What are nuclear weapons capable of? In what way do they accomplish their destructive goals? What are the aftermaths of using a nuclear weapon? Continue reading to find out the answers.
An intense gamma-ray burst and neutron explosion result from a nuclear explosion. It lasts less than a second and is produced by the weapon’s nuclear reactions. Nearly a mile of lethal direct radiation is produced by a 10-kiloton explosion. Although direct radiation is rarely significant with most weapons, other lethal effects typically cover a wider area. Enhanced radiation weapons, or neutron bombs, maximize direct radiation while minimizing other destructive effects.
Nuclear weapons explode instantly and vaporize. In microseconds, cold, solid material becomes a gas hotter than the Sun’s 15-million-degree core. More than one-third of the explosive energy of the weapon comes from this thermal flash, which lasts for many seconds. When a large thermonuclear explosion occurs, the intense heat will ignite fires and cause severe burns to exposed flesh as far away as 20 miles.
Despite their vast differences in magnitude, nuclear and conventional weapons both produce destructive blast effects. Nuclear weapons, however, produce radioactive fallout. Radioactive fallout is primarily composed of fission products, but neutron capture and other atomic reactions also contribute to the amount of hazardous material. Fallout contamination can linger for years or even decades, but most fatalities last from days to weeks.
An explosion’s fallout depends on many factors, including the type of weapon, the explosive yield, and the location of the explosion. Radioactive particles from these huge weapons have a global effect due to their sheer quantity and the fact that they rise into the stratosphere. This is because they can take months or even years to reach the surface. Even though we haven’t witnessed a nuclear war since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the fallout is one of the effects of nuclear weapons. There are still detectable levels of radioactive fission products in the atmosphere from atmospheric nuclear tests conducted before the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty.
A weapon’s fallout will vary greatly whether it is exploded on the ground or in the atmosphere. Fireballs in air bursts never touch the ground and result in a reduction in local fallout but an increase in global fallout. An explosion in the ground digs a large crater and entrains tons of soil, rock, and other pulverized materials into its rising cloud. Many radioactive materials may wash down with rain, creating localized hot spots.
Recently, environmental investigation consultants reported significant radioactive contamination at a suburban St. Louis elementary school where nuclear weapons were produced during World War II.
Similarly, a study by the Army Corps of Engineers previously raised concerns about contamination at Jana Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District. Boston Chemical Data Corp.’s report confirmed those fears.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the new report is based on samples taken from the school in August. Boston Chemical provided no information about who requested the report and how it was funded.
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