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Chapter IV


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overview **************************
● 63 The First Few Days . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
Case 2: A Soviet Attack on U.S. Oil Refineries 64 The Shelter Period (Up to a Month). . . . . 97
The First Hour: Immediate Effects . . . . . 65 The Recuperation Period . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
Fatalities and Injuries . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 Case4: A large U.S. Attack on Soviet Military
Petroleum. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 and Economic Targets * * * * * * * * * * * * 100

Electric Power. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 The First Few Hours. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101

Transportation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 The First Few Days . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
Casualty Handling. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 The Shelter period. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104
Military. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Recuperation . . . . . . . ’ . ., . . . . . . . . . . 105
Other. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
Reaction: The First Week . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
Recovery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Long-Term Effects. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Page
Case 2: A U.S. Attack on Soviet Oil Refineries 75
6. Energy Production and Distribution
Immediate Effects: The First Hour . . . . . 76
Components . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Reaction: The First Week . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
7. U.S. Refinery Locations and Refining
Recovery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Capacity by Rank Order. . . . . . . . . . . . 67
Long-Term Effects. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
8. Summary of U.S.S.R. Attack on the
Case 3: A Counterforce Attack Against the
United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
United States * * * * e * * o * * * * * * * * * * * * *
● 81
9. Electric Powerplants in Philadelphia. . . 71
Prompt Effects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
10. Summary of U. S. Attack on U.S.S.R. . . . 76
The Period Before Fallout Deposition. 81
11. Approximate Distance of Various Effects
Casualty Estimates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
From Selected Nuclear Air Bursts . . . . . 77
The Contamination Period . . . . . . . . . . . 86
Economic Disruption . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
Recuperation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 FIGURES
Long-Term Effects. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 Page
Case 3: A Comterforce Attack Against the 13. Approximate Footprint Coverage–U.S.
Soviet Union . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 and Soviet attack . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
The First Day. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 14. Philadelphia and Surrounding Counties 70
The Shelter Period. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 15. Counterforce Targets in the United
Recuperation . . . . . . . . . . .“. . . . . . . . . . 93 States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Long Term Effects. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94 16. Expected Casualties as a Function of
Case 4: A large soviet Attack On U.S. Military Typical Monthly Winds Resulting From an
and EconomicTargets 8 * * * * * * * * * * * * *
● ● 94 Attack on Selected Military Targets in
The First Few Hours. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 the United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
Chapter IV


The following pages present descriptions of three ‘*cases” of nuclear attacks.

(The tutorial on nuclear effects–chapter H-was the first of our four cases.) As men-
tioned in the Executive Summary, these cases do not necessarily represent “prob-
able” kinds of nuclear attacks; they were chosen rather to shed light on the way in
which different types of attacks could have differing effects on the civilian popula-
tion, economy, and society. Moreover, each case is considered in isolation—events
that could lead up to such an attack are deliberately ignored (because their prediction
is impossible), and it is assumed (although that assumption is questionable at best)
that the attack described is not followed by further nuclear attacks.
Each case considers first a Soviet attack on the United States, and then a U.S. at-
tack on the Soviet Union. These attacks are similar in that they attack similar target
sets, but different in detail because both the weapons available to the attacker and
the geography of the victim are different. It should be emphasized that this discus-
sion is not suggesting that in the real world an attack would be followed by a mirror-
image retaliation; rather, it is looking at similar attacks so as to highlight the asym-
metries in the ways in which the United States and the Soviet Union are vulnerable.
To save space, it is assumed that the reader will read the Soviet attack on the United
States in each case before turning to the U.S. attack on the Soviet Union, and repeti-
tion has been minimized.
The analyses that follow are much more like sketches than detailed portraits.
Precise prediction of the future of the United States or the Soviet Union is impossible
even without taking into account something as unprecedented as a nuclear attack. A
detailed study would say more about the assumptions used than about the impact of
nuclear war. What is possible, and what this report tries to do, is to indicate the kinds
of effects that would probably be most significant, and to comment on the major

The following pages discuss the impact on target because it is vital, vulnerable, and
civil i an societies of: concentrated in both countries. It is as-
sumed that the attack would be planned
● A Iimited attack on industrial targets. For
without any effort either to minimize or to
this case the hypothesis was an attack
maximize civiIian casualties.
that would be limited to 10 strategic nu-
clear delivery vehicles (S NDVs) (i. e., 10 ● A large counterforce attack. The possibil-
missiles or bombers, in this case Soviet ities considered included both an attack
SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles on ICBM silos only (a case that has gained
(I CBMs), and U.S. Poseidon submarine- some notoriety as a result of assertions by
Iaunched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and some that the United States may become
Minuteman Ill ICBMs), and that would be vulnerable to such an attack) and an at-
directed at the oil refining industry. Oil tack on silos, missile submarine bases, and
refining was chosen as the hypothetical bomber bases (which some characterize

64 • The Effects of Nuclear War

as the least irrational way to wage a stra- terrent’’—the climax of an escalation

tegic nuclear war). The analysis draws on process. The description of the results of
several previous studies that made ‘vary- this attack draws upon several previous
ing assumptions about attack design, studies that made differing assumptions
weapon size, targets attacked, and vulner- about the number of weapons used and
ability of the population; the ways i n the precise choice of targets, but such
which variations in these assumptions af- variations are useful in indicating the
fect the calculations of estimated fatal- range of possibilities. However, deliberate
ities are discussed. efforts to kill as many people as possible
are not assumed, which would lead to
● A large attack against a range of military more immediate deaths (perhaps 10 mil-
and economic targets. This attack is in- lion to 20 million more) than targeting
tended to approximate “the ultimate de- economic and military facilities.


This case is representative of a kind of nu- in the U.S. energy system forces the selection
clear attack that, as far as we know, has not of a system subset that is critical, vulnerable to
been studied elsewhere in recent years–a a small attack, and would require a long time
“limited” attack on economic targets. This sec- to repair or replace.
tion investigates what might happen if the
Soviet Union attempted to infIict as much eco- OTA and the contractor jointly determined
nomic damage as possible with an attack that petroleum refining facilities most nearly
limited to 10 SNDVs, in this case 10 SS-18 met these criteria. The United States has about
ICBMs carrying multiple independently target- 300 major refineries. Moreover, refineries are
able reentry vehicles (MlRVs). An OTA con- relatively vulnerable to damage from nuclear
tractor designed such an attack, operating on blasts. The key production components are the
instructions to limit the attack to 10 missiles, distillation units, cracking units, cooling
to create hypothetical economic damage that towers, power house, and boiler plant. Frac-
would take a very long time to repair, and to tionating towers, the most vulnerable compo-
design the attack without any effort either to nents of the distillation and cracking units, col-
maximize or to minimize human casualties. lapse and overturn at relatively low winds and
(The contractor’s report is available separate- overpressures. Storage tanks can be I if ted from
ly.) The Department of Defense then calcu- their foundations by similar effects, suffering
lated the immediate results of this hypotheti- severe damage and loss of contents and raising
cal attack, using the same data base, method- the probabilities of secondary fires and explo-
ology, and assumptions as they use for their sions.
own studies. *
MlRVed missiles are used to maximize dam-
Given the limitation of 10 ICBMs, the most age per missile. The attack uses eight l-mega-
vulnerable element of the U.S. economy was ton (Mt) warheads on each of 10 SS-18 ICBMs,
judged to be the energy supply system. As which is believed to be a reasonable choice
table 6 indicates, the number of components given the hypothetical objective of the attack.
Like all MIRVed missiles, the SS-18 has limita-
*The Office of Technology Assessment wishes to tions of “footprint” –the area within which
thank the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency for their
the warheads from a single missile can be
timely and responsive help in calculations related to this
case, the Command and Control Technical Center per- aimed. Thus, the Soviets could strike not any
formed similar calculations regarding a similar U S at- 80 refineries but only 8 targets in each of 10
tack on the Soviet Union footprints of roughly 125,000 mi 2 [32,375,000
Ch. IV—Three Attack Cases ● 65

February 1976

hectares], The SS-18’s footprint size, and the ons are assumed detonated at an altitude that
tendency of U.S. refineries to be located in wouId maximize the area receiving an over-
clusters near major cities, however, make the pressure of at least 5 psi. This overpressure was
SS-18 appropriate. The footprints are shown in selected as reasonable to destroy refineries.
figure 13. Table 7 lists U.S. refineries by capaci- Consequences of using ground bursts are
ty; and table 8 lists the percentage of U.S. re- noted where relevant.
fining capacity destroyed for each footprint.

The attack uses eighty l-Mt weapons; it The First Hour: Immediate Effects
strikes the 77 refineries having the largest
capacity, and uses the 3 remaining warheads The attack succeeds. The 80 weapons de-
stroy 64 percent of U.S. petroleum refining
as second weapons on the largest refineries in
the appropriate missile footprints, In perform-
ing these calculations, each weapon that deto- The attack causes much collateral (i. e., unin-
nates over a refinery is assumed to destroy its tended) damage. Its only goal was to maximize
target. This assumption is reasonable in view economic recovery time. While it does not
of the vulnerability of refineries and the fact seek to kill people, it does not seek to avoid
that a l-Mt weapon produces 5-psi overpres- doing so. Because of the high-yield weapons
sure out to about 4.3 miIes [6.9 km]. Thus, dam- and the proximity of the refineries to large
age to refineries is mainly a function of num- cities, the attack kills over 5 million people if
bers of weapons, not their yield or accuracy; all weapons are air burst. Because no fireball
collateral damage, however, is affected by all wouId touch the ground, this attack wouId pro-
three factors. it is also assumed that every duce little fallout. If all weapons were ground
warhead detonates over its target. In the real burst, 2,883,000 fatalities and 312,000 fallout
world, some weapons would not explode or fatalities are calculated for a total of
wouId be off course. The Soviets could, how- 3,195,000. Table 8 lists fatalities by footprint.
ever, compensate for failures of launch vehi-
cles by readying more than 10 ICBMs for the The Defense Civil Preparedness Agency
attack and programming missiles to replace (DC PA) provided fatality estimates for this at-
any failures in the initial 10. FinalIy, all weap- tack. DCPA used the following assumptions re-
66 • The Effects of Nuclear War

Figure 13


● ‘Moscow

Approximate footprint coverage of U.S. attack

Approximate footprint coverage of Soviet attack

Ch. IV— Three Attack Cases ● 67

Table 7.–U.S. Refinery Locations and Refining Capacity by Rank Order

Rank Percent Cumulative Rank Percent Cumulative
order Location capacity percent capacity order Location capacity percent capacity
1 3.6 3,6 34 07 47,9
2 2.9 6.4 35 07 48,6
3 2.3 8.7 36 07 49.3
4 2,1 10.8 37 07 50.0
5 2.1 12,9 38 0.7 506
6 2,0 14,9 39 07 51.3
7 2,0 16,9 40 0.6 51.9
8 1,9 18,8 41 06 52,5
9 19 20.7 42 06 531
10 1.8 22.5 43 0.6 537
11 1.6 24,1 44 06 543
12 1.6 25.7 45 06 549
13 1,5 27,3 46 05 554
14 1.6 28,9 47 0.5 559
15 1.3 30.1 48 0.5 56,5
16 1,2 31.3 49 0.5 57.0
17 1.1 32.4 50 05 57.5
18 1.1 33.5 51 05 58.0
19 1.1 34.6 52 05 585
20 1.0 357 53 05 59,0
21 10 36.7 54 05 595
22 10 37.7 55 05 600
23 10 38.7 56 0.5 60.4
24 0.9 39.6 57 0.5 609
25 0.9 40,6 58 04 613
26 09 41,5 59 04 61 7
27 09 424 60 0.4 622
28 0.9 433 61 41 66.3
29 08 44,1 62 1,6 679
30 0.8 449 63 05 68.4
31 08 457 64 03 68.7
32 0.8 46,5 65 313 1000
33 07 47.2
asum of all refineries m the mdlcated geographic area
bForelgn Irade zone only
c[n~lude~ summary data from ali rehnerles with capacity less than 75000 bblfday 224 refineries Included
SOURCE National Petroleum Refiners Assoclahon

