August 05, 2008
Re-inventing Civil Defense : Zero soft targets
If buildings are built better then the blast pressure has less effect at each range from the blast. 5 PSI buildings can be made or upgraded by using Hurriquake nails on existing buildings. $15 of material for each house. If the building do not collapse then there would be fewer fires because of fewer natural gas leaks. The smaller the damage radius then the lower the population at higher risks of death.
Civil defense used to be about bomb shelters in the woods or in our backyards or state supported tunnels and shelters. Those ideas were interesting for their time in the Cold War. However, modern nuclear threats may not provide hours or minutes of warning time for people to leave homes and offices to reach shelters. If a terrorist or group were to deploy a nuclear bomb it may not be in a missile that can be detected and a warning broadcast to the civilian population. The nuclear device might be brought into a harbor or over a border undetected.
The world is changing and over the long term deterrence against the use of nuclear weapons will probably fail, if for no other reason than perfection is difficult to sustain. Nuclear non-proliferation has failed. Almost all the key knowledge is available and there are more and easier ways to produce the enriched uranium.
Civil defense needs to be integrated with our day to day lives.
This means applying affordable technology to make homes and offices into survivable structures with zero or limited aesthetic compromises. This was the theme of the previous article on this site about simple and affordable defenses against nuclear weapons It includes enabling other effective civil defense measures such as new ways to "immunize against radiation" or treat radiation damage to prevent deaths.
If our homes and offices are our blast shelter then 80+% or more of the time that is where we will be if something bad happened.
If you had an old style bomb shelter in your backyard then it is not likely you would be in it when things hit the fan.
The plan is to design society to shrink the radius of fatalities around a nuclear explosion and reduce the percentage of dead.
There is an online blast calculator with live maps Note: for blast sizing, nuclear fission bombs cap out at about 500 kilotons. Megaton and multi-megaton bombs need fission triggered fusion bombs. It is a non-trivial and multi-year development effort to go from crude working fission bombs to better fission and better fusion bombs. It usually requires testing your designs (nuclear bomb tests which would be detected).
Simple steps to reduce deaths from nuclear weapons, hurricanes, earthquakes by 10 to 1000 or more times.
-Require a retrofit of all old houses and new houses to use Hurriquake or better nails
-distribute new anti-radiation drugs widely.
-Use radiation resistance increasing gene therapy and drugs
-Use/retrofit with cellulose nanopaper (stronger than cast iron) for
-Use stronger cement
-Use carbon nanotube/graphene reinforcement (add hydrogen for
-Use stronger windows and doors
-Find better fire/thermal resistance modifications
Many small nuclear reactors would enable a more robust electrical grid (in the event of very rare accidents/incidents, recall that we should have radiation resistance enhancing treatments and super-effective anti-rad drugs).
Spend more money to harden the structure of hospitals and other places that we would especially need to survive nuclear or other attack.
10-50 times reduction in fatalities is very do-able even without the tech getting too fancy [Hurriquake nails, anti-radiation drugs, stronger concrete and cellulose paper as strong as steel, monolithic domes for 50-100PSI resistant structures]
1000+ times reduction with better but achievable technology, which we will need because that same category of tech will boost offense.
(nanofactories could make a lot of nukes, so it is good thing that MNT would also help make us closer to being immune to nukes as well)
Very tough buildings do not need to look like bunkers. Monolithic domes made of iCrete which is being used in New York high rises like the Freedom Tower would resist 50PSI overpressure. This is staying standing when 0.3 miles from ground zero of a 1 megaton bomb. This is 13 times closer than buildings that fall apart at 5PSI or 20 times closer than 2PSI buildings. Initially only people who want to buy a new custom house would consider monolithic domes, but they should be considered for hospitals and other key facilities.
There are several new anti-radiation drugs that are coming out. The most promising is one that reduces radiation damage by 5000 times in mice that is undergoing human trials now. (trials should be done in one or two months. Rice University James Tour's work) Having civil defense that was a lot more effective against nuclear bombs that any nuclear power plant accident would be trivial and harmless regardless of severity. (ie. We could not worry about Chernobyl at all. We would still not get sloppy but there would be zero risk of death.)
The boost to defense means a far bigger safety margin and the small fry (N Korea/Iran) and medium-small fry (Pakistan) and against ambitious groups (Al Qaeda) or accidents or whatever.
The level of deaths that is currently expected from one nuke would require 50 nukes or 1000 nukes (depending upon the level of defense incorporated into widespread construction.
Note: Overall survivability requires widespread adoption. If you are in a 100PSI resistant Monolithic dome made from concrete with better steel and quartz aggregate, then great your building and you survive, it would still be bad for you if all your neighbors and the rest of the city got destroyed and their crappy buildings were set on fire. It is like innoculation with vaccines, the system holds up better if everyone is required to participate.
One aspect of this is if buildings are built to not fall down when a nuclear bomb goes off at some distance and the buildings do not get set on fire then there is less nuclear winter. This means less problems for agriculture. The nuclear winter scenario is based on widespread fires from burning buildings and other material. Note: that simulations have indicated that the initial nuclear winter calculations indicated a larger problem then is likely. Current simulations show it would be more like a nuclear autumn.
Also, note that any higher construction costs are offset by lower maintenance costs and lower insurance for individuals and society.
If your detection and human intelligence is such a sieve that you cannot tell when someone is bringing 50 nukes or 1000 nukes into your cities then there is a serious competence problem.
Doing things in advance we can massively mitigate the risks of nuclear bombs, earthquakes and hurricanes and conventional explosives. We should stop thinking that effective mitigation is not possible and aggressively pursue it. We cannot depend upon perfect avoidance of risk exclusively.
Neutron scatter cameras detect nuclear bombs
Current and future port security
DIY nuke detector patrols SF Bay
Cheap domes for blocking nuclear missiles
Detecting nuclear, biological and chemical materials