Thursday, June 02, 2005


"As usual, Bill Maher is right."

Erica Jong, apparently still under the impression that we may be less than five years away from nuclear annihilation. And here I could swear we survived the '70s.

First paragraph: She's upset about the nuclear nonproliferation treaty dying. Second paragraph: "I look at my 16-month old grandson, Max, and I try to wrap my mind around a nuclear accident in New York" - wait, "accident"? How would a nonproliferation treaty prevent a nuclear accident in New York? Do we even have any warheads stored in New York? "The materials are there. The terrorists are there." Well, now, if there are terrorists involved, I don't think it's an "accident" we're really worried about, now is it? "What we do know is the more materials out there the more the percentages against our survival go up." Lovely writing, there. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? "The percentages against our survival go up."

"Think about New York in case of some kind of Chernobyl happening here." Wait, WTF? Chernobyl? What does a catastrophic accident that it would literally be impossible to duplicate on purpose in the U.S. have to do with terrorists and nuclear nonproliferation treaties? "Multiply 9/11 times a million." My god, that would be... nine-hundred-and-eleven million! "People die, get radiation poisoning, children die or get cancer, the stock market tanks, the world stops dead..." Yes, that's right, a tragic nuclear event in New York would cause the complete and global collapse of civilization.

So: The death of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty means that within the next five years, the entire world could be plunged into barbaric dark age, the likes of which has never been known, by a Chernobyl-style nuclear accident, caused by terrorists with a loose nuke. Presumbably, they were holed up in New York where they brought the loose nuke in from whichever ex-Soviet country they bought it in, preparing to transport it to Washington (or wherever they planned to detonate it), when one of them jostled it and it went off accidentally. Or, since that still doesn't sound much like Chernobyl, perhaps the loose nuke's control rods caught fire somehow...?

Anyone who cannot find at least one impossible and one implausible thing* in that last paragraph I wrote, is hereby not qualified to discuss nuclear policy. Nothing about nuclear weaponry, nuclear power, nonproliferation treaties, or the threat of nuclear terrorism. Just keep repeating to yourself: Duck, and cover.

*I counted three of each. There may well be more.


Salvius said...

Erica Jong: "Multiply 9/11 times a million."

Me: My god, that's... nine-hundred-and-eleven million!

Actually, of course, since there were 2,986 fatalities on 9/11, it would be about 3,000,000,000. That's half of the entire population of the Earth (6.4 billion).

That's a big f'ing bomb...

Kwik2Jujj said...

I'm not sure whether this falls under impossible or implausible, but the implication that barbaric dark ages are utterly unprecedented is iffy. I mean, from what I've been hearing this week, the Nixon administration was pretty bad.

But anyway, to retain my nuclear-policy bona-fides:

Implausible: Note that actual Chernobyl accident didn't cause dark age. Subsequent Chernobyl-style accident in New York similarly unlikely to, particularly with prevailing winds blowing out over the Atlantic.

Impossible: Impossible to create "Chernobyl-style accident" with a "loose nuke." A weaponized nuclear device typically has three orders of magnitude less fissioning material as compared to a typical reactor core.

Implausible: Extremely unlikely to get reasonable yield from jostling, squeezing, shooting, or petting your nuclear device. Getting proper detonation from your nuke is a very delicate manuever which must be executed precisely (so be sure to read the manual carefully).

Impossible: Weapon has "control rods." Har-har. Typical fission bomb is an implosion device in which the subcritical core is made supercritical (and initiated) via the coordinated detonation of a surrounding layer of high explosive. No control rods.

I'll stop now.

Salvius said...

Not only does it have no control rods, it's not water-cooled, either.