Table 8. –Summary of U.S.S.R. Attack on the United States

Totals ., ., ., 80 63.7 NA 5,031

aEMT = Equlvalenl megatons
bNA = Not applicable
68 • The Effects o/ Nuclear War
—— . —.—— —
Ch. IV— Three Attack Cases Ž 69

garding the protective postures of the pop- would be destroyed by the attack, and many of
ulation in its calculations: therest would be for lack of feed stocks.
III the attack aimed only at refineries
1. Ten percent of the population in large
would cause much damage to the entire petro-
cities (above 50,000) spontaneously evac-
leum industry, and to other assets as well.
uated beforehand due to rising tensions
and crisis development; All economic damage was not calculated
2. Home basements are used as fallout shel- from this attack, because no existing data base
ters as are such public shelters as sub- would support reasonably accurate calcula-
ways; tions. Instead, the issue is approached by using
3. People are distributed among fallout shel- Philadelphia to illustrate the effects of the
ters of varying protection in proportion to attack on large cities. Philadelphia contains
the number of shelter spaces at each level two major refineries that supply much of the
of protection rather than occupying the Northeast corridor’s refined petroleum. In the
best spaces first; attack, each was struck with a l-Mt weapon.
4. The remaining people are in buildings that For reference, figure 14 is a map of Philadel-
offer the same blast protection as a single- phia. Since other major U.S. cities are near tar-
story home (2 to 3 psi); radiation protec- geted refineries, similar damage could be ex-
tion factors were commensurate with the pected for Houston, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
type of structures occupied.
Fatalities and Injuries
These assumptions affect the results for rea-
sons noted in chapter III. Other uncertainties The Defense Civil Preparedness Agency
affect the casualties and damage. These in- (DCPA) provided not only the number of peo-
clude fires, panic, inaccurate reentry vehicles ple killed within each of the 2-minute grid cells
(RVs) detonating away from intended targets, in the Philadelphia region but also the original
time of day, season, local weather, etc. Such number of people within each cell. These re-
uncertainties were not incorporated into the sults are summarized in the following table for
calculations, but have consequences noted in distances of 2 and 5 miles [3 and 8 km] from
chapters I I and I I 1. the detonations:
The attack also causes much collateral eco- Deaths From Philadelphia Attack
nomic damage. Because many U.S. refineries Distance from Original Number Percent
are located near cities and because the Soviets detonation population killed killed
are assumed to use relatively large weapons, 2 ml 155,000 135,000 87
5 ml 5,785,000 410,000 52
the attack would destroy many buildings and
other structures typical of any large city. The Detailed examination of the large-scale map
attack would also destroy many economic fa- also indicates the magnitude of the problems
cilities associated with refineries, such as rail- and the resources available to cope with them.
roads, pipelines, and petroleum storage tanks. These are briefly discussed by category.
While the attack would leave many U.S. ports
unscathed, it wouId damage many that are Petroleum
equipped to handle oil, greatly reducing U.S. Local production, storage, and distribution
petroleum importing capability. Similarly, of petroleum are destroyed. 1 n addition to the
many petrochemical plants use feedstocks two refineries, nearly all of the oil storage
from refineries, so most plants producing com- tanks are in the immediate target area. Presum-
plex petrochemicals are located near refin- ably, reserve supplies can be brought to Phila-
eries; indeed, 60 percent of petrochemicals delphia from other areas unless– as is likely–
produced in the United States are made in they are also attacked. While early overland
Texas gulf coast plants. l Many of these plants shipment by rail or tank truck into north and
‘ Bill C u r r y , “Gulf PIants Combed for Carcinogens, ” northeast Philadelphia should be possible,
W’ash/ngton Post, Feb 19, 1979, page A3 water transport up the Delaware River may not
70 Ž The Effects of Nuclear War

Figure 14.— Philadelphia and Surrounding Counties

The two large dots represent the ground zeros of the two l-Mt Soviet weapons. Within 2 miles of these around
zeros, there are approximately 155,000 people of which 135,000 were calculated to have been killed. Within 5
miIes, there are 785,000 people of which 410,000 would have died.
Ch. IV— Three Attack Cases ● 71

be. This busy, narrow channel passes within age. Alternate airfields in the northeast and
about 1.3 miles [2.1 km] of one of the targets near Camden, N. J., should be unaffected.
and could become blocked at least temporari-
ly by a grounded heavily laden iron ore ship Rail.– The main Conrail lines from Washing-
(bound upriver for the Fairless Works) or by ton to New York and New England pass about
sunken ships or barges. a mile from the nearest burst. I t can be ex-
pected that these will be sufficiently damaged
Electric Power to cause at Ieast short-term interruption. Local
rail connections to the port area pass within a
There are four major electric powerplants in few hundred yards of one of the refineries. This
or near Philadelphia. Table 9 summarizes ca- service suffers long-term disruption. An impor-
pacity, average usage (1976), and expected tant consequence is the loss of rail connec-
damage to these four installations. tions to the massive food distribution center
While the usage figures in table 9 are aver- and the produce terminal in the southeast cor-
ner of the city.
age and do not reflect peak demand, it should
be noted that a large percentage of this de- Road.– Several major northeast-southwest
mand will disappear with destruction of the in- highways are severed at the refineries and at
dustrial areas along the Schuylkill River and of bridge crossings over the Schuylkill River.
a large portion of the downtown business dis- While this poses serious problems for the im-
trict. Thus, the plant in the Richmond section mediate area, there are alternate routes
of Philadelphia, Pa., may be able to handle the through New Jersey and via the western
emergency load. Assuming early recovery of suburbs of the city.
the Delaware plant, there probably will be ade-
quate emergency e ectric power for the surviv- Ship.– Barring the possible blockage of the
ing portion of the d stribution system. channel by grounded or sunken ships in the
narrow reach near the naval shipyard, ship traf -
Transportation fic to and from the port should experience only
short-term interruption.
Air.– The major facilities of the PhiIadel-
phia International Airport are located about
Casualty Handling
1.5 nautical miles [2.8 km] from the nearest
burst. These can be assumed to be severely Perhaps the most serious immediate and
damaged. The runways are 1.5 to 2.5 nautical continuing problem is the destruction of many
miIes [2.8 to 4.6 km] from the nearest burst and of Philadelphia’s hospitals. Hospitals, assum-
should experience Iittle or no long-term dam- ing a typical construction of muItistory steel or
72 . The Effects of Nuclear War

reinforced concrete, would have a SO-percent hours or days, adding to the damage caused by
probability of destruction at about 2.13 miles blast. Some oil tanks would rupture and the oil
(1 .85 nautical miles [3.4 km]). A detailed 1967 would leak onto rivers or harbors, where it
map indicates eight major hospitals within this would ignite and spread fire. Fires at refineries
area; all are destroyed or severely damaged. could not be extinguished because of intense
Another nine hospitals are located from 2 to 3 heat, local fallout, an inadequate supply of
miles [3 to 4 km] from the refineries. While chemicals to use on petroleum fires, and roads
most of the injured would be in this area, their blocked by rubble and evacuees. Petrochem-
access to these hospitals would be curtailed by ical plants, already damaged by blast, would
rubble, fire, and so on. Thus, most of the seri- be further damaged by fire and would leak tox-
ously injured would have to be taken to more ic chemicals. As discussed in chapter 11, fire-
distant hospitals in north and northeast Phila- storms or conflagrations might begin, in this
delphia, which would quickly become over- case supported by thousands of tons of gas-
taxed. 01 inc. Anyway, the plants would likely be dam-
aged beyond repair. Finally, with fires threat-
Military ening to burn, poison, or asphyxiate people in
shelters, rescue crews would attach top prior-
Two important military facilities are located
ity to rescuing survivors.
near the intended targets. The Defense Supply
Agency complex is located within 0.5 miles [0.8 Once it was clear that further attacks were
km] of one of the refineries and is completely unlikely, the undamaged areas of the country
destroyed. The U.S. Naval Shipyard is 1.0 to 1.8 would supply aid. However, the available med-
miles [1.6 to 2.9 km] from the nearest target ical aid would be totally inadequate to treat
and can be expected to suffer severe damage. burns this attack would cause. The radius of
The large drydocks in this shipyard are within a third-degree burns (5.2 nautical miles [9.6 km]
mile of the refinery. for a l-Mt weapon air burst) is far greater than
for any other life-threatenin g injury, and huge
Other fires would cause more burns. But, even in
peacetime, the entire United States has facil-
Several educational, cultural, and historical
ities to treat only a few thousand burn cases
facilities are in or near the area of heavy de-
adequately at any one time.
struction. These include Independence Hall,
the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel insti- If the attack used ground bursts exclusively,
tute of Technology, Philadelphia Museum of it would cause fewer prompt fatalities (2.9 mil-
Art, City Hall, the Convention Hall and Civic lion instead of 5.0 million for the air burst
Center, Veterans Stadium, Kennedy Stadium, case), but much fallout. Given the extensive
and the Spectrum. fallout sheltering described above, 312,000
people would die of fallout. Fallout casualties,
Reaction: The First Week however, would depend strongly on wind di-
rections: would gulf coast fallout blow toward
During this period people would be in a Atlanta, Miami, Cuba, or Venezuela? Would
state of shock, with their lives disrupted and New Jersey fallout land on New York City on
further drastic changes inevitable. Many its way out to sea? The problems of shelterers
would have loved ones killed and homes de- are discussed under “Case 3: A Counterforce
stroyed. Factories and offices in the target Attack Against the United States, ” in this
areas would be destroyed, throwing people out chapter.
of work. People would face many immediate
Beyond the physical damage, people would
tasks: care of the injured, burial of the dead,
realize that a central assumption of their
search and rescue, and fire fighting.
lives–that nuclear war could not occur—was
Fires at petroleum refineries, storage tanks, wrong. Even people beyond target areas would
and petrochemical factories would rage for know immediately that secondary effects
Ch. IV— Three Attack Cases w 73
—.——..———.——— — —.—

would irrevocably change their way of Iife; sur- there were substitutes would receive little or
vivors traveling to undamaged areas would no petroleum. For example, railroads could
drive this point home. Most would fear further substitute for airlines, trucks, and buses on in-
attacks, and would seek protection by evac- tercity routes; mass transit would probably
uating or seeking shelter. While recovery plans substitute for private automobiles and taxis in
could be made and damage assessed, little re- local transportation.
construction could be done with many people
away or in shelters. Thus, the reaction period The demise of the petroleum industry would
would not end until most people acted as if shatter the American economy, as the attack
they believed the war was over. intended. A huge number of jobs depend on re-
fined petroleum: manufacture, sales, repair,
and insurance of cars, trucks, buses, aircraft,
Recovery and ships; industries that make materials used
Once people believed that the war was over, in vehicle manufacture, such as steel, glass,
the Nation would face the task of restoring the rubber, aluminum, and plastics; highway con-
economy. The human consequences would be struct ion; much of the vacation industry;
petrochemicals; heating oil; some electric
severe, but most deaths would have occurred
within 30 days of the attack. Economic disrup- power generation; airlines and some railroads;
tion and the economic recovery process would agriculture; and so on. Thus, many workers
last much longer. would be thrown out of work, and many indus-
tries would be forced to close.
Restoring an adequate supply of refined
petroleum would take years. It is unlikely that The limited direct economic damage, al-
any of the attacked refineries could be re- ready muItiplied by thousands of secondary ef-
paired, although enough infrastructure might fects just enumerated, would be multiplied
survive to make it cost effective to clear and again by tertiary effects. Economic patterns
decontaminate the rubble and rebuild on the that rest on the petroleum economy would be
old sites, The attack would kill many people disrupted. Much of the American way of life is
skilled in building or operating refineries. The dependent on automobiles, from fast-food res-
attack wouId also destroy many ports with spe- taurants and shopping malls to suburban hous-
cial facilities for handling large quantities of ing construction and industries located on ma-
crude oil and refined petroleum, While inten- jor highways whose workers commute by car.
sive use of pIant and equipment can substan- The many people thrown out of work would
tially increase output for many industries, it have less money to consume things made by
can increase a typical refinery’s output by only others. Service industries of all kinds would be
4 percent. Thus, the attack would leave the especialIy hard hit.
United States with about a third of its prewar
These economic changes would lead to
refining capacity and with Iittle of its prewar
social changes t h a t w o u l d h a v e f u r t h e r
oil importing capacity; this situation would
economic consequences. Gasoline rationing
persist until new refineries and ports could be
would at best severely curtail use of private
cars; mass transit would be used to its capaci-
The survival of a third of the Nation’s refin- ty, which would appear inadequate. Demand
ing capacity does not mean that everyone for real estate would plummet in some areas,
would get a third of the petroleum they did especially suburbs, and skyrocket in others,
before the war. The Government would surely notably cities, as people moved nearer to work
impose rationing. Critical industries and serv- and stores. Such mass movement, even within
ices would have top priority— military forces, cities but especially between them, would
agriculture, railroads, police, firefighting, and upset the demographics underlyin g t a x e s ,
so on. Heating oil could be supplied, but at schools, and city services. With many people
austere levels. Uses of petroleum for which out of work, demand for unemployment com-
74 ● The Effects of Nuclear War

pensation would rise at the same time taxes assets and key people from the private sector
were falling. Vacation patterns would shift; were borrowed by the Government for the du-
cuts in air and car travel would force people to ration of the emergency. Certain tasks, such as
travel by train, which would lead people to caring for the injured, decontamination, high-
vacation closer to home. The situation follow- priority reconstruction, and serving as an em-
ing the attack could lead the dollar to tumble, ployer of last resort (to say nothing of meeting
but whether or not that occurred, the curtail- military requirements), would obviously be
ment of commercial air travel would prevent handled by the Government. The difficulty
most people from traveling abroad. The eco- wouId be in planning and facilitating the trans-
nomic system on which production depends formation of the private sector. The combina-
would be radicalIy different. To be sure, most tion of unusable factories and service faciIities
workers and equipment would survive un- with unemployed workers could easily create a
scathed, and economic recovery would even- situation analogous to that experienced in the
tually take place. United States between 1929-33.

