
Much like the madness of thinking one needs nuclear weapons to feel safe, nuclear reactors are deemed safe energy, and are supported by many governments. Reactors are similar to nuclear weapons, possibly even worse, because in reality they too are uneconomical, uninsurable, unsafe, unnecessary, unprotect able, either from attack or earthquake, and for most of them, if there was an accident, so many people live in the vicinity of most reactors, there is simply too many people to evacuate everyone. And no matter the technology, another flaw with nuclear power plants, and weapon systems, is that they are operated by humans. It is why the cartoon character Bart Simpson works at one.
In the early Sixties, the Atomic Energy Commission estimated that if a typical nuclear reactor in America suffered a total meltdown, it would make an area the size of Pennsylvania un-inhabitable. Lo and behold, less than twenty years later, in Pennsylvania, in 1979, one of the Three-Mile Island reactors partially melted down because of a stuck cooling valve. Within two hours the top of the core was exposed and turned into 2760 degree Celsius (5,000 degree F) molten lava, which pooled down onto the 15 cm (6 in) carbon steel floor and began burning its way through. It was nearly half way through when somebody finally noticed and the plant was shut down.
If it had kept going, and burnt through the steel bottom of the reactor, then through the concrete floor of the containment building, it would have hit about a meter (1 yard) of water that the stuck valve had amassed there and would explode, blowing it’s containment dome apart and hurling massive amounts of radioactive contaminants into the atmosphere and surrounding area. Eventually the walls , 15 cm (6 in) of stainless steel would also melt into a lava-like pile which when slumping down and making contact with any remaining water or debris would also explode.
The only option is cement and sand being dumped over the entire area, to somehow keep it contained over its millions of year’s half lives. No matter how well protected, all who do the laying of cement and sand will die. As to the radiation that got away, nothing can ever be done about that.
To this day the radiation released at Three Mile, and how far it expanded outward is still totally up in the air, as it were. While thousands of Pennsylvania down-winders have tried class-action suits, they have been thwarted each time by federal judges dictating from their benches that not enough radiation had escaped to harm anyone. Many others have taken the millions of hush money the owners of Three Mile Island have discreetly handed out over the years.
A few years after the accident at Three Mile, the state of Pennsylvania rescinded its cancerous tumor registry, saying that there was no evidence of anyone having been killed. Yet many other studies have confirmed heightened infant death rates and excessive cancers among those downwind of Three Mile, even the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has confirmed of excessive death, mutation and disease rates among local animals.
In 1986, in the Ukraine, at the Chernobyl power plant, due to power surges in its core, one of the reactors exploded, which set off a nuclear chain reaction, but was cut short by another explosion three seconds later. More than 400 times more radioactive material than Hiroshima began to be dispersed into the atmosphere and surrounding lands. The fallout encompassed more than 100,000 sq km (3861 sq mi), blanketing Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. In all, 40 per cent of Europe, including the British Isles, was contaminated at some level.
The initial blast killed more than fifty people, with over four thousand quickly developing cancers. Overall deaths attributed to Chernobyl’s fallout are estimated to eventually be from 250,000 to 500,000 people according to some reports, and in excess of one million people by others.
The children of course have been the most affected, with some 80 per cent of children born downwind of Chernobyl damaged by birth defects, thyroid cancer, long term heart and respiratory problems, and mental illness. Even today, studies have shown that only one in five children living downwind of Chernobyl can be deemed healthy.
In 2011, three of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, melted down, including their outer walls, which exposed their fuel rod pools, which are now in constant risk of not being cooled enough. Each reactor core at the plant contains as much radiation as one thousand Hiroshima bombs, with their spent rod pools containing two to ten times more radiation than that. Though the accident was caused by an earthquake that devastated the region, it blatantly exposed the weakness of greed and ego which is the nuclear industry in Japan, and elsewhere.
