Currently conducting a survey on the impact of Nuclear Technology in the 20th century

Mar 2017
4
South Australia
Hi, my name is Tony Lu and I am currently undertaking a year 12 research project. My guiding question is: How has the discovery of Nuclear Energy effect the mid to late 20th Century? If you have knowledge of/personal experiences in (or know someone who does) the 20th century nuclear fever, it would be tremendously helpful if you could find the time to fill out this survey. All personal information would be kept anonymous and the data would be used for research purposes only.

Thanks in advance! :)

Survey is here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeaD_OX5Q1iXTCWKYHge7fcBGgp0sI1USvmN96MIDCcL01GCA/viewform?usp=sf_link
 
Last edited:

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,592
Italy, Lago Maggiore
It would be appreciable not to use an "url shortener" like goo.gl, since the url is coded and it could be everything.

An url shortener can be used to steal data or to make frauds.

It would be better to post the link with the entire url.
 
Mar 2017
4
South Australia
Ah, ok. Thanks for the heads up. I changed the url so that it shows docs.google.com.
 
Mar 2017
4
South Australia
Well, seeing as there have been no responses, I'll post some of my evidence of work to see if that would help at all. So far, I have reviewed legislation such as the 'Atomic Energy Act 1953' and 'Energy Reorganization Act of 1974' as well as the formation of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (https://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/governing-laws.html) as a result.

Currently, I am working on several sub-topics under my guiding question:
Society and Public attitudes to Nuclear: Reading through altitudes against nuclear altitudes in the mid-late 20th century (Nuclear futures: how 20th century atomic science played on our hopes and fears, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_Age)

Effects of Nuclear Tech on WWII: reading through secondary sources from modern day historians analyzing the controversial decision to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

What if nuclear energy wasn't discovered in the 20th century? (Consequences):
Useful Mutants, Bred With Radiation - The New York Times - effects of nuclear tech no plant matter.

I hope this is enough as evidence for my research so far. Thank you for reading.
 

Asherman

Forum Staff
May 2013
3,414
Albuquerque, NM
I'm assuming that you have a copy of The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, US Dept. of Defense and Atomic Energy Commission (1964) on your bookshelf. I know of no other unclassified study that is more authoritative, even though the book is sixty years old.

I'm continually referring people to Dr. Hermann Kahn's Thinking the Unthinkable, and On Thermonuclear War published by the Hudson Inst. There is a vast gulf between the public's fears over the use of nuclear devices, and the reality of them.

Until the use of the first atomic bomb, only a relative handful of scientists were convinced that atomic fission was both possible and likely. There were some science fiction writers who raised the idea, but those seem to have been entirely fictional creations. Only after Trinity's example did the destructive power of Atomic Fission become appreciated even to those inimate with the Manhandle Project. To the few political and military leaders privy to the Project, The Bomb was just a conventional Block Buster with a bigger boom. That view wasn't entirely wrong. In 1950, we still had only vague understanding about Radiation Effects, and most educated folks were still ignorant of EMP. Now blast and fire were understood on a practical level.

The testing that was done during the mid-century increased the world's knowledge about the effects of nuclear detonations. Public opinion at the time was through rosy glasses. Atomic power was fashionable, and people kinda expected Atomic washing machines would soon be on the market. Canals could be carved through difficult terrain by detonation of a series of Atomic Bombs. Coffee shops and industrial design were often riffs on the idea of a New World powered by the Atom. As nuclear testing increased in tempo, and the Soviet Union demonstrated their acquisition, the mood changed. People saw in newsreels (TV was very rare in those primitive times) the size of and power mushroom clouds scaled against fleets of captured warships, and they began to question the safety of the Atomic Bomb.

The Cold War for propaganda purposes changed the image from positive to negative. The Soviet Union had occupied Eastern Europe, and the threat of Stalin's ambitions made a new world war seem likely. With the acquisition of a Soviet Bomb (largely developed from information gathered by Soviet spies) people awoke to the dangers of nuclear detonations over London, Washington, New York and Paris. The massive size of the Soviet military establishment was believed to be increasing, even as the other Allied countries were downsizing, was a major concern. Soviet spies were believed to be everywhere from East Gopher Hole, Idaho to the White House itself. Senator McCarthy led a national witch hunt and became infamous for purging Hollywood of "disloyal" a movie industry shot through with Communist Agents. People's reputations were ruined on any suggestion they might be associated with the Communist Movement that was armed with atomic bombs and a massive fleet of long range bombers.