Production depends, however, not only on

the use of physical resources, but also on a Long-Term Effects
wide range of understandings between produc-
ers and consumers. These underpinnings would Postattack society would be permanently
be destroyed by the attack just as surely as if and irrevocably changed. People would live in
they were targeted. Prices would be uncertain, different places, work at different jobs, and
and various kinds of barter (trading favors as travel in different ways. They would buy dif-
well as goods) would supplement the use of ferent things and take different kinds of vaca-
money. Credit and finance could not function tions. The Nation would tend to apply the
normally in the absence of information about lessons of the past to future policy by seeking
the markets for continuing production. Con- to reduce its vulnerabilities to the last attack.
tracts would have uncertain meaning. Many Energy conservation, where not required by
businesses would go bankrupt as patterns of regulations, would be encouraged by prices,
supply and demand changed overnight. Courts taxes, and subsidies. Railroads and mass transit
would be seriously overburdened with the task would supplant travel by cars and planes; rail
of trying to arbitrate among all of these com- and ships would substitute for planes and
peting claims. Corporations and individuals trucks in hauling freight. Automobile produc-
wouId be reluctant to make commitments or tion would drop sharply and would emphasize
investments. energy-efficient models; bicycles and motor-
cycles would be popular. While housing con-
Given this disruption, the effort to resume struction would not necessarily end in the
production would require grappling with some suburbs, new homes there would probably be
basic organizational questions. To which tasks built closer together so that mass transit could
would surviving resources be applied? How serve them. Construction in cities would boom.
would people be put back to work? What mix All houses would be better insulated; more
of goods would they produce? Which indus- would use solar energy as fuel costs soared.
tries should be expanded, and which curtailed?
Which decisions would Government make, Farms would be able to obtain adequate
and which wouId be left to the market? supplies of petroleum and its derivatives. Agri-
culture uses only 4 or 5 percent of the Nation’s
This organizational task is unprecedented, petroleum, and its products are necessary.
but in principle it could be performed, Pre- While gasoline and petrochemical-based fer-
sumably the United States would follow the tilizers and pesticides wouId be much more ex-
precedent of the mobilization for World Wars pensive, they comprise only a small fraction of
I and 11, in which extensive Government plan- farm expenses and would be essential for
ning supplemented private enterprise, and key large-scale efficient agriculture. Moreover
Ch, IV—Three Attack Cases Ž 75

much fertilizer is made from natural gas rather cinogenous petrochemicals, but numbers of
than petroleum, so its price would not rise as cancer cases from this source, the time of their
dramatically as that of gasoline, Petroleum- appearance, and the duration of the threat
related cost increases would be passed on to cannot be predicted. To the extent that con-
the consumer. The character of agriculture tamination or destruction of housing, or eco-
couId change, however. I n particular, the Iive- nomic collapse, force people to live in sub-
stock industry might be sharply curtailed. At standard housing, illness would increase. Not
every stage, Iivestock raising, slaughter, and all changes, however, would be for the worse.
distribution require much more energy than do Some new patterns of living would promote
crops. For example, rapid transportation and public health. There would be fewer auto, air-
extensive refrigeration are required. Meat craft, and boating accidents. More people
wouId become very much more costly in rela- would walk or bicycle, increasing exercise. Re-
tion to other foods than it is now, and so would duced consumption of meat would reduce die-
become a luxury. If livestock production tary fats, heart attacks, and strokes. At some
dropped, a major source of demand for corn, point, Government-imposed controls necessi-
soybeans, and other fodder would decline, tated by the attack could be lifted because
possibly slowing price increases for other farm societal changes and market forces (price in-
products. creases, alternative energy sources, residential
patterns, and numbers and efficiency of cars)
Although refineries and oil importing facil-
would achieve the goals of controls without
ities would be rebuilt, U.S. refining capacity
coercion. For example, gasoline rationing
after recovery wouId probably be less than pre-
would certainly be imposed immediately after
attack capacity. Increased prices for gasoline
the attack, and might be lifted in stages as re-
and heating oil would shift demand to other
fining capacity was restored, or subsidies to ex-
sources of energy, raising their prices and en-
pand and support mass transit could level off
couraging an acceleration of their develop-
or decline as revenues made it self-supporting.
Patterns of industrial production would shift
The Nation’s adjustment to all these
dramatically because of these changes, forcing
changes would be painful. The problems
massive shifts in demand for ski I Is and re-
would be especially severe because of the
sources. Many people and factories would be
speed of their onset. Many people say that the
oriented to the production of things no longer
United States would be better off if it was less
in demand; it would take many years for the
dependent on cars and petroleum. While
economy to adjust to the sudden, massive
changing to new patterns of Iiving via nuclear
changes imposed by the attack.
attack would minimize political problems of
The attack would affect public health. deciding to change, it would maximize the dif-
Chapter V discusses the long-term effects of ficulties of transition. Problems would appear
sublethal levels of radiation. Petrochemical all at once, while any advantages of new pat-
plants damaged by the attack would leak car- terns of Iiving would come slowly.


This case investigates what might happen if ber and long construction time, and because
the United States tried to inflict as much eco- of the severe economic consequences of doing
nomic damage as possible on the Soviet Union without refined petroleum,
with 10 SNDVs without seeking to maximize or
minimize casualties. Petroleum refineries were The Soviet refining industry is at least as
selected as targets because of their small num- vulnerable as its U.S. counterpart, though the
76 . The Effects of Nuclear War

vulnerabilities differ slightly. The United fewer refineries than available RVs. The addi-
States refines more petroleum than does the tional RVs were first allocated 2 on 1 against
U. S. S. R., about 17.9 million barrels per day of large refineries; remaining RVs were targeted
crude (1978 figures) versus 11.0 million (1980 against petroleum storage complexes. As in the
projection). 2 According to a 1977 source, the U.S. case, every weapon is assumed to deto-
U.S.S.R. had 59 refineries, including at least 12 nate over and destroy its target. It is assumed
under construction, some of which are very that all weapons are air burst, and the conse-
large; the U.S. and its territories have at least quences of using ground bursts are noted
2 8 8 .3 All individual refineries in both nations where appropriate.
are highly vulnerable to attacks with nuclear
weapons. The U.S. attack destroys most of Immediate Effects: The First Hour
Soviet refining capacity because the U.S.S.R.
has few refineries; the Soviet attack destroys The attack destroys 73 percent of Soviet re-
most of U.S. refining capacity because U.S. re- fining capacity and 16 percent of Soviet stor-
fineries are clustered. age capacity, as table 10 shows. Collateral eco-
nomic damage could not be calculated or col-
The hypothetical attack targets 24 refineries lateral damage to a large Soviet city assessed
and 34 petroleum storage sites. Some major re- because sufficient unclassified data could not
fineries are beyond range of Poseidon missiles, be found.
so the United States uses 7 Poseidons with a
total of sixty-four 40-kiloton (kt) RVs and 3 If all weapons are air burst, the attack kills
Minuteman IIIs with a total of nine 170-kt RVs. 1,458,000 people assuming everyone to be in
Because of the dispersal of Soviet refineries single-story buildings, and 836,000 assuming
and limits of footprint size, each footprint had everyone in multistory buildings; the latter
assumption comes closer to reality. If all
weapons were ground burst, the attack would
2“U S. Refining Capacity” (Washington, D.C National kill 1,019,000 people, 722,000 promptly and
Petroleum Refiners Association, July 28, 1978), p 1 (U. S
figures), and International Petroleum Encyclopedia, 1976
297,000 by fallout, assuming the worst case,
(Tulsa, Okla.: Petroleum Publishing Co , 1977), p, 323 (So- everyone Iiving in single-story buildings.
viet figures).
‘International Petroleum Encyclopedia, 1976, op. cit.,
The estimated injuries from the attack are
p, 393 (Soviet figures); and “U.S. Refining Capacity,” op substantial under all conditions. Under the
cit.; passim, (U.S. figures). single-story assumption on housing, the air-
Ch. IV—Three Attack Cases ● 77
— -- — -- — - -- - - - —— —- — —-- — .-—-—

burst attack would produce 3.6 million injuries less, people affected by shortages. Accommo-
and a surface-burst attack about a m i I I ion less. dation to a future with a sharply reduced
If in multistory buildings, the population petroleum supply would begin: gasoline and
would suffer 3.8 miIIion injured from an air- other products might be hoarded, by enter-
burst attack and 2.5 million for the surface prises if not by individuals. Some less-im-
burst. (A protection factor of 5 was assumed portant industries would probably be closed to
against fallout from the surface bursts. ) save fuel or to allow their workers to shift to
the military, agriculture, and essential indus-
The attack kills fewer Russians than Ameri-
try. Until it became clear that the war was
cans. The differences in fatalities do not mean
over, millions of reservists would be mobilized
that the United States is necessarily more vul-
for military service, placing a heavy demand
nerable than the Soviet Union to nuclear at-
on the domestic economy to replace them. Be-
tack; rather, the asymmetries occur from the
cause of the mobilization, hours worked and
design of the attack. Soviet refineries are far-
the mix of production would change dramat-
ther from cities than are U.S. refineries : a n d
ically and overnight; workers in essential in-
U.S. weapons are smaller, so fewer Russians
dustries might be on 12-hour shifts; other work-
are within the lethal radii of U.S. weapons. Sen-
ers not drafted wouId be pressed into service in
sitivity of fatalities and injuries to distance
essential industries, and quite possibly moved
from ground zero is shown in table 11, Had
to factories in distant areas. The speed and
either nation sought to kill people, it would
magnitude of disruption would cause much
have used different weapons and targeted
psychological shock.
them differently.
How would the Soviet Union cope with the
damage? Although a greater percentage of its
Reaction: The First Week refining capacity would be destroyed, it would
As in the United States, life for the surviving suffer fewer fatalities than would the United
majority would be totally disrupted. Many States (1.0 million to 1.5 million versus 3.2 mil-
would be directly affected by the attack: the lion to 5.0 million) and fewer injuries (2.5 mil-
injured, those with injured relatives, the home- lion to 3.8 million versus 3.9 million to 4.9 mil-

