Tuesday, May 17, 2011
PBS documentary on Soviet, US nuclear tests in the 50s and 60s puts a perspective on today's asymmetry
On May 17, PBS aired a frightening episode from its “Secrets of the Dead” series: “The World’s Biggest Bomb”, focusing on the Czar device detonated by the Soviet Union over an arctic island on Oct. 30, 1961.
The 50 megaton device produced a mushroom cloud that went 40 miles up. Compared to most devices even discussed in today’s warning (as by Graham Allison) about nuclear terror (which presumes much smaller devices), the device (if exploded at 2000 feet altitude) would have produced total destruction for at least a 3 mile radius and destroyed most buildings for 12 mile radius. The designer, Sakharov, had reduced the yield down from 100 megatons.
The documentary also covers the 1954 hydrogen bomb test at the Bikini Atoll (destroying a small tribal kingdom after evacuation and making the place permanently uninhabitable) of Castle Bravo, 15 megatons.
From the Soviet blast, there is controversy about the fallout, which stayed in the troposphere for a very long time. Buildings were damaged 300 miles away.
Could weapons like this have been fired as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962? If so, there would be no civilization today.
The documentary didn't cover the EMP issue.
The fall of 1961 was a very trying time for me, resulting in a college expulsion, as detailed elsewhere in my blogs.