Nuclear destruction is a term which is used for the devastation that is produced as a result of explosion of atomic weapons. Threats arise when radiations spread in surrounding air. Atomic weapons are those explosive devices that are used to produce vast amount of energy from small amounts of matter. They took their force from nuclear chain reaction that is may be fission reaction, fusion reaction or combination of both. For example, current thermonuclear weapons are low in weight (almost several thousand kilograms) but when it is exploded it produces high energy explosion (of billion kilograms).
Kilotons or megatons are used to describe energy produced by blast. Nuclear explosion produces very harmful impacts not only at humans but also to environment, ecosystems, animals and plant species. Nuclear weapon states:There are only nine states that are known as nuclear weapon states. These include France, Russia, China, Pakistan, North Korea, United Kingdom, United States, India and Israel. All these countries together possess 15,000 or more weapons.
Nuclear weapon states.History:
:There is a brief history about destruction due to nuclear weapons. When United States tested its first bomb there was a great explosion in New Mexico, on 16, July, 1945. After first successful experiment United State dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a city of Japan, on August 6, 1945. They named it as “little boy”. Almost 130,000 people were killed. After three days United States dropped a bomb in another city of Japan that is Nagasaki.
According to estimation almost 74,000 people were killed. This bomb was named “fat man”. In 1954, it was suggested that there should be ban on nuclear testing because it can cause massive destruction. But in 1960, France did its first successful experiment and in1964, China also exploded its first nuclear device. India conducted its first test in 1974 and Pakistan in May 11, 1998. On October 9, 2006, North Korea conducted a test of nuclear bomb.
Types of nuclear weapons:
There are two types of nuclear weapons. These are atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb. Atom bomb is based on principle of nuclear fission. In fission reaction, as atomic nucleus consist of neutrons and protons. So, when nucleus is splitted into neutrons and protons by hitting the center of atom a chain reaction is started. Hence, in this chain reaction fission of many nuclei and production of large amount of energy cause a sudden atomic explosion. Mostly uranium-235 and plutonium-239 are used. 2 – Fission reaction (atom bomb) And hydrogen bomb is worked on the principle of fusion reaction. This is also known as thermonuclear reaction. In the process of fusion two lighter weight nuclei are brought closer together, when they are fused and a heavier nucleus is formed with the release of energy. To start a fusion reaction very high temperature is required. 3 – Fusion reaction (hydrogen bomb)Irreversible and irreparable consequences:Irreversible means anything that cannot be reversed or taken back into its original state again.
So we can say that nuclear destruction is causing irreversible changes in environment. A term “gone forever” is used which means some losses cannot be reversed and we cannot do anything to restore them. For example, if specie is lost it cannot be brought back and it is gone forever. According to some school of thoughts genetically modified organisms can cause ecological damages that are irreparable. Transgenic crops can cause irreparable losses by increasing the pest resistance.
In past few years climate is changing (global climate temperature is increasing day by day), it is also causing many threats that can be a reason of irreversible harms. For example, some green house gases can have prolonged stay in the atmosphere due to increase in global warming. If these environmental problems are not addressed now they will cause serious harms in future.
There are two concepts regarding to the irreparable and irreversible consequences. One is option value and other is distinctive qualitative damage to environment. For example, problem of changing climate fits into the first view that is option value. While in second view problem of endangered species extinction fits the best.
Fallout particles:When a nuclear bomb is exploded many radioactive particles spread in air. They cause many problems. Strontium 90 is used in many devices. It is related to calcium in chemical structure therefore it may be deposited in the bones. It can cause leukemia, cancer and other blood disorders. Iodine 131 can be accumulated in thyroid gland and destroy its tissues. Tritium can be ingested easily if present in surrounding. It can replace hydrogen in water which proves fatal. Cesium137 can be distributed throughout the body where it causes genetic damage and gonadal irradiation. Plutonium239 can cause serious damages like bone and lung cancers. It is very dangerous even in small amount (1 microgram). 4 –
Effects of nuclear destruction on climate:Excessive use of nuclear weapons is affecting climate in many ways. It can cause absorption of massive heat from sun to the smoke layer and can change the earth temperature to Ice Age temperature. According to the prediction of NASSA 40% of smoke can stay for 10 years in the stratosphere of atmosphere. These changes in climate are causing shortening of growing seasons that is required for proper growth of crops; it will lead to death of one billion people by starvation.
Average precipitation will be reduced 45%. It may result in collapse of ecosystems, toxicity, pollution and radioactive fallout that will result in mass extinction (can eliminate humans and other complex life forms on earth). A nuclear war can cause deposition of millions of tons of dust in the stratosphere. Rays of sun will be absorbed or reflected away from planet hence result in decrease in earth’s temperature. This would cause serious climatic problems.Ozone depletion:Ozone is a protective layer present round the earth. Sun emit radiations, most of them are blocked by this protective layer (like UV rays).
When nuclear weapons are exploded, great amount of heat is produced in the nearby atmosphere. It is followed by rapid cooling which creates an ideal condition for production of nitric oxides. These oxides disturb the ozone layer. The nitric oxides that are produced by nuclear explosions can cause 30-70% ozone depletion in Northern Hemisphere. These oxides are reducing ozone levels through catalytic activity. This depletion can create changes in climate that can allow more harmful UV rays to reach earth surface.