Table 11 .–Approximate Distance (Nautical Miles) of Various Effects From Selected Nuclear Air Bursts
(personnel casualties)
78 • The Effects of Nuclear War

lion) because of the lower yield of U.S. weap- could be expected to remain firmly in control
ons and the location of Soviet refineries away because of the limited scale of this attack.
from cities. If all weapons were air burst at op- Assuming that there are no further attacks,
timum height of burst, there would be negligi- most of the deaths would occur within 30 days
ble fallout in both countries; if all weapons of the attack. While the course of economic
were ground burst, the Soviet Union would re- recovery cannot be predicted in detail, it is
ceive far less fallout because of the lower yield clear that:
of the weapons. Because the Soviets have built
many widely dispersed small dispensaries and
● The attack would hurt. The recovery peri-
first aid centers, rather than smaller numbers od would be marked by shortage and sac-
of modern full-service hospitals concentrated rifice, with particular problems stemming
in cities, more of these facilities would survive from agricultural shortfalls.
than in the United States. In addition, many ● Nevertheless, the Soviet economy and po-
Russians have received first aid training, and litical system would survive, and would
people with injuries that could be treated by do so with less drastic changes than the
paramedics, dispensaries, and first aid would United States would probably experience.
probably be better off than their American
counterparts; others would be at least as bad
● The asymmetries between the two nations
in effects for a given attack are greater for
off. Those who required treatment at major
hospitals would suffer because of the small this case than for a very large attack.
number of beds in nearby modern hospitals
The political and economic structure of the
and the inability of the Soviet transportation
U.S.S.R. appears designed to cope with drastic
system to move them elsewhere. Like the
emergencies like this attack. While almost all
United States, the U.S.S.R. could not cope with
economic assets would be unscathed, re-
large numbers (say, over 100) of severe burn
sources would need to be shifted rapidly to
cases. There would be many victims of severe
produce a different mix of outputs. The attack
burns in both nations who would die for lack
would totally disrupt existing economic plans.
of adequate treatment.
The economic planning apparatus and Govern-
The damage, the emergency conditions, and ment control methods in place in the U.S.S.R.
the risk of further attacks would remind every- would permit the Government to shift plans
one of the special horror that the Soviets faced and resources, but the speed with which such
in World War II. The psychological trauma changes could be made is uncertain. To the ex-
would be exacerbated in the first week by an- tent that revisions in the economic plan were
ticipation of crisis economic conditions. The not made or were delayed, people and equip-
Soviet Government in past crises has proved to ment would sit idle or would be producing ac-
be ruthless and efficient in moving people to cording to less-efficient priorities, draining
parts of the country where labor was needed. scarce resources from higher priority tasks and
Such action would be likely in this crisis as hindering recovery. Workers would be shifted
well, along with cutbacks in food, consumer to different industries as pIants closed; some
goods, housing construction and maintenance, would be forced to move, share apartments
and transportation. Only regimentation would with strangers, or work at new jobs (including
be likely to increase. Life would be grim, and manual labor in farms or factories).
wouId remain so for years.
Some insight into the economic conse-
quences can be obtained by looking at four
Recovery sectors of the economy— military, agriculture,
transportation, and industry. Each of these sec-
What course would Soviet recovery take? tors would have a strong claim on available
Economic viability would not be at issue petroleum, but their total demand would ex-
following this attack, and the Government ceed the supply.
Ch. IV— Three Attack Cases ● 79

The military would have first call on fuel, tain agriculture’s prewar consumption, and
especially if the war continued. It has ade- other critical sectors would compete for petro-
quate stocks to prosecute a war for several leum. Drawing on inventory would sacrifice
weeks. However, unless this attack led to a later agricultural production for earlier pro-
decisive Soviet victory or to a major relaxation duction. Following the attack, the main con-
of tensions, the military would need refined cern of agriculture would be planting, growing,
petroleum to rebuild its stocks and to carry out or harvesting the year’s crop; sacrifices and
normal training. substitutions would be required in other agri-
cultural subsectors to meet this goal with
Soviet agriculture is precarious even in
available petroleum. The U.S.S.R. would be
peacetime because of its inefficiency. Agricul-
likely to divert people from schools, factories,
ture engages about a third of the work force
and (depending on the international situation)
and consumes a third of Soviet gasoline and
the military to work the fields, as it does in
diesel fuel. (U.S. agriculture, in contrast, uses
peacetime, but to a greater extent. The substi-
2.7 percent of the work force (in 1978) and a
tution of human labor for mechanical energy
small fraction of U.S. refined petroleum .)4 The
would be a poor but perhaps unavoidable
Soviet Union imports grain in most years. Nev-
trade. The most obvious cutback would be
ertheless, the U.S.S.R. has maintained a large
livestock; meat is a luxury, livestock consume
cattle industry at considerable expense to pro-
much food that could otherwise be used for
vide a consumer good much in demand. Farms
human consumption, and cattle raising,
use petroleum for tractors and trucks; petro-
slaughter, and distribution require much
leum and natural gas are feedstocks for ferti-
energy. The Soviet Union might slaughter
lizer and pesticides. Agricultural use of petro-
much of its Iivestock after the attack to free
leum is increasing. One small example is the
farmers, fields, trucks, and petroleum to pro-
Soviet use of light aircraft to spread fertilizer;
duce crops. Russians might have a 3-month
while this task could be done by tractors or by
orgy of meat followed by two decades with-
hand, it is much more efficiently done by air-
Soviet transportation would be pinched. A
Cutbacks in petroleum would magnify agri-
few top leaders would still have cars; other
cultural inefficiency. Even if the Soviet Union
cars would sit idle for years, monuments to the
allocated all the petroleum it produced to agri-
culture, it would not produce enough to sus- prewar standard of living. Air transportation
would be sharply curtailed, and Soviet super-
sonic transports would be grounded. Truck
4Statistica/ Abstract of the United States, 1978 (Wash- transportation would be curtailed, with trucks
ington, D C U S Department of Commerce, Bureau of
used almost exclusively for intracity transpor-
the Census, 1978), I ists 91,846,000 employed persons age
16 and over in the United States, of whom 2,469,000 were tation and hauling goods between railroads
listed as farmworkers, for January-April 1978 (p. 418). The and loading docks. By elimination, the trans-
Statistical Abstract does not present the amount of petro- portation burden would fall to railroads be-
leum consumed by American agriculture. Several statis- cause of their energy efficiency. Key trunklines
tics, however, indicate this number to be a small fraction
are electrified, and might obtain electricity
of total U S petroleum consumption Preliminary 1977
data showed all U S prime movers (automotive and non- from sources other than petroleum. The Sovi-
automotive) had 26,469,000,000 horsepower, whi Ie farms ets have stored a number of steam locomo-
accounted for 328,000,000 horsepower, or 1 2 percent (p. tives, which would be hauled out, refurbished,
604) In 1976, industrial consumption of petroleum ac- and put to use.
counted for 18 percent of total U S petroleum consump-
tion (p 764) And a National Academy of Sciences study The tempo of industrial production would
found that agriculture accounted for 3.5 percent of total
slow. Even as it stands now, the Soviets have
national energy consumption In 1968 Agricu/?ura/ Pro-
duction Efficiency (Washington, D C National Academy barely enough energy and occasional short-
of Sciences, National Research Council Committee on ages. Electric power would continue, but
Agricultural Production Efficiency, 1975), p 119) would probably be cut back 10 to 15 percent,
80 Ž The Effects of Nuclear War

forcing some industries to close and reducing though some variety might be sacrificed. There
heat and light at other industries and apart- would be less heat in both nations, but winters
ments. With transportation cut back, factories are shorter and milder in the United States,
would have to wait longer for inputs, lowering and U.S. indoor temperatures in winter could
productivity. be reduced 50 or 10° F without ill effect.
Therefore, heating could probably not be cut
Some less-essential industries, especially en-
as much in the U.S.S.R. as in the United States
ergy- or petroleum-intensive ones, might shut
without jeopardizing health. Cars would be
down. Plastics use petroleum derivatives as
sacrificed at least temporarily in both nations.
feedstocks. Aluminum production uses great
Soviet industries producing consumer goods
amounts of energy, though some Soviet alumi-
would be cut back more sharply than their U, S.
num pIants, such as at Bratsk in Siberia, use
counterparts after the attack, and would re-
hydroelectric power. Truck production would
gain productivity more slowly.
stop for lack of fuel for existing vehicles, idling
the huge Kama River truck plant.
Construction consumes much petroleum, so
it would be curtailed except for essential in- Long-Term Effects
dustries, hydroelectric powerplant construc-
tion, refining construction, and minimal hous- Destroying 73 percent of refining capacity
ing for workers in those occupations. would force the economy onto a crisis footing,
curtailing choices and consumer goods, drop-
These changes would disrupt workers’ lives.
ping the standard of living from austere to
Closing of some plants would idle many work-
grim, and setting back Soviet economic prog-
ers, forcing them to work in other industries;
ress by many years. Recovery might follow the
many could be moved long distances to other
post-World War II pattern, with a slow but
plants. Workers would not necessarily be
steady improvement in the quality of life. But
forced to work long hours. While some plants
recovery wouId be slow, The desire to reduce
would operate around the clock, others would
vulnerability to future attacks would un-
be closed or cut back to enable the energy
doubtedly divert resources from recovery to
they consume to be diverted. At the same time,
such tasks as building some underground re-
however, and within limits of substitutability,
fineries. While the United States could possi-
workers could Iikewise be diverted from closed
bly recover in a way that would use less petro-
to open plants, providing extra labor for fac-
leum than it did prewar, this course would be
tories that remained open extra time.
difficult for the U.S.S.R. because much of
In sum, the reduction in the standard of liv- Soviet petroleum goes to necessities. Long-
ing and the amount of disruption would prob- term health and genetic effects would be less
ably be less than in the United States but there than for the United States because of the
might well be more hardship and misery. Rus- smaller size of U.S. weapons and the location
sians would have less food, especially protein, of Soviet refineries away from people. But the
than they did before the attack, while Amer- Soviet Government might accept greater radia-
ican agriculture consumes so Iittle petroleum tion exposure for people in order to speed pro-
that its output could probably be maintained, duction, increasing such effects.
Ch. IV—Three Attack Cases ● 81



The case of a Soviet attack on U.S. strategic Attacks on submarine bases and bomber bases
forces has received extensive public attention would cause considerable blast damage to
in recent years, since some observers believe it nearby populations and urban structures; at-
is the least irrational way of waging strategic tacks on silos would cause relatively little
war. For the purposes of this study, the military civilian blast damage. Unlike ICBM silos, many
success of such an attack (i. e., how many U.S. bomber bases and fleet ballistic missile sub-
forces would be destroyed) and the resulting marine (SSBN) support facilities are near cities.
U.S. responses are not important. It is suffi- (See figure 15.) For example, an attack on Grif-
cient to assume that such an attack is fiss Air Force Base, near Utica and Rome, N. Y.,
launched, and to examine the consequences would place nearly 200,000 people at risk from
for the civilian population, economy, and prompt effects; attacking the SSBN support fa-
society. For this purpose, small variations in cility near Charleston, S. C., would place more
the attack design (e. g., whether control centers than 200,000 people at risk; attacking Mather
as well as silos are targeted) are immaterial. Air Force Base, near Sacramento, Cal if., would
While there are many possible variations in the place more than 600,000 people at risk. The ad-
design of a counterforce attack, a question of ditional attacks would simultaneously reduce
particular interest is whether the attack would the number of people able to provide aid and
be delivered only against ICBM silos, or increase the number of injured or evacuees re
whether bomber bases and missile submarine quiring aid. The attacks would make it harder
bases would also be attacked. Some of the for people able to provide aid to sustain those
public discussion of such an attack suggests needing it.
that an attack on ICBM silos alone could cause
Countersilo attacks would probably deto-
much less civilian damage than a full-scale
nate some weapons at or near the Earth’s sur-
counterforce attack because the silos are more
face to maximize the likelihood of destroying
isolated from population centers than are
ICBM silos. Surface bursts produce intense
bomber bases. It is certainly true that, holding
fallout, causing most of the damage to the ci-
al I the other possible variables constant, an at-
vilian population, economy, and society. The
tack that included bomber bases and missile
principal civilian impact of adding attacks on
submarine bases would cause more civilian
bomber and SSBN bases is the large increase in
damage than one that did not. Nevertheless,
urban destruction.
the difference between the ICBM-only attack
and a comprehensive counterforce attack was
found to be no greater than the difference The Period Before Fallout Deposition
made by other variables, such as the size of Fallout would begin to reach closer popu-
weapons used, the proportion of surface bursts lated areas in a few hours; it would reach many
used, and the weather. Both cases are consid- others in a few days. As fallout arrives, radi-
ered in this section; the countersilo attack is a ation levels rise sharply and rapidly. People
subset of the counterforce attack, and avail- would therefore have to take any protective
able data is too coarse to support a believable act ions —shelter or evacuation — before the
differentiation between the civilian effects of fallout arrives. This prearrival period would
each attack. thus be one of intense activity and intense con-
fusion. How would people react? Training
Prompt Effects could help, but people trained in how to be-
have under fallout conditions would fare poor-
The blast damage from a counterforce at- ly if they could not get to shelters or if shelters
tack is concentrated on military installations. were unstocked. To what extent would people
82 ● The Effects of Nuclear War