"Duck and Cover", and public education/propaganda was never intended to save anyone from a direct hit. Testing and studies of the residual effects on Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed that even moderate "cover" could reduce casualties near a atomic detonation by significant amounts. Even as the effects of nuclear explosions were becoming known, the public anxiety and fear of them was increasing. Duck and Cover is seen today as foolish as an Ostrich hiding its head in the sand on the approach of a hunter.

A new film genre was born out of the idea that Radiation could cause mutations resulting in monsters. Giant Ants, Spiders, scorpions, earthworms appeared out of testing sites to threaten mankind. "Not the end, only the beginning of the End". The Cold War was developing into the notion of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Simply that any exchange of nuclear devices would spell the catastrophic end to Civilization around the world. Students for Nuclear Disarmament contributed the famous "Peace Symbol" and made it fashionable among young people publicly oppose any use of any nuclear weapon, for any purpose. Hyperbole for a noble cause became accepted as "fact", and most folks just went with the flow rather than consulting unclassified studies of atomic power and weapons. Atomic Bombs became the Boogy-man.

Dr. Kahn's books applied a high level of analysis to the the question of what the actual threat from nuclear weapons was. Dr. Kahn was the prototype for Dr. Strangelove. The public didn't read Dr. Kahn's books (way too difficult for most laymen to follow), and so the public mis-perceptions have continued right up until today.

If MAD hadn't been so widely believed, even by the top leadership of both the US and the Soviet Union, the probability of a spasm exchange of two very large nuclear arsenals delivered by redundant systems from hardened sites, might have occurred. There were no nuclear wars between 1945 for the 45 years when the danger was at its peak. SALT and the costs of developing and maintaining nuclear arsenals has been found by most nations as not cost-effective. WWII and Cold War/Total War have become increasingly obsolete and replaced with a whole new set of military doctrines.

The dangers of a State ordered nuclear exchange today is primarily centered on Pakistan v. India, and the DPRK and its regional neighbors. These are still small in number, in yield, and in delivery capability. As terrible as an India-Pakistani nuclear war would be, our species as a whole would escape almost unscathed. The dangers of an Irani Bomb lie not with the bomb itself, but its impact on the religious driven conflict in Western Asia.

Hope that helps. Sourced from the books cited above, and other unclassified materials.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,592
Italy, Lago Maggiore
I would suggest a further path.

Being Italian [so a citizen of a country where to use nuclear energy had been prohibited by the popular will by means of a popular referendum] I could underline that the most diffused impact of nuclear technology has been ... medical.

Think to radiotherapy.
 
Mar 2017
4
South Australia
Thank you both very much for your replies!

@Asherman
Wow, such a long and extremely helpful reply. Yes, I have obtained a pdf version of the 'The Effects of Nuclear Weapons' though I have not yet started to analyze it in detail. The other sources you have cited, though, had not come up and they would be most helpful.

Your information provides an excellent outline for my sub-question in relation with changing opinions of society on Nuclear energy. The contents reflected my knowledge on the situation of the US during the height of the Cold War, but you elaborated in much more detail. I'll be definitely be looking into the sources you recommended for further information. Once again, thank you so much.

@AlpinLuke
Quite. Until I had started research in this area, it seemed that I knew many advanced medical therapies/treatment used nuclear energy but rarely seemed to give much consideration to them when looking at the effect of Nuclear energy. Without nuclear energy, advancements in medical technology (cancer treatment, etc) would have been all but impossible in the 20th century.
 
May 2015
776
Wellington, New Zealand
I would suggest a further path.

Being Italian [so a citizen of a country where to use nuclear energy had been prohibited by the popular will by means of a popular referendum] I could underline that the most diffused impact of nuclear technology has been ... medical.

Think to radiotherapy.
Similar to the NZ position with extra geothermal power generation.

However, nuclear power does not enjoy much public or political support. A 2008 survey5 found that only 19% of New Zealanders included nuclear when asked to choose the best energy sources for the country in the next 10 yearsk. On the other hand, a 2005 survey of business leaders showed that 94% were concerned about future energy supply in New Zealand, and nearly two-thirds supported investigation of nuclear power6.
Nuclear Energy Prospects in New Zealand : New Zealand and Nuclear Electricity - World Nuclear Association
 

Asherman

Forum Staff
May 2013
3,414
Albuquerque, NM
1. The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, is a compilation of what the US learned from all the Atomic Tests conducted between 1944 and 1958. It is not a book intended for a mass audience, but is a report on results and analysis. I can't remember an "opinion" in the book filled with data. If memory serves, there was some controversy that the books unclassified publication would be used by the Soviet Union to our disadvantage. The counter arguement was, "why bar the gate, when the herd is already over the horizon".

