While many a great invention and
discovery happened in 20th century, there was a bleak side also. The use
of nuclear energy for devastation will remain the biggest bane. The advent
of nuclear weapons has transformed the conventional concept of warfare. In
a nuclear war there are no victors, only the dead, while survivors will
die a slow death. Indeed, technological advances in lethal nuclear bombs
might not leave any survivor alive. Detonation of nuclear devices over
just a few modern cities is likely to result in millions of deaths within
the first few hours. And this could well be the least of the deadly
afflictions. Several million more are likely to perish in the long-term
damage that would result from the radioactivity unleashed by a nuclear
explosion. It must be remembered that there is no civil defence to take
care of the victims of nuclear explosion.
So far the only precedent of atomic
devastation known to the mankind is the dropping of atom bombs over
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Compared to the highly lethal potential packed in
today’s nuclear bombs these bombs seem harmful military toys. The atom
bomb over Japan vitually atomised one lakh people. Today's "improved
and researched" nuclear bombs, on an understated average, are 30
times more deadly.
The two Japanese towns, Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, were sparsely populated with mostly single-storeyed
structures. Today’s cities are thickly populated with multi-storeyed
skyscrapers. This renders the post-nuclear scenario horribly frightening.
According to a former scientific adviser to the British Prime Minister,
even if a single nuclear device were to be exploded over a modern city,
the blast would rip through skyscrapers turning vast panels and chunks of
concrete and steel into high velocity secondary missiles that would smash
their way for hundreds of yards in all directions.
The worst aftermath of a limited
nuclear exchange would be the long-term collateral damage. Nuclear
scientists in the West carried out experimental nuclear studies on about
1,600 acres of dead woodland. The smoke was propelled 6 km up into the
atmosphere and the downwind carried the radioactive cloud over 100 km. A
nuclear explosion over a city today would affect several thousand acres
directly, reducting it instantly to smoking crater. The debris fireball
would be propelled several miles right up to the stratosphere. This could
blot out the sun for several days over vast stretches of land in the
God forbid, were this to happen, the
average day temperature would fall by several degrees. This is called the
nuclear winter. Studies by nuclear scientists in the southern hemisphere
show that an extended average drop in temperature by 3-4 degree Celsius
could destroy the wheat crop of the fertile eastern Indus plains and the
Indo-Gangetic plains of the subcontinent. The radioactive fallout would
result in several million slow and agonising deaths as the scientists put
it. The only precedent of radioactive leak was the Chernobyl nuclear plant
accident in the erstwhile USSR. It was a thousandth fraction of the
radioactive fallout over Chernobyl that drifted all the way to Europe and
reached right up to the coast of the US. A nuclear war is an altogether
different genre from conventional wars.
The conventional planning of war,
where civil defence is organised to mitigate the aftermath of bombing,
would not work. The Chernobyl accident overstretched the entire civil
defence and emergency resources of the Soviet Russia. The Soviet scientist
in-charge of the clean-up admitted that it cost their country billions.
One can only shudder to imagine the radioactive fallout from several
thousand Chernobyls exploding at the same time. The London civic
authorities were asked to prepare civil defence plans for a limited
nuclear exchange at the height of the Cold War. The authorities came to
the conclusion that to talk of civil defence plans in such a scenario
would be a cruel deception on the civilian population.
All the long-term damaging effects
of nuclear radiation have not been definitively studied, even in the West.
Scientists confirm that genetic mutation is a frightful prospect and the
human immune system would be damaged. A detonation over a nuclear power
reactor could poison the soil and the underground aquifers for hundreds or
thousands of years, leading US nuclear scientist Carl Sagan warns us. A
deadly fallout of a nuclear explosion over a crowded modern city is likely
to result in inadvertent chemical mass murder. Most modern buildings today
use large quantities of synthetic material and plastic. A nuclear
explosion would set off pyrotoxins, particularly the deadly gamma ray.
This is an invisible pyrotoxin capable of penetrating one-foot thick
concrete. It is capable of frying the human flesh instantly. The explosion
would simultaneously generate a pall of deadly asbestos fibres from
high-rise building insulated with it. The fine asbestos fibre would drift
over large areas exposing multitudes to the long-term prospect of a deadly
form of cancer, says Carl Sagan.
Spanish philosopher, George Santayana had a chilling
message for defence strategists brandishing the latest addition to their
arsenals: "Combat could cease for want of combatants". Entire
global community has to learn this lesson for survival of mankind on this