Figure 15.—Counterforce Targets in the United States

State capital

NOTE: No targets in 15 States; one target each in 11 States

panic, seek other family members, or evacuate would not know how long they had), and peo-
spontaneously, and what would be the conse- ple would want to get their families together
quences of such actions? first. A shelter must have a sufficient protec-
Evacuation would probably be a poor tion factor. Fallout particles must be kept out
of the shelter, which requires a ventilation
choice, since it would be difficult or impossi-
system more complicated than an open win-
ble to predict which would be the safe areas
dow or door, and if anybody enters a shelter
and which the hot spots, and since a car in a
after fallout has fallen there must be some
traffic jam would offer poor shelter indeed.
means of decontaminating the new arrival.
The decision on whether or not to evacuate,
Water is necessary; heat may be necessary de-
however, is complicated because evacuation is
pending on the time of year; sanitation is a
a reasonable response for people who would
problem. Finally, people could not tell how
be at risk from blast from further attacks even
long it was necessary to stay in the shelter
though evacuation is a poor strategy for peo-
without radiation rate meters.
ple at risk from fallout alone.
Shelter would in theory be available to a ma- It is obvious that the time of day, the time of
jority of people, although the best available the year, and the degree of emergency prep-
shelter might not be good enough in areas arations during the hours or days before the at-
where the fallout proved to be very intense. tack would all affect the level of deaths. What-
However, the practical difficulties of fallout ever the circumstances, the few hours after the
sheltering could be very great. The time to attack would see a frantic effort to seek shel-
seek shelter could be very limited (and people ter on the part of most of the American popu-
Ch. IV—Three Attack Cases Ž 83

Iation. Then, in densities and locations deter- imum, from fallout until it was clear that at-
mined by the attack parameters and the tacks had ended. To these people would fall
weather, the fallout would descend. Many the burdens of producing necessities and car-
Americans would be lucky enough to be in ing for the injured and evacuees. Yet people in
areas where the fallout level was low. Many these areas, believing themselves to be at risk,
others (between an estimated 2 million and 20 would feel compelled to seek shelter or, es-
million), would be caught without shelter, or pecially in unattached cities, to evacuate spon-
with inadequate shelter, and would die. Still taneously. These actions would reduce the
others would suffer from a degree of radiation flow of aid to damaged areas. Indeed, the
that would make them sick, or at least lower economy would probably shut down until peo-
their life expectancy, but would not kill them. ple were certain that the war had ended and
The trials of living in fallout shelters would be until most people could get back to work,
intensified by the fact that many people would probably until the end of the shelter period.
not know which category they and their fam- Even if some people reported to work, produc-
ilies were in. tion would be difficult with many absentees.
There would be large credit, monetary, con-
A comprehensive counterforce attack would
tractual, and legal problems. If production
impose a greater burden than a countersi 10 at-
stopped even for a week, the loss wouId be tre-
tack. Many more people would be injured by
mendous. This attack would disrupt the econ-
prompt effects, and people near bomber and
omy less than Case 2, however, because most
SSBN bases would have only a few minutes
productive resources would remain intact.
warning in which to seek shelter.
Cities in the blast area –those near SSBN or
bomber bases–would be heavily damaged. A Casualty Estimates
few cities, such as Charleston, SC., and Little In seeking to estimate prompt damage from
Rock, Ark., could suffer consequences similar the attacks, fatalities are the most important
to Detroit in Case 1 (chapter 11) or Philadelphia component of damage and the most calcu-
in Case 2 (above in this chapter); most would lable. To estimate fatalities, the critical ques-
not. People in blast areas would face hazards tions are which areas would be damaged by
as noted in Case 1 — injuries from blast, initial blast, and to what extent? How much fallout
nuclear radiation, and thermal radiation, and would there be, and where wouId it be depos-
from such secondary effects as falling build- ited? These questions cannot be answered with
ings and fires. As in other cases, rescue would great confidence because estimates of deaths
be difficult, with streets blocked by rubble, from these attacks are highly sensitive to at-
water pressure gone, and emergency vehicles tack parameters and civilian shelter assump-
destroyed. tions. However, reference can be made to sev-
eral recent executive branch studies of coun-
People in areas damaged by blast and in the
terforce attacks.
path of fallout would be in greatest peril. in-
juries, damage to prospective shelters, damage
OTA drew on several executive branch
to transportation, and damage to power and
studies, conducted between 1974 and 1978, of
water could make them highly vuInerable. Lit-
counterforce attacks. These studies differed
tle Rock, Ark., for example, the site of an ICBM
widely in their results, primarily because of dif-
base and a bomber base, would receive both
ferences in the assumptions they made. OTA
blast damage from a pattern attack (designed
felt that it would be more useful to look at the
to destroy bombers in flight) and intense
ways in which these assumptions affect the re-
fallout radiation from the attack on ICBMs.
sults than to attempt to determine the “cor-
People in areas neither damaged by blast rect” assumption for each uncertainty. Conse-
nor threatened by fallout would believe them- quently, a range of results is presented; it is
selves to be at risk from blast or, at a min- believed that if OTA had done a new study of
84 ● The Effects of Nuclear war

this case the results would have fallen some- figure 16 shows. The hourly and daily vari-
where within this range. 5 ation of winds also affects casualties. It is
The executive branch countersilo studies important to bear in mind, when consider-
that OTA drew on indicated that between 2 ing possible civil defense measures, that
million and 20 million Americans would die winds could not be accurately predicted
within the first 30 days after an attack on U.S. even after an attack had taken place,
ICBM silos. This range of results is so wide be- much less in advance.
● Rain. – Raindrops collect fallout particles
cause of the extent of the uncertainties sur-
rounding fallout. The key uncertainties are: from the radioactive cloud, thereby creat-
● Height of Burst.– If the fireball touches ing areas of intense fallout where it is rain-
the ground, it vaporizes some dirt, irradi- ing, and reducing fallout elsewhere.
● Terrain. — Hills, buildings, and ground tem-
ates it, and draws it up into the mushroom
cloud. This material condenses to become perature gradients (such as are caused by
fallout. The lower the height of burst, the highways and small lakes) affect the exact
more of the fireball touches the ground, pattern of fallout, creating hot spots in
and the more fallout that is produced. An some places and relatively uncontam-
air burst in which none of the fireball inated spots nearby.
● Distance.—Other things remaining con-
touches the ground creates negligible
fallout. Because ICBM silos are very hard, stant, fallout decreases with distance
a surface burst offers the greatest prob- from the explosion beyond roughly 50
ability of destroying the silo with one ex- miles [80 km].
plosion; it also maximizes fallout. The As chapter 11 explained, radiation from fall-
probability of destroying an ICBM silo is out in large doses causes death, in smaller
increased if two warheads are targeted doses causes illness, and in still smaller doses
against it; opinions differ as to whether creates a probability of eventual illness or
the most effective tactic is to use two sur- death (hence, .Iowers life expectancy). As
face bursts, which doubles the amount of chapter I I I explained, protection can be ob-
fallout, or one air burst and one surface tained when matter is placed between the fall-
burst. out and people— in general, the more matter
● Weapon Design.— Some weapons derive a
(the greater the mass) between a source of
greater portion of their energy from fis- radiation and a person, the greater the protec-
sion (as opposed to fusion) than others; tion. The degree of protection offered by var-
the more fission, the more fallout. The ious materials is described as a protection fac-
weapon yield affects the amount of fall- tor (PF). The adequacy of a given PF depends
out; the higher the yield of a given explo- on the intensity of the fallout. For example, a
sion, the greater the fallout. PF of 20 (typical of a home basement with
● Wind.– The speed and direction of the
earth piled over windows and against the
wind at various altitudes determines the walls) would reduce an outdoor radiation level
directions and distance from the explo- of 60 rem per hour to an indoor level of 3 rem
sion at which fallout is deposited, and in- per hour. In this case, a person outdoors for 10
fIuences fallout concentration. Winds typ- hours would almost certainly be killed by radi-
ically vary with the season; indeed, this ation, and a person in the basement shelter
variance is so great that it can affect would have a good chance of survival. But if
casualties by about a factor of three, as the outdoor level is not 60 reins per hour but
‘For exdmple, after the OTA analysis, was completed, 600 reins per hour, a PF of 20 is inadequate to
a new study was completed showing fatalities from a
save I ives.
counterforce attack with the current U S civil defense
posture to be 8 to 12 million without warning, and 5 to 8 Calculations of deaths from fallout are
million with warning. See Roger Sullivan et al , “Civil made by combining:
Defense Needs of High-Risk Areas of the United States”
(Arlington, Va System Planning Corporation, 1979), p. ● an assumed distribution of fallout, with
22 various intensities at various locations;
Ch. /V—Three Attack Cases ● 85

Figure 16.—Expected Casualties as a Function of Typical Monthly Winds Resulting From an Attack
on Selected Military Targets in the United States

1 I 1 I I I I I I I

I I I I I I 1 I I I
J F M A M J J A s 0 N D
Typical monthly wind

● an assumed distribution of population but that does not mean that raising a PF above
within the areas where fallout is assumed 40 might not save an individual’s Iife in reality.
to be deposited; and The calculations also show lower numbers of
● an assumed distribution of PFs for the deaths when the winds do not blow fallout into
population. densely populated areas.
Some computer models use a grid (perhaps The studies mentioned previously made
4,000 yards on a side for a fine-grained model, separate calculations for attacks including
but much larger in other cases) and assume bomber and missile submarine bases, as well
that within each square of the grid the fallout as silos. Assuming that there is no preattack
intensity and population density are constant, evacuation, calculated deaths range from a
with PFs mixed. Other calculations use re- low of 2 million to a high of 22 million. The dif-
gional or nationwide averages. In general, the ferences result primarily from variations in
calculations show lower numbers of deaths assumptions regarding fallout protection: the
when they assume that the population is wide- high figure assumes approximately to degree
ly dispersed, and higher numbers when they of protection which people receive in their
take into account concentrations of popula- daily peacetime lives (PF of 3), and the IO W
tion. The calculations also show lower num- figure assumes that the entire population
bers of deaths when they assume high PFs; in moves after the attack to fallout shelters with
general, increasing PFs above 40 does not a PF of at least 25. A more reasonable assump-
reduce casualties much in the calculations, tion, that the fallout shelters which now exist
86 ● The Effects of Nuclear War -.

are utilized by people Iiving near them, pro- protection. On balance, it does not appear
duces a calculation of 14 million dead. The possible to sustain greater precision than to
same studies also assessed the effects of exten- say that “studies of hypothetical counterforce
sive preattack evacuation (crisis relocation), attacks show deaths ranging from 1 million to
and found that it reduced the range of pre- 20 million, depending on the assumptions
dicted deaths. However, the assumptions re- used. ” However, the low end of this range
garding fallout protection, both for those who (deaths below the 8 to 10 million level) requires
are assumed to evacuate and for those who are quite optimistic assumptions, while the high
assumed to remain near home dominate the end of the range is plausible only on the
results. Further detail is in appendix D. assumption that the attack is not preceded by
Given the threat U.S. bombers pose to the a crisis period during which civilians are
Soviet Union, a Soviet preemptive counter- educated about fallout protection.
force attack on bomber bases would probably The data on injuries contained in the execu-
seek to destroy the aircraft and supporting tive branch studies are quite limited; for the
facilities rather than cratering the runways. To counterforce attacks, however, the results sug-
destroy airborne bombers launched on warn- gest that injuries would about equal fatalities.
ing of attack, an attacker might detonate
weapons in a spaced pattern over the base. Air- The Contamination Period
bursting weapons rather than ground-bursting For several days or weeks, radioactive con-
them could reduce the threat of fallout but in- tamination would be so intense that people in
crease casualties from blast and thermal ef- fallout areas would have to stay in shelters or
fects; if the weapons were detonated much evacuate. What might be called the “shelter
above the optimum height of burst for max- period” begins at each location when fallout
imizing overpressure on the ground, faIlout starts arriving and ends when people can leave
would be negligible and blast damage would their shelters long enough to do a day’s work.
be reduced. The attacks against missile sub- The length varies from place to place; many
marine bases are much less complex. Ususally places will receive no fallout, and some hot
a single high-yield weapon with medium-to- spots will be hazardous long after surrounding
good accuracy will destroy docks, piers, areas are safe. Note, however, that people
cranes, and other facilities — and nearby cities, could go outside for brief periods before an 8-
factories, and people as well. hour day outside a shelter became safe, and
Accordingly, it is certain that if the only dif- could not live in houses with a low protection
ference between two attacks is that one at- factor for weeks afterwards. After 2 or 3
tacks only ICBM silos and the other attacks months people would ignore the residual radi-
bomber and missile submarine bases as well, ation, though it would be far higher than is
the latter attack would kill more people. How- considered “safe” in peacetime.
ever, the variations in assumptions made For the first 10 to 30 days, shelterers would
about attack design, weather, and fallout pro- have to remain in shelters almost all the time.
tection obscure this. Since these variations Brief excursions outside, for example, to ob-
reflect genuine uncertainties, it is not possible tain water or food, would substantialIy reduce
to determine which set of assumptions and the effective protection factor. Life in a shelter
which fatality calculation is most probable. would be difficult at best. People would not
However, some of the extreme assumptions do know if the shelter offered a sufficient PF, or
appear implausible. One Defense Department whether further attacks were imminent. The
study notes that its highest fatality figure shelter might be dark, as power could be out,
assumed the use of Soviet weapons larger than and windows would be covered with dirt. Un-
those which U.S. intelligence estimates the less the shelter had a good air filtration system,
Soviets possess. Very low fatality estimates the air would become clammy and smelly, and
assume abnormally low winds, an absence of carbon dioxide concentration would increase.
surface bursts, and /or virtually perfect fallout Supplies of food and water might or might not
Ch. IV—Three Attack Cases Ž 87