Since the publication of "The Effects", unclassified materials on nuclear weapons have been highly classified, and unavailable to the public. However, the fundamentals of atomic physics haven't changed at all even though today we are far more educated as to what is going on at Atomic and sub-atomic levels. Great advancements have been made in producing clean (Low radiation) and yield with smaller physics packages. Specialty "packages" have been designed to accentuate, or retard, the various effects giving up-to-date arsenals a wide range of specialty weapons. For example, during the 1970s a weapon was developed (Neutron Bomb) that accentuated high-energy radiation, designed to kill Soviet tanks and crews moving through the Fulda Gap without major damage to the population of Eastern Germany. More recently weapons designed around EMP have gone on the shelf. Finding reference/source materials is much more difficult, and so "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons" retains its authoritative position.

What other country in the world, then or now, would even contemplate publishing as important a book for general audiences?

2. As the nation tested and gathered data on nuclear weapons, it moved quickly to prepare the American Public for the possibility of an Atomic detonation over an American city. Public bomb shelters and attack alarms/sirens were designated an public rehearsals held. The tempo increased through the 1950's and many private bomb shelters were constructed in people's backyards. Periodicals from the time had articles on how to build your own, and commercial builders offered to build elaborate and more secure shelters featuring food and water stocks, air filtration, sanitation system, Geiger counters, and radios to provide news about what was happening outside. Air defense was enlarged with huge arrays of radar across Northern Canada to detect any intrusion into the Air Space of North America. Fighters were designed to intercept Soviet armadas crossing over the Pole. It was recognized that some attacking bombers would get through to their targets, and the Civil Defense network was designed to minimize the casualties of the attack.

The Soviets did have large numbers of bombers with international reach based on American designs, but they were also upgrading their systems. faster and more robust bombers were coming on line, at the same time the defenses were being improved. Both sides had grabbed as many German rocket scientists as possible, and were in possession of German equipment and results. Building modern ICBMs is a lot harder than most countries are capable of, but both the US and the USSR soon had the capability of striking by either manned bombers, or ICBMs that would be invulnerable except for a short period during launch, and as they re-enter the atmosphere. Both sides began to shift from targeting population centers (except Capitols, major military networks, and production centers like NY and Chicago). ICBMs tended to be aimed at the hardened launch sites to destroy as many as possible and as fast as possible. The emphasis on manned bombers began to wane, and the Strategic Airforce became a back up to the ICBMs planted in the largely empty mid-west.

The two ICBM forces might cancel one another out, and so the value of a first strike increased in hope of catching the opponent before launch. Then the US Navy developed nuclear powered submarines capable of firing reliable mid-range missiles from beneath the sea surface. From launch to target the sub-orbital warhead could be detonated over its target in less than half an hour. The Soviets countered, again mostly using stolen technology, and its Boomers were regular visitors near America's coastlines. That motivated the US to increase the number of hunter-killer nuclear submarines to sink the Boomers if war should break out. As the focus of MAD shifted from population centers to the enemy's nuclear delivery systems, the idea of "Duck and Cover"/Fallout Shelters began to seem ludicrous. The idea that humanity would be doomed to extinction grew as the arsenals of both powers ballooned.

3. The "Atom's For Peace" program (Pres. Eisenhower) encouraged building nuclear powered electrical generation, and the study of how the nuclear forces trapped inside heavy elements might improved daily life. The problem of disposing of hazardous wastes that will remain toxic for thousands of years was known, but the cost per KWH was terribly attractive to a nation whose thirst for electricity was still only a fraction of the world's hunger in the 21st century.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,592
Italy, Lago Maggiore
A bit of psychology

How to survive ...

an other social aspect of the impact of nuclear technologies has been the paranoia about how to survive to a nuclear holocaust. This was global: fallout shelters were common also in Europe [Switzerland is full of anti atomic shelters, now used as places for particular parties!].

But ...

I would underline that the human nature has gone beyond this. Culturally mankind has learned to deal with the end of world [literally], digesting it.

This social aspect [to develop the capability to cohabit with the risk of the end] has improved a lot our species. Fear of death is a psychological problem ... mankind has solved that problem.