EMS World

JUL 2018

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34 JULY 2018 | EMSWORLD.com ISSUE FOCUS: MCI & DISASTER RESPONSE In addition to the pressure wave, a nucdet produces an instantaneous fireball that can reach 2,000ºC. This fireball will incinerate virtually anything it contacts. Along with the instant fireball, the nuclear reaction that creates the explosion will release so-called prompt radiation, or a massive amount of radioactive subparticles that travel at the speed of light and can pass through the human body and penetrate deep into most modern structures. Prompt radiation disrupts the tissues of the body, producing burns, tissue damage, and changes to cellu- lar structures and DNA. These insults cause both immediate and long-term effects. The blast wave disrupts soil and can pul- verize concrete and other building materi- als, creating a fine dust that gets lofted into the atmosphere and mixed with radioactive particles. Eventually this radioactive dust returns to earth as radioactive fallout, which can mix with water supplies and cover people, animals, agricultural prod- ucts, and structures. Fallout poses a danger to humans and animals because it can be incorporated into the body or accumulate on the skin and hair, where it will continue to irradiate until washed off or excreted. Finally, a nucdet will have an impact on critical infrastructure in several ways. First, the blast overpressure will destroy struc- tures. Second, fires will be caused by exces - sively high temperatures and disruptions to electric and gas service lines (although ground zero and immediately adjacent areas will not have fires because the fuels will have been destroyed and blown away). Third, destruction of urban structures will generate huge piles of debris. The loss of electricity, communications, and water infrastructure will have second- ary impacts on society's ability to deal with the response to and recovery from the nuc- det. For example, fire departments will be hampered in extinguishing fires because water mains will be disrupted in many areas. Additionally, the loss of potable water will have an enormous effect on human and animal habitation, especially since natural water supplies may be affected by fallout. Debris on roadways and loss of bridges (and potentially tunnels) will impede the ability of emergency responders to get around and interrupt or hinder the supply chain for criti- cal resources to reach affected areas. Finally, a nucdet will produce an electro- magnetic pulse (EMP), the extent of which will depend on the height of burst, or deto- nation altitude. Although not insignificant, EMP effects can often be overstated. An IND will produce so-called "source region" EMP, with effects less far-reaching than popularly conceived. Unshielded telecommunications and computing equipment that have "long lines" (i.e., tethered to long power or communica- tions lines) will be affected, but handheld radios and cell phones likely will continue to operate (although base station radios and cellular towers may be destroyed or experience interruptions). This means portable radios could be used in point-to- point communications and potentially work if base stations are properly shielded. While cell phones will not work unless they can reach a working tower, smartphones should continue to provide computing capability and GPS (which could prove critical in the absence of street signs and landmarks). Damage Zones Contrary to the popular conception that a nucdet will produce total devastation, the extent of damage in a given area will depend on its distance from ground zero and power of the weapon (or the yield). Fed- eral government IND planning documents address three concentric rings of varying levels of damage: moving outward from ground zero, the severe, moderate, and light damage zones, respectively. 1 Figure 1 shows the three damage zones for a notional nuc- det at 16th and K Streets in Washington, D.C. It is important to remember in view- ing this figure that the lines of demarcation between the three zones are not distinct. For this reason they are depicted with fuzzy borders. Appropriate actions for emergency responders vary by damage zone. Severe damage zone—Extending from ground zero outward approximately half a mile, the severe damage zone (SDZ) would closely resemble the popular conception of a nuclear holocaust. Virtually everything in the SDZ would be destroyed by the over- pressure wave and accompanying fireball. There would be no survivors within the SDZ. Anyone who miraculously survived the pressure wave and 2,000ºC tempera- tures would receive such an overwhelm- ing whole-body dose of gamma radiation that they would probably die within hours. The number of casualties in the SDZ would depend on the number of people there at the time of detonation, but estimates of fatalities for large metropolitan areas are in the hundreds of thousands. For example, in the Washington, D.C., nucdet scenario, FEMA estimates 240,000 people would die. 2 There would be few fires within the Featured speaker at EMS World Expo, Oct. 29-Nov. 2, 2018, Nashville, TN. emsworldexpo.com Figure 1: Predicted Damage Zones for a 10-Kt Nucdet in Washington, D.C. *Source: Buddemeier BR, et al. National Capital Region Key Response Planning Factors for the Aftermath of Nuclear Terrorism. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 2011.

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