be adequate, depending on what people would increase the tension in a shelter. More-
brought and how many people were in a shel- over, nausea weakens people.
ter. Unless the shelter were specially stocked, Some people will be better off than others:
medical supplies would probably be inade- people in adequately equipped shelters of
quate. This would be a severe problem in light good PF; people who are neither very young,
of unhealthy conditions in shelters. People very old, or ill; people who have received little
who required special medicines would be or no radiation before entering the shelter;
threatened unless they could obtain an ade- people in less-crowded shelters. Moderate am-
quate supply. While most people would have bient temperature would be better than hot,
radios to receive broadcasts, few would have and hot would be better than cold. People in
two-way radios to transmit. While phones snow zones in the winter, however, would be
might or might not work, it would be difficult more Iikely than others to have adequate pro-
to obtain help, as anyone in a contaminated visions as a precaution against being stranded
area who left shelter would be in jeopardy at home by snow. I n addition, much would de-
from radiation. In particular, medical care pend on how shelterers used their time before
would probably be unavailable because of the fallout arrived to prepare the shelter.
radiation risk of going to a hospital and the Even if the winds were perverse, there would
tremendous number of patients seeking help at be substantial areas of the country that would
the few hospitals that remained open. receive little or no fallout. I n some cases (e. g.,
Oregon), it would be evident that no fallout
Radiation sickness would present special
could be expected unless the war continued
problems. Exposures too low to cause acute
after the counterforce attack; in other cases it
radiation sickness nevertheless weaken bodily
would be several days before people in an un-
resistance to infection. Resistance would also
contaminated area were certain that they had
be weakened by a deterioration in sanitation,
been among the lucky ones. Once it became
prolonged exposure to heat or cold, lack of
clear that a given area had been spared, the
medical care, psychological shock, and inade-
people living there could be expected to step
quate food, water, and medicine. Hence shel-
up their normal pace of activity. To the extent
terers would be especially vulnerable to con-
possible, help would be offered to the contam-
tagious diseases, ranging from colds and in-
inated areas. Depending on circumstances,
fluenza to typhoid fever. There is a trend in the
there might be large numbers of evacuees to
United States away from immunization; as a
care for. The major task, however, would be to
result, many would contract diseases they
keep the country going until the other surviv-
otherwise wouId not.
ors could emerge from shelters. Intense but
While many people would contract radia- rather disorganized activity would be likely,
tion sickness and Iive, it is very difficult for the and essential production would probably take
layman to determine whether an individual place.
showing pronounced symptoms of radiation Most productive resources would survive
sickness has received a moderate, severe, or unscathed, but would shut down until the
lethal dose of radiation. Moreover, acute psy- threat of attack had ended; those in fallout
chological shock induces symptoms similar to areas would remain closed until radiation
radiation sickness, and vomiting— a symptom levels had diminished, with the possible excep-
of both— is contagious in small spaces. Thus, tion of such critical services as radio stations,
someone who vomited would not know if he water pumping facilities, and sewage disposal
had received a moderate, severe, or lethal dose units. Some plants, and some sectors of the
of radiation; if he had severe psychological economy, would use productive resources as
shock; if he had vomited because of con- intensively as possible to meet the demands of
tagion; or if he had some other illness. This the damaged areas and the injured, and to
uncertainty about one’s own condition and compensate for loss of production elsewhere.
that of one’s loved ones, and nausea itself, The burden imposed on the economy by the
88 ● The Effects of Nuclear War

Armed Forces would depend on the interna- ly impaired. The major task would be ending
tional situation. disruption and disorganization rather than
rebuilding the economy — putting the pieces
Economic Disruption back together. Most likely these tasks would
be accomplished by a mixture of individual,
Most economic damage would occur from
local, State, and Federal initiatives, with
lost production, but there would be other
Federal intervention used as a last resort.
losses as well: fires would burn unchallenged,
and machinery would suffer damage from The main problem areas would be:
being shut down in haste or not at all, or from
being left outside unprotected. The major 1. Agriculture. The attack could be expected
damage to the economy, however, would re- to destroy a tiny fraction of farmland with
sult from deaths and long-lasting injuries (to blast and fire; of much greater significance,
consumers and producers), and persona I trag- fallout would contaminate a substantial frac-
edies and other traumas making people less tion of cropland because many ICBMs are in or
able to work. The magnitude of economic loss near the Great Plains. Other cropland would
could be expected to vary with the number of escape with little or no fallout. It is unlikely
deaths. that more than a fraction of the livestock in
nearby fallout areas would be adequately pro-
The attack would cause considerable eco- tected. Fallout would affect agriculture in two
nomic disruption in the uncontaminated area. ways: by killing livestock and crops, and by
Facilities there would need to produce a vastly preventing farmers from working in the fields.
different mix of goods and cope with the ab-
sence of goods that normally come from con- Damage from fallout contamination of
taminated areas. Until people acted as if they crops would depend on the time of year. Most
believed the war was over, it could prove dif- crops take up relatively Iittle fallout and exter-
ficult to organize production in the uncon- nal irradiation does not contaminate them.
taminated areas. Uncertainties about the legal Moreover, it is easy enough to remove fallout
and financial arrangements that support pro- particles from food. However, the vulnerabil-
duction (money, contracts, credit, etc.) follow- ity of crops to fallout varies significantly with
ing a nuclear attack might impede production the type of crop and the stage of its growth.
in the uncontaminated areas. Some workers, For example, yield of various crops can be
fearing further attacks, would spontaneously reduced 50 percent by the following doses, in
evacuate. Public disorder could also impede roentgens (R): peas, less than 1,000 R; rye, 1,000
production. The changes and uncertainties to 2,000 R; wheat, corn, cucumber, 2,000 to
would cause some economic disruption; how- 4,000 R; cotton, melons, 6,000 to 8,000 R; soy-
ever, the greater effort put forth would prob- beans, beets, 800 to 12,000 R; rice, straw-
ably more than compensate for it. berries, 12,000 to 16,000 R; and squash, 16,000
to 24,000 R. At the same time, young plants are
most vulnerable to radiation, whiIe those near
Recuperation maturity are least vulnerable.
Economic viability would not be at issue Knowledge about radiation effects on crops
following a counterforce attack. Because the is, however, limited because much more is
attack seeks no economic damage, it would be known about how gamma radiation affects
far less likely than a deliberate strike on crops than about beta radiation effects. Since
economic targets to create any bottlenecks fallout emits both types, and since beta doses
that would greatly hinder recovery. The Nation to plants could be from 1 to 20 times the gam-
would be able to restore production and main- ma dose, this is a major uncertainty.
tain self-sufficiency. The attack would cause
enormous economic loss, but the Nation’s ca- Fallout would prevent farmers from working
pacity for growth would be at worst only slight- in fields for a time. Fallout does decay, and
Ch. IV— Three Attack Cases . 89

weathering would further reduce its effects on 2. Decontamination. Cities, farms, and fac-
people. By a year after the attack, fallout tories in contaminated areas would require
would no longer be of consequence to farm- decontamination in order to reopen for human
workers in most areas. How soon after the at- use. Decontamination involves moving fallout
tack they could begin work would depend on to areas where it can do less harm in order to
the amount of fallout deposited on a field. reduce the dose rate to people in certain
places. It can be done with bulldozers, street
sweepers, firehoses, brooms, etc. It does,
The effects would thus depend significantly however, require people to place themselves
on time of year. An attack between October at risk. Would enough people be willing to run
and January would have little effect, as fallout these risks? Training is required for people to
would have decayed enough by planting time know that certain doses are tolerable and
to permit farmers to work the fields and to other doses are not; this training would make
avoid serious damage to crops. Radiation on people less unwilling to face these risks, but
fields could be substantially reduced by plow- wiII enough people have received this training?
ing the fallout under or by scraping off the top
layer of dirt. An attack in February or March 3. Public health standards would have to be
wouId delay planting, reducing crop yields or lowered following the attack. in peacetime,
making it necessary to shift to crops that standards are often set cautiously; when ac-
mature more quickly. An attack between April ceptable exposure risk is unknown, it is pref-
and June could kill the entire crop. An attack erable to err on the side of safety. Following
in J uly or August could conceivably have little the attack, that luxury would not be possible.
effect, if the plants were undamaged by radia- Fields would be farmed while low-level radio-
tion. But the resulting crop should be safe for activity persisted; the risks, quite unaccept-
human consumption in an emergency. An at- able in peacetime, wouId be preferable to star-
tack during or just before the harvest could vation. The cost-benefit ratio would change:
result in the loss of the whole crop, not by the benefits of individual safety would need to
damaging the plants, but by preventing be weighed against the costs of foregoing
farmers from harvesting. critical production. Moreover, how applicable
would our knowledge be for setting standards
for the entire population after an attack?
Fallout would be more damaging to live-
Could enough instruments be made available
stock than to plants. Animals are only slightly
to enable everyone to know what dose they
more resistant to radiation than are people; for
were receiving? And what role wouId politics
sheep, cattle, and pigs in barns, where they are
play in setting standards when “acceptable
protected from direct contact with the inges-
risk” rather than “negligible risk” was at issue?
tion of fallout, a dose of 400, 500, and 600 R,
Society would be running greater risks without
respectively, will kill half these animals. The
knowing just how great the risks were; so doing
median lethal dose is considerably lower for
wouId increase low-level radiation sickness,
animals in pastures, where they can eat fallout
cancers, genetic damage, and so on.
along with grass. Poultry are considered more
resistant; a dose of 850 R will halve the poultry 4. Burdens on society would increase, remov-
in a barn. Many animals in heavy fallout areas ing people from production while increasing
would probably be killed, as farmers generally demand on production. Many people would
have no fallout shelters for animals. Moreover, suffer long-lasting, permanent, or debilitating
depending on the damage the attack wreaks injuries. Demands for more military force
on human food crops, it might be necessary to could well increase. Inefficiencies stemming
use animal feed as human food. The conse- from economic dislocation would reduce the
quence could be that it would take many years outputs from any given set of inputs. Decon-
to rebuild the national livestock supply, and tamination and civil defense would draw
until then meat would become a scarce luxury. resources.
90 ● The Effects of Nuclear War

5. Economic disorganization would be a prob- Similarly, ecological damage would be

lem, possibly a severe one. Once people were caused mainly by countersilo attacks; this
confident that the war had ended, money topic is dealt with in chapter V.
would retain its value, and so would property
in uncontaminated areas. But the marketplace In the long run, the economy would recover,
that organizes the American economy would although it would be some decades before the
be severely disrupted by abrupt shifts in de- people killed would be “replaced” in either a
mand, abrupt changes in supply, questions demographic or an economic sense. There
about the validity of contracts involving peo- would undoubtedly be permanent shifts in de-
ple or things in contaminated areas, etc. In ad- mand (e. g., there might be little market for
dition, a major question would develop over houses without basements or fallout shelters),
how to share the losses from the attack in an and supply of some goods (notably m e a t )
equitable way. might be scarce for some time.
Long-Term Effects
An imponderable is the psychological im-
The main long-term damage would be pact. The United States has never suffered the
caused by countersilo strikes, which release loss of millions of people, and it is unlikely
the great bulk of radiation even if bomber and that the survivors would simply take it in
missile submarine bases are also attacked. stride. The suffering experienced by the South
Radiation has long-term health consequences, in the decade after 1860 provides the nearest
such as cancers, other illnesses, deaths, and analogy, and a case can be made that these ef-
genetic damage, that blast does not. fects took a century to wear off.


