Effectiveness of Nuclear Weapons against Buried Biological Agents

Journal Article

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Science and Global Security, Vol. 12, page(s): 1-23


science and global security

This report describes the results of some calculations on the effectiveness of penetrating nuclear weapons of yield 1 and 10 kilotons against targets containing biological agents. The effectiveness depends in detail on the construction of the bunkers, on how the bio-agents are stored, on the location of the explosions with respect to the bunkers, the bio-agent containers and the surface of the ground, and on the yield of the explosion and the geology of the explosion site. Completeness of sterilization of the bio-agents is crucial in determining effectiveness. For most likely cases, however, complete sterilization cannot be guaranteed. Better calculations and experiments on specific target types would improve the accuracy of such predictions for those targets, but significant uncertainties regarding actual geology, actual target layouts, and knowledge of the position of the explosion with respect to the target would remain. Aboveground effects of the nuclear explosions, all of which would vent to the surface, are estimated. They include intense local radioactivity and significant fallout, air blast, and seismic effects to kilometers distances. It is likely, however, that casualties from those effects would be less than the casualties that would result from the dispersal of large quantities of bio-agents.

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