According to estimation each megaton nuclear explosion is producing 5000 tons of nitric oxides. According to a research, after a conflict global temperature can crash, millions of people would die and we will not be able to grow crops for at least 10 years. 5 – Depletion of ozone layer in AntarcticaNuclear winter: Nuclear explosions cause deposition of smoke and dust in the air. Where, they can last for several weeks without being washed out. They may create a layer and stop the radiations of sun. These conditions can result in freezing temperatures, loss of forests, darkness and interrupt the process of photosynthesis (that can destroy vegetation and animal life). These increasing levels of radiations and extreme cold conditions would lead to mass extinction (loss of species) due to starvation and diseases.
Effect on grasslands:
Few decades ago, temperate grasslands cover almost 8% of earth’s surface. They were disturbed to grow cereal grains and forage crops. Now, more than half of these grasslands have been turned into croplands. They may include American Great Plains, Russian steppes and African veldts etc. Instead of this, grasslands are home to many species of grasses which forms a dense bed. Different grasslands have different native species of grasses. But due to their exploitation for crops or agriculture the native fauna of grasslands is disturbed and is replaced by the many other species of plants.
Native grasses make bed at the surface and their roots have soil retaining capacity. Due to plowing in grasslands, they are losing their topsoil and are more subject to erosion. This loss of soil can create dust bowl disaster. These wind erosion events can damage many plants and can change the fertility of soil. For example, in Great Plains of US in 1930, tons of the topsoil blew away causing damage to land. In 1993, in China, dust storm destroyed almost 120,000 livestock animals on grasslands
Dust storm (due to loss of topsoil) Ecosystem damage (Water and soil contamination):
After an atomic bomb explosion many radioactive particles are produced. That can travel many miles from the site of explosion. This fallout will contaminate the water bodies hence; damage the aquatic life like fishes. If detonation occurs in area that is surrounded by forests it cause contamination of plants. This may result in genetic mutations and other diseases in generations of animals.Effects of radiations on humans:A blast can produce temperature 7000 Celsius that is enough to vaporize all the living things present in that area. Most people will suffer severe skin burns. This damage may cause temporary or permanent eye damage. Effects of nuclear explosion on humans are due to blast, fallout, thermal and initial radiations.
To study the effect of radiations three points are very important.
- The amount of energy deposited in body after explosion (more energy absorbed, great damage).
- The ability of radiations to cause damage to tissues.
- Which organ is being more affected.
There is a wide range of physical problems. Let them discuss one by one:
Blood disorders:People living in areas that are exposed to bombing have severe blood disorders. Japanese collected the data in which it was shown that people living in these areas have more anemia and have decreased amount of white and red blood cells (this condition can last for 10 years after bombing). Intense exposure to 1000 or 5000 rems would damage blood vessels that cause heart failure and eventually lead to death.
Malignant tumors:Ionizing radiations produced as a result of nuclear explosion are carcinogenic. These cause genetic mutations which result in cancer formation. It was seen that survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have more cancer incidence than other population. Due to more exposure in this area people have more thyroid cancer, breast cancer, salivary gland cancer and lung cancer. 7 – Cancer formation
Keloids: In early 1946, scar tissue that covers burns began to swell and started abnormal growth that result in formation of keloids. People having direct exposure to heat rays in the area of almost 1.2 miles have 50 to 60% of these burns.
Hair loss:If radiation exposure is 200 rem or higher than it, there is quick hair loss. Hair loss may occur in the form of clumps.
Brain cell production:Brain cells are not damaged unless the exposure is 5000 rems or greater. Brain cells do not reproduce in the presence of these radiations. Radiations kill nerve cells and small blood vessels so, it can cause immediate death.
Thyroid damage:Different types of radiation sources can affect different body parts. Radioactive iodine in sufficient amount can destroy tissues of thyroid gland. Potassium iodide can reduce the risk of exposure.
Blood system:When any person is exposed to area in which there is 100 rems radiations the amount of lymphocytes is reduced in his blood. He is more susceptible to any infection or disease. For them word “mild radiation sickness” is used. Its symptoms can last for 10 years and may increase the risk of leukemia and lymphoma.
Gastrointestinal tract:Radiations of about 200 rems begin to destroy those body cells that multiply rapidly. Radiations damaging to gastrointestinal tract lining cause blood vomiting, diarrhea and nausea etc.
Reproductive tract:Cells of reproductive tract divide rapidly so radiations of 200 rems can destroy them easily. Persons having more exposure may become sterile.
Flash burns:One of the severe consequences of nuclear explosion is flash burn. These burns take place when radiant energy is absorbed by the skin of individual who is present in that area. According to estimation 50% deaths are caused by burns at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Flash blindness:A sudden flash from nuclear detonation cause flash blindness. Its result is temporary blindness due to bleaching of pigment involved in vision. When pigment is regenerated then vision is recovered. One megaton detonation, even from the distanced if 53 miles, can cause permanent burn of retina. But it occurs only when eye is looking directly at the site of flash. This injures the area of retina from where image is focused.
Genetic mutations:Long term exposure to radiations can alter the pattern of DNA (in genes) of plants and animals. Genetic mutations that are caused by radiations result in formation of cancerous cells. It was observed in survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These mutations can alter appearance of offspring and reduce reproductive capacity of individuals. For example, eggs and larvae of organisms living in radioactive marine environment are more susceptible to damage by mutations.