As in the case of the Soviet counterforce at- in an attack on Soviet bomber bases) would
tack on the United States (described in the pre- create very large amounts of fallout.
vious section), the main threat to the civiIian
As in the case of a counterforce attack on
population, economy, and society is derived
the United States, sheltering is preferable to
from fallout, while the damage done to the
evacuation for protection provided there are
strategic forces is outside the scope of this
no subsequent attacks. Depending on the time
study. Here too OTA drew on the executive
of year, the Soviets might have more difficulty
branch for calculations, and here too the un-
than the United States in improvising fallout
certainties are very great.
protection (both frozen earth and mud would
create problems); on the other hand, Soviet
preparations for such sheltering in peacetime
The First Day are more extensive than their U.S. counter-
Each of the parameters mentioned in the
previous section as affecting the damage to The executive branch has performed several
the United States would also affect the dam- calculations of fatalities resulting from coun-
age to the Soviet Union. An additional source terforce attacks, and variations in the assump-
of variation is pertinent: the U.S. missiles most- tions produce a range of estimates. All these
ly carry smaller warheads than their Soviet studies except one assume a Soviet first strike
counterparts, but U.S. bombers carry weapons and a U.S. retaliatory strike. As a result, esti-
with quite high yields. Ground bursts of bomb- mates of Soviet fatalities are lower than they
er-carried weapons (which are especialIy Iikely would be for a U.S. counterforce first strike,
Ch. IV— Three Attack Cases ● 91

partly because the United States would have bombers were present) are attacked, tactical
fewer ICBMS available for a second strike, and warning could be of great importance to peo-
partly because the Soviets are more likely to ple living nearby. There would be an area near
take precautionary civil defense measures each base (roughly, the area more than 1 mile
before a Soviet first strike than before a U.S. [2 km] but less than 10 miles [16 km] from a sur-
first strike. All of these studies consider only face burst) in which people who were sheltered
fatalities in the so days following the attack; at the moment of the blast would have a much
they exclude later deaths resulting from rela- greater chance of survival than those who were
tively less intense radiation or the effects of unsheltered. Soviet civiI defense plans envis-
economic disruption. age that civilians in such high-threat areas
For both counterforce and countersilo at- would receive some warning, but it cannot be
tacks, with an in-place Soviet population, the said to what extent this would actually be the
fatality estimates are very similar: for the case.
former, from less than 1 to 5 percent of the Many millions of Soviet citizens Iive in areas
population; for the latter, from less than 1 to 4
that would receive substantial amounts of fall-
percent. The low end results from using
out from such an attack. Those far enough
smaller weapons air burst, while the high end away from the explosions to be safe from blast
results from using larger weapons ground
darnage would have some time (a range from
burst. A comprehensive counterforce attack
30 minutes to more than a day) to shelter them-
can logically be expected to kill more people
selves from fallout, but evacuation from high-
than the countersilo attack because the latter
faliout areas after the attack would probably
is a subset of the former. However, other fac-
not be feasible. The Soviet civil defense pro-
tors have a greater influnce on numbers of fa-
gram gives attention to blast shelters rather
talities: A full counterforce attack in which the
than fallout shelters in urban areas (see
United States deliberately tried to minimize
chapter I I l), and while such blast shelters
Soviet fatalities by using small weapons air would offer good protection against fallout,
burst, in which winds were favorable, and in
some of them may not be habitable for the
which the Soviets had tactical or strategic
necessary number of days or weeks for which
warning, would kill far fewer people than a protection would be required.
counters ilo-only attack in which the United
States used one large weapon ground burst The sheltering process would be much more
against each ICBM silo. tightly organized than in the United States.
An unpublished Arms Control and Disarma- The Soviet Government has extensive civil
ment Agency (AC DA) analysis highlights the defense plans, and while Americans would ex-
importance of sheltering and attack character- pect to try to save themselves under general
istics for fatal ities from a U.S. countersilo at- guidance (informational in character) from the
tack. One estimate is that, with the urban Federal authorities, Soviet citizens would ex-
population 90-percent sheltered and the rural pect the Government to tell them what to do.
population given a PF of 6, Soviet fatalities This introduces a further uncertainty: efficient
would range from 3.7 million to 13.5 million, and timely action by the authorities would be
depending on attack parameters. With a de- very effective, but it is also possible that
graded shelter posture (urban population 10- Soviet citizens would receive fatal radiation
percent sheltered and rural population given a doses while waiting for instructions or follow-
PF of 6), fatality estimates for the same set of ing mixed-up instructions. I n any event, some
attacks range from 6.0 m i I I ion to 27.7 miIIion. hours after the attack would see a situation in
which a large number of people in contam-
The Shelter Period inated areas were in fallout shelters, others
were receiving dangerous doses of radiation,
If bomber bases (or airfields with long run- and those outside the fallout areas were con-
ways that were attacked even though r-to gratulating themselves on their good luck
92 • The Effects of Nuclear War
— .— —— . . ——.——. —— .— ———. - .———...— .——.—-.—

while hoping that no further attacks would ment might send medical teams to contami-
take place. nated areas, especially to shelters containing
workers with key skills. The Soviet Army has
Would Soviet shelterers be better off than built tanks and some other military vehicles
their American counterparts? They have sev- with protection against fallout, and has trained
eral advantages. They are more accustomed to its soldiers for operations in areas contami-
crowding and austerity than are Americans, so nated with fallout. In addition, as in the United
would probably suffer less “shelter shock. ” States, military helicopters could ferry people
They would be more accustomed to following and supplies into contaminated areas with
Government orders, so to the extent that limited exposure to crews. Using such re-
orders proved correct and were correctly im- sources would obviously improve health of
plemented, they would be more evenly distrib- shelterers, but priority military tasks might
uted among shelters. Training in first aid and make these miIitary resources unavailable.
civil defense is widespread, which would im-
prove people’s ability to survive in shelters. If People in hasty shelters, if they could be
the U.S. attack used low-yield warheads, fall- built, would face worse health problems,
out would be less widespread and less intense. despite the legendary ability of Russians to en-
dure hardships. Presumably these shelters
Soviet shelterers face some problems that would have inadequate supplies, heat, air fil-
Americans would not. They would be more vul- tration, sanitary facilities, waterproofing, and
nerable than Americans to an attack in winter. so on. Placing people in a cold, damp hole in
The Soviet economy has less “fat,” so other the ground for 2 weeks with little food and
things being equal, Soviet citizens could bring makeshift toilets would make many people
less food and supplies into shelters than could sick even in peacetime; how well would such
Americans. problems be overcome in war?
Public health is a major uncertainty. To the Soviet civil defense presents a large ques-
extent that shelters are well stocked, provided tion mark. Some believe that the Soviets have
with adequate medications and safe ventila- massive food stockpiles, meticulous plans
tion, have necessary sanitary facilities, are detailing where each person should go, ample
warm and uncrowded, and have some people shelter spaces, subways and buildings converti-
with first aid knowledge, health would be less ble to shelters, and so on that would be valu-
of a problem. If Soviet citizens receive less able in the shelter period. Others contend that
fallout than Americans, they would be less these claims are vastly overstated and confuse
weakened by radiation sickness and more re- speculation about a plan with its existence and
sistant to disease. If conditions were austere the existence of a plan with its operational ef-
but reasonably healthy, public health in shel- fectiveness. (See chapter III on civil defense.)
ters would be mainly a matter of isolating ill If Soviet civil defense works well, it would save
people and practicing preventive medicine for many lives; if it doesn’t, Soviet shelterers
the others. Doctors would be unnecessary for would face conditions at least as hazardous as
most such tasks; people trained in first aid, es- their American counterparts.
pecially if they have some access (by phone or
radio) to doctors, could perform most tasks. To Agricultural losses would, as in the United
be sure, some people would die from being un- States, depend on the time of the year when
treated, but the number would be relatively the attack came and on the precise patterns of
small if preventive care worked. However, iso- fallout. In general, Soviet agriculture appears
lating the ill would not be easy. It is likely that more vulnerable because it borders on inade-
many people would be moderately ill (from quacy even in peacetime–even relatively
flu, etc.) when they entered their shelter, and minor damage would hurt, and major crop
radiation would make the others more sus- losses could be catastrophic. On the other
ceptible to contamination. The Soviet Govern- hand, for this very reason the Soviets would
Ch. IV—Three Attack Cases ● 93

know how to handle agricultural shortages: In the U. S. S. R., as in the United States, the
surviving production and stockpiles (the extent crop loss caused by the attack would depend
of Soviet food stockpiles is a matter of con- on season, fallout deposition, which crops
troversy, apart from the fact that they are were hit by fallout, and so on. Similarly, the
lowest just before each harvest) would prob- amount of food reserves would vary with the
ably be used efficiently. season. The immediate goal for agriculture
would be to send adequate food supplies to
The economy outside the contaminated cities. Presumably, the Government would try
area would continue to function. There would to meet this goal by tightening controls rather
be more than enough industrial facilities in un- than by giving farmers more capitalistic incen-
contaminated areas to keep necessary produc- tives. For a moderate attack like this one, with
tion going. The key task facing Government little physical damage, controls would prob-
planners, however, would be using available ably work.
workers and resources to best advantage. How
fast could planners generate new economic It is questionable whether adequate labor
plans that were detailed enough for that task? would be available for agriculture. Depending
Because the Soviet economy operates closer on the situation, millions of men might be
to the margin than does that of the United mobilized into the Army. On the other hand
States, the Soviets could tolerate less loss of the Soviets have well-established procedures
production than could the United States. This for getting military personnel, factory workers,
would make superproduction the norm, with and others to help with harvests; moreover,
key factories working all the time. It would following a nuclear attack, some workers in
lead to suspending production of many con- nonessential industries would be out of work,
sumer goods. It would probably lead the Cov- and could be sent to farms. The large number
ernment to begin decontamination earlier and of farmers (perhaps 35 to 40 percent of the
to take more risks with radiation exposure than Soviet work force is in agriculture, compared
would the United States. These actions to in- to 2 or 3 percent in the United States), the
crease production would be aided in general fallout contaminating some farmland, and ac-
by the Government’s control of the economy, cepting more exposure to radiation would in-
and in particular by keeping work groups crease the Soviet population’s exposure to
together in shelters and host areas. radiation.

If a year’s crop were lost, would there be

austerity, short rations, or starvation? How
much surplus food is there? In particular,
As in the United States, economic viability would there be enough to maintain a livestock
would not be threatened. The key question, industry, or would meat be seen as a nonessen-
which would begin to be answered in the shel- tial consumer good and feed grains diverted
ter period, is how appropriate Soviet emer- for human use?
gency plans are and how rapidly planning mis-
takes could be corrected. Major shifts, and the As in the United States, the attack would
inefficiencies that accompany them, would be create many burdens for the Soviet economy.
inevitable. To what extent could planning Military expenditures would probably in-
minimize them? Could a command economy crease; people injured by the attack would
do better under the circumstances than a need care, and fewer people would be alive
mixed economy? The Soviet Union’s long ex- and well to care for them; major changes in the
perience with central planning would mean economy would cause inefficiencies; lowered
that the changes would involve details within public health standards would increase early
the existing system rather than changing from production at the expense of later health
one economic system to another. burdens.
94 Ž The Effects of Nuclear War

The Soviet Union would not face certain Long-Term Effects

problems that a market economy faces. The
Chapter V discusses the likely long-term
legal and financial devices supporting produc-
health hazards from such an attack.
tion – money, credit, contracts, and ownership
of productive resources — would be far less im- All things considered, an attack of this
portant than in the United States. Instead, nature could be somewhat less damaging than
Soviet production would be guided by a cen- World War II was to the Soviet Union, and
tral plan. There are reports that contingency Soviet recovery from that conflict was com-
planning has been done for postwar recupera- plete. However, it helped that in 1945 the
tion; such contingency plans (or the peacetime Soviets were victorious and able to draw on
plan if there are no applicable contingency resources from Eastern Europe. Much would
plans) would have to be adjusted to take ac- depend on whether the aftermath of this at-
count of the actual availability of surviving tack found the Soviet people pleased or ap-
workers and economic assets. Without doubt palled at the results of the war and on the
such adjustments would be made, though relative power and attitudes of the Soviets’
there would be some waste and inefficiency. neighbors.



