The Uncertain Consequences of Nuclear Weapons Use
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIV LAUREL MD APPLIED PHYSICS LAB
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The considerable body of knowledge on the consequences of nuclear weapons use accumulated through an extensive, sustained, and costly national investment in both testing and analysis over two-thirds of a century underlies all operational and policy decisions related to US nuclear planning. We find that even when consideration is restricted to the physical consequences of nuclear weapons use, where our knowledge on effects of primary importance to military planners is substantial, there remain very large uncertainties. These uncertainties exist because important phenomena were uncovered late in the nuclear test program, have been inadequately studied, are inherently difficult to model, or are the result of new weapon developments. Nonphysical consequences, such as social, psychological, political, and full economic effects, are even more difficult to quantify and have never been adequately analyzed. As a result, the physical consequences of a nuclear conflict tend to have been underestimated, and a full-spectrum all-effects assessment is not within anyones grasp now or in the foreseeable future. The continuing brain drain of nuclear scientists and the general failure to recognize the post-Cold War importance of accurate and comprehensive nuclear consequence assessments do not bode well for improving this situation.
- Weapons Effects (Biological)
- Nuclear Weapons