The place is still so dangerous that even cameras do not last. Cleanup to plant, maybe get fuel rods under control, and try to figure out what to do with the ever growing in number of radioactive cooling water containment tanks, will take an estimated forty to fifty years. The cost of the cleanup is estimated to cost billions upon billions of dollars. Wherever the debris is buried, it will still last millions of years, while the radiation released into the atmosphere will mix with the radiation isotopes already there, from natural sources, Chernobyl, Three Mile, and all the nuclear testing from decades ago, and continue to circulate around the globe. Along with what was released into the air, millions of gallons of highly contaminated water, continues to flow from the crippled reactors, mix with groundwater and stream into the ocean. The latest leak was not noticed for nearly a month and a half.
Three years now and counting, after the disaster at Fukushima, thyroid rates among children affected by the fallout are now forty times normal. Of the 375,000 people who lived nearby and survived the quake, about 200,000 kids have been tested and suffer from pre-cancerous thyroid abnormalities, such as nodules and cysts. The rate is accelerating as time goes on. According to the Radiation and Public Health Project, where only three types of cancer are expected among children, more than 120 childhood cancers have been indicated.
And though over 60 per cent of the Japanese population are opposed to their government re-starting up many of the 48 nuclear reactors shut down in the wake of the disaster, and despite worldwide disapproval and concern over inadequate oversight or safety precautions, the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company are pushing for a restart.
Meanwhile the radiation plume from Fukushima is now (summer of 2014), finally blowing over North America’s west coast, but both the Canadian and American governments have no interest in any meaningful testing of how much is arriving, especially in the water, so the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, has stepped up with a crowd-funded research project, offering to assist citizens along the coast with monitoring isotopes levels.
To date extremely low trace amounts have been detected, and are well within safety guidelines for drinking water. But as Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole has stated “When you don’t know, people can speculate all kinds of things, so I think it’s important to get measurements, and since the governments aren’t doing it, we thought the public has a large concern we’d ask them help collect and fund the sampling.”
Sadly, no matter how many hundreds of tonnes of radioactive water have been released from Fukushima into the ocean, and to what effects it has on sea life and ourselves, it still pales in comparison to the acidification of the earth’s oceans by the billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide being absorbed by sea water every single day, emphasizing even further our collective ignorance.
In summary, with everything else going on in the world today, including our moral compass’s no longer working, we still have the threat of nuclear annihilation, whether it’s a limited strike between India and Pakistan, a few reactors exploding, or just one nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists. We have somehow ignored such dangers since the end of the Cold War, but such complacency has not taken away the fact each and every city in the world is still vulnerable to nuclear destruction.
Since the summer of 1945, when the apocalypse became human property with the splitting of the atom, and the full exploitation of extracting fossil fuels began in earnest, we have had our heads in the sand of capitalism, consumerism and ego. Indeed, we have been very well distracted, but with all that life is, who wakes up every morning thinking they will be fried that day. Nuclear annihilation is far too much to contemplate when all the while the fragmentation of human affairs continues within our communities and homes.
But, the nuclear threat still very much exists. As for fossil fuels, the extraction continues, but now from ever more difficult places and using far more destructive means to do so, such as fracking. By way of a vast array of coal mines, oil and natural gas wells, on land at sea, and under the ice, the power of a very small number of big energy companies and energy states like Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, now has the capability of leaving human life on this planet in ruins. Especially since the bulk of the energy resources extracted is used up by the world’s military industrial complex, through perpetual war.
Part of me believes that all these issues can be dealt with, not through violence, but by being accountable for our own lives and voting for people who will be your voice. Policy will not change until we the citizens can turn our ideas and opinions into actions. This is where a nation’s true power exists. But then another part of me feels the corporate and military factions have already won even though everyone, including themselves, will lose in the end.
But in truth, history has shown that motivated and disciplined people with a collective grievance against something that is wrong, often times on many levels, are the biggest threat to any government. In Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s 2011 book, “Why Civil Resistance Works,” they studied 323 specific goal orientated campaigns that have been started by citizens to overthrow either a dictatorship, or an authoritarian regime, throughout the world, and found that nonviolent people-power movements were twice as likely to succeed as violent insurgencies.
If we do not care about our humanity, a changing earth certainly does not, nor do the corporate elite. An exploding nuclear device definitely will not give a care in the world as to our feelings, or where we live, whether it is the best place on earth or not.
Further linked reading,