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International Socialist Review, Summer 1958




From International Socialist Review, Vol.19 No.3, Summer 1958, p.72.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


How does one compare the new family of nuclear weapons with the TNT and incendiary bombs of World War II? It is a feeble and inadequate evaluation merely to contrast the physical destruction by blast and heat of which the old; and the new weapons are capable. In this sense nuclear weapons produce the same effect as the block-busters of World War II vintage, except that the area of destruction is vastly greater. As we have already pointed out, weapons tests of the past several years have involved explosions fifty times more powerful than all the bombs dropped on Germany throughout two full years of heavy bombardment in World War II.

If we persist in the TNT comparison and estimate the total explosiveness in the world’s nuclear stockpiles, we conclude that the new arsenal of Mars contains the equivalent of almost ten tons of TNT for every person on our planet. Yet as the significance of such a staggering statistic begins to make its imprint on one’s consciousness, we hasten to add that such a comparison neglects the unique distinction of the new weapons ...

The killing power of radioactive fall-out far surpasses that delivered by the sledgehammer blast and fiery heat of the direct explosive onslaught which creates it. It has certain characteristics which are brain-numbing in their nature and magnitude.

First, the fall-out from Bravo-type weapons can coat vast areas with a serious-to-lethal mantle of radioactive debris. The Bravo bomb created such a mantle covering 7000 square miles of the earth’s surface. That was a 15-megaton bomb of 1954 design, and super-bombs of much higher power are technically achievable. Higher-power Bravo weapons can produce proportionately more radioactivity and thus make for a larger or more intense fall-out. A 30-megaton bomb could spread its lethal dose over 14,000 square miles – an area equal to that of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The actual blast from such a weapon could, by comparison, knock out the Greater Boston area but leave all the rest of the New England area intact.

Second, the nature of radioactivity is such that it is like a thief in the night. It may strike without warning. Although the fall-out on the decks of the Lucky Dragon was readily visible, it is probable that in a war large areas would be coated with particles which were invisible, thus adding to the hazard. As we have said, human beings possess no sensory equipment to alert them to the presence of even lethal radiation. The unseen and unsensed nature of radioactive fall-out, therefore, makes it a true weapon of terror. One does not need to emphasize the degree to which a civilian population might panic when faced with the silent threat of radiation death.

Third, unlike blast and heat, which do their damage and then disappear from the scene with only secondary effects remaining, the radioactive fall-out persists lorrg after the bomb cloud has vanished into thin air ...

These three characteristics of fall-out, not to mention the long-term toxicity of such radiopoisons as strontium, combine to make the Bravo bomb an incredible weapon of biological destruction.

— Jack Schubert and Ralph E. Lapp in Radiation: What It Is and How It Affects You

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