2 of 2
2
HD: 1925 Words
Posted: 15 August 2011 02:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1161
Joined  2007-02-14
sobiest - 14 August 2011 06:22 PM



Saying the bomb “detonated” (even “partially") is very misleading.

Yes. 

I knew and know that. 

I, for one, took it in the intended humorous sense.  My first reaction, buttressed by the “alternate universe” comment, was that this was something from some science fiction book.  Further reading disabused me of this notion but did not dislodge my understanding of the humorous intent.

sobiest - 14 August 2011 06:22 PM

I have been severely wrong in the past, so maybe now I am wrong as well. 

As have I.  And I am sure I will be again.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 August 2011 03:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4658
Joined  2007-01-03

Yes, although they kind of glossed over the fact that, since they’d only managed to make the implosion around the trigger asymmetrical, they probably wound up seriously contaminating the area with plutonium.  Yes, it’s way better than having the thing go off properly, but Clooney and Kidman’s characters don’t seem too concerned about what they’re breathing after the boom.

In the Albuquerque case, if the pits had been removed, then the radioactive material would probably have been primarily tritium (hydrogen-3), which is relatively innocuous (compared to Pu).

Oh yes, it’s a significant hazmat problem and quite dangerous to those with extended exposure to the contaminated area. Assuming they were evacuated swiftly, the Clooney and Kidman characters probably would not have received an especially dangerous level of radiation. Certainly much higher than civilian radiation safety standards, but nowhere close to immediately threatening and probably with only a slightly elevated risk of cancer or other long term effects—and people outside the building probably wouldn’t have that risk. What the movie basically depicted is a “dirty bomb.” Not much risk to life or health, provided the area is cordoned off swiftly and clean up ensues, but a very expensive aftermath (and more so in Manhattan than the Arizona desert).

My point, and its a peeve with me who used to do this stuff for a living, is that there is an enormous difference between an actual nuclear detonation and the any other so-called “weapon of mass destruction,” and plutonium has been elevated in the public consciousness to equate to instant death. Nuclear weapons are in a class by themselves in terms of destructive power; nothing else comes close. It’s a major analytical error to equate the effects of a nuclear blast with any other type of destructive force. And while plutonium is dangerous and must be very carefully handled, deleterious effects from any amount that someone is likely to come in contact with in an accident only kick in after several hours of exposure.

Re: Albuquerque. I missed the fact that the pits had been removed. With no Pu, the risk to the public was probably less than that of freight train derailment. (It’s all a question of relative risk. Nothing is completely safe, not even staying in bed.)

In any case, this is going way off topic.

Profile
 
 
   
2 of 2
2