This case discusses a massive attack that most immediate effects would be the loss of
one normally associates with all-out nuclear millions of human lives, accompanied by simi-
war. The attack uses thousands of warheads to lar incomprehensible levels of injuries, and the
attack urban-industrial targets, strategic tar- physical destruction of a high percentage of
gets, and other military targets. The number of U.S. economic and industrial capacity. The full
deaths and the damage and destruction in- range of effects resulting from several thou-
flicted on the U.S. society and economy by the sand warheads — most having yields of a mega-
sheer magnitude of such an attack would ton or greater— impacting on or near U.S.
place in question whether the United States cities can only be discussed in terms of uncer-
would ever recover its position as an orga- tainty and speculation. The executive branch
nized, industrial, and powerful country. studies that addressed this level of attack
report a wide range of fatality levels reflecting
OTA favored examining purely retaliatory
various assumptions about the size of the at-
strikes for both sides, but all of the available
tack, the protective posture of the population,
executive branch studies involved Soviet pre
and the proportion of air bursts to ground
emption and U.S. retaliation. However, the dif-
burst weapons.
ferences between a Soviet first strike and a
retaliation do not appear to be appreciably The DOD 1977 study estimated that 155 mil-
large in terms of damage to the civilian struc- lion to 165 million Americans would be killed
ture. Like the United States, the Soviets have a by this attack if no civil defense measures were
secure second-strike force in their SLBMs and taken and all weapons were ground burst.
are assumed to target them generally against DCPA looked at a similar attack in 1978 where
the softer urban-industrial targets. Moreover, a only half the weapons were ground burst; it
U.S. first strike would be unlikely to destroy reduced the fatality estimate to 122 million.
the bulk of Soviet ICBMs before they could be ACDA’s analysis of a similar case estimated
launched in retaliation. that 105 million to 131 million would die.
The effects of a large Soviet attack against If people made use of existing shelters near
the United States would be devastating. The their homes, the 155 million to 165 million
Ch. IV—Three Attack Cases ● 95

fatality estimate would be reduced to 110 mil- dling the dead) for most survivors would be to
lion to 14s million, and the 122 million fatal- get reliable information about what has oc-
ities to 100 million. The comparable ACDA curred, what is taking place, and what is ex-
fatality estimate drops to 76 million to 85 pected. Experience has shown that in a disaster
million. Again ACDA gets a lower figure Situation, timely and relevant information is
through assuming air bursts for about 60 per- critical to avoiding panic, helpful in organizing
cent of the incoming weapons. Finally, if urban and directing productive recovery efforts, and
populations were evacuated from risk areas, therapeutic to the overall psychological and
the estimated prompt fatality levels would be physical well being of those involved. Presum-
substantially reduced. The DOD study showed ably, the civil preparedness functions would
fatalities of 40 million to 55 million, with be operating well enough to meet some of this
DCPA showing a very large drop to 20 million need.
from the 100 mill ion level. The primary reason
for the 2-to-1 differential is the degree of pro- Rescuing and treating the injured will have
tection from fallout assumed for the evac- to be done against near insurmountable odds.
uated population. Fire and rescue vehicles and equipment not de-
stroyed wil I find it impossible to move about in
In summary, U.S. fatality estimates range any direction. Fires wilI be raging, water mains
from a high of 155 million to 165 million to a will be flooding, powerlines will be down,
low of 20 million to 55 million. Fatalities of this bridges will be gone, freeway overpasses will
magnitude beg the question of injuries to the be collapsed, and debris will be everywhere.
People will be buried under heavy debris and
survivors. None of the analyses attempted to
estimate injuries with the same precision used structures, a n d w i t h o u t p r o p e r e q u i p m e n t
in estimated fatalities. However, DCPA did capable of lifting such loads, the injured can-
provide injury estimates ranging from 33 mil- not be reached and will not survive. The for-
lion to 12 million, depending on circum- tunate ones that rescuers can reach will then
stances. An additional point worth noting is be faced with the unavailability of treatment
facilities. Hospitals and clinics in downtown
that al I of the fatality figures just discussed are
for the first 30 days following the attack; they areas would likely have been destroyed along
with most of their stocks of medical supplies.
do not account for subsequent deaths among
Doctors, nurses, and technicians needed to
the injured or from economic disruption and
deprivation. man makeshift treatment centers are likely to
have been among the casualties. The entire
area of holocaust will be further numbed by
The First Few Hours either the real or imagined danger of fallout.
People will not know whether they should try
The devastation caused by a single l-Mt to evacuate their damaged city, or attempt to
weapon over Detroit (chapter I l), and of two seek shelter from fallout in local areas and
similar weapons denoted near Philadelphia, hope there will be no new attacks. No doubt
have been described. In this attack the same some of both wouId be done.
destruction would take place in 30 or so other
If this situation were an isolated incident or
major cities (with populations of a million or
even part of a smalI number of destroyed cities
greater). Many cities with smaller populations
in an otherwise healthy United States, outside
would also be destroyed. The effects on U.S.
help would certainly be available. But if 250
society would be catastrophic.
U.S. cities are struck and damaged to similar
The majority of urban deaths will be blast in- levels, then one must ask, “Who is able to
duced, e.g., victims of collapsing buildings, fly- help?” Smaller towns are limited in the amount
ing debris, being blown into objects, etc. Ex- of assistance they can provide their metropoli-
cept for administering to the injured, the next tan neighbors. It is doubtful that there would
most pressing thing (probably ahead of han- be a strong urge to buck the tide of evacuation
in order to reach a place where most of the At the time when fallout radiation first be-
natives are trying to leave. Additionally, the comes intense, only a fraction of the surviving
smaller cities and towns would have their own urban population will be in adequate fallout
preparedness problems of coping with the an- shelters. Those that are sheltered will face a
ticipated arrival of fallout plus the influx of variety of problems: making do with existing
refugees. In light of these and other considera- stocks of food, water, and other necessities or
tions, it appears that in an attack of this else minimizing exposure while leaving the
magnitude, there is Iikely not to be substantial shelter for supplies; dealing with problems of
outside assistance for the targeted areas until sanitation, which will not only create health
prospective helpers are convinced of two hazards but also exacerbate the social tensions
things: the attack is over, and fallout intensity of crowds of frightened people in a small
has reached safe levels. Neither of these condi- space; dealing with additional people wanting
tions is likely to be met in the first few hours. to enter the shelter, who would not only want
to share scarce supplies but might bring con-
tamination in with them; dealing with disease,
The First Few Days which would be exacerbated not only by the
effects of radiation but by psychosomatic fac-
Survivors will continue to be faced with the tors; and finally judging when it is safe to ven-
decision whether to evacuate or seek shelter in ture out. Boredom will gradually replace
place during this interval. The competence and panic, but will be no easier to cope with. Those
credibility of authority will be under con- with inadequate shelters or no shelters at all
tinuous question. Will survivors be told the will die in large numbers, either from lethal
facts, or what is best for them to know, and doses of radiation or from the combination of
who decides? Deaths will have climbed due to other hazards with weakness induced by radia-
untreated injuries, sickness, shock, and poor tion sickness.
judgement. Many people will decide to at-
tempt evacuation simply to escape the reality The conditions cited above are generally
of the environment. For those staying, it likely more applicable to urbanites who are trying to
means the beginning of an extended period of survive. The problems of rural survivors are
shelter survival. Ideally, shelters must protect somewhat different, some being simpler—
from radiation while meeting the minimums of others more complex. With warning, people
comfort, subsistence, and personal hygiene. living in rural areas could readily fabricate
Convincing people to remain in shelters until adequate fallout shelters. However, it might be
radiation levels are safely low will be difficult, more diifficult for a rural shelteree to have cur-
but probably no more so than convincing them rent and accurate information regarding fall-
that it is safe to leave on the basis of a radi- out intensity and location. The farm family is
ation-rate meter reading. T h e r e w i l l b e likely not to have suffered the traumatic ex-
unanswerable questions on long-term effects. posure to death and destruction, and conse-
quently is probably better prepared psycho-
Sheltering the survivors in the populous logically to spend the required time in a shel-
Boston to Norfolk corridor will present un- ter. (Possible consequences to livestock and
precedented problems. Almost one-fifth of the crops are addressed later in this section. )
U.S. population lives in this small, 150- by 550-
mile [250 by 900 km] area. Aside from the Outdoor activity in or near major cities that
threat of destruction from direct attack, these were struck would likely be limited to emer-
populations are in the path of fallout from at- gency crews attempting to control fires or con-
tacks on missile silos and many industrial tar- tinuing to rescue the injured. Crews would
gets in the Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Duluth tri- wear protective clothing but it would be neces-
angle. Depending on the winds at altitude, the sary to severely limit the total work hours of
fallout from the Midwest will begin arriving 12 any one crew member, so as not to risk danger-
to 30 hours after the attack. ous accumulations of radiation. Areas not
Ch. IV—Three Attack Cases ● 97

threatened by fallout could begin more delib- overall psychological effects will likely worsen
erate fire control and rescue operations. until they become a major national concern,
Whether a national facility would survive to perhaps on the same level with other incapaci-
identify weapons impact points and predict tating injuries.
fallout patterns is doubtful.
Deaths occurring within the first 30 days of
The extent of death and destruction to the an attack are categorized as prompt fatalities.
Nation would still be unknown. For the most This duration is a computation standard more
part, the agencies responsible for assembling than it is related to specific death-producing
such information would not be functioning. effects, and is the basis for most fatality
This task would have to wait until the numbing estimates. However, deaths from burns, in-
effect of the attack had worn off, and the juries, and radiation sickness can be expected
Government could once again begin to func- to continue far beyond this particular interval.
tion, however precariously.
The Recuperation Period
The Shelter Period (Up to a Month)
Whether economic recovery would take
As noted earlier, after the initial shock place, and if so what form it would take, would
period, including locating and getting settled depend both on the physical survival of
in shelters, the problem of sheltering large enough people and resources to sustain recov-
masses of people will be compounded as the ery, and on the question of whether these sur-
shelter time extends. Survival will remain the vivors couId adequately organize themselves.
key concern. People will experience or witness
Physical survival of some people is quite
radiation death and sickness for the first time.
probable, and even a population of a few mil-
Many previously untreated injuries will require
lion can sustain a reasonably modern economy
medical attention, if permanent damage or
under favorable circumstances. The survivors
death to the individual is to be avoided. Stock-
would not be a cross-section of prewar Amer-
piles of medical, food, and water supplies are
ica, since people who had Iived in rural areas
sure to become items of utmost concern.
would be more likely to survive than the inhab-
Whether some people can safely venture out-
itants of cities and suburbs. The surviving
side the shelter for short periods to forage for
population would lack some key industrial and
uncontaminated supplies will depend on fall-
technical skills; on the other hand, rural people
out intensity, and the availability of reliable
and those urban people who wouId survive are
means of measuring it.
generally hardier than the American average.
This period will continue to be marked by
While the absolute level of surviving stocks
more inactivity than activity. Many areas will
of materials and products would seem low by
have been freed from the fallout threat either
prewar standards, there would be a much
by rain, shifting winds, or distance from the
smaller population to use these stocks. Apart
detonations. But economic activity will not from medicines (which tend to have a short
resume immediately. Workers wilI remain con-
shelf life and which are manufactured exclu-
cerned about their immediate families and
sively in urban areas), there would probably
may not want to risk leaving them. Informa-
not be any essential commodity of which sup-
tion and instruction may not be forthcoming,
plies were desperately short at first. A lack of
and if it is, it may be confusing and misleading, medicines wouId accentuate the smallness and
and of little use. Uncertainty and frustration
hardiness of the surviving population.
will plague the survivors, and even the most
minor tasks wilI require efforts far out of pro- Restoring production would be a much more
portion to their difficulty. Many will interpret difficult task than finding interim stockpiles.
this as symptomatic of radiation effects and Production in the United States is extremely
become further confused and depressed. The complex, involving many intermediate stages.
98 . The Effects of Nuclear War

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

A part of Hiroshima after atomic blast

New patterns of production, which did not rely Physical security comes first—a person is re-
on facilities that have been destroyed, would luctant to leave home to go to work without
have to be established. some assurance that the home will not be
It cannot be said whether the productive looted. While some degree of law and order
facilities that physically survived (undamaged could probably be maintained in localities
or repairable with available supplies and skills) where a fairly dense population survived, the
would be adequate to sustain recovery. It remaining highways might become quite un-
seems probable that there would be enough safe, which would reduce trade over substan-
equipment and that scavenging among the tial distances. The second requirement is some
ruins could provide adequate “raw materials” form of payment for work. Barter is notorious-
where natural resources were no longer ac- ly inefficient. Payment by fiat (for example,
cessible with surviving technology. those who work get Government ration cards)
is inefficient as well, and requires a Govern-
The most serious problems would be organi- ment stronger than a postwar United States
zational. Industrial society depends on the would be Iikely to inherit. A strong Govern-
division of labor, and the division of labor ment might grow up, but most survivin g citi-
depends on certain governmental functions, zens would be reluctant to support a dictator-
Ch. IV—Three Attack Cases • 99

ship by whatever name. The best solution is a destruction of their associated institutions is
viable monetary system, but it would not be still another compounding of effects that is
easy to establish. Regions or localities might overlooked by some recovery estimates. Who
develop their own monies, with “foreign” could calculate how long to get over the loss
trade among regions. of Wall Street, an MIT, a Mayo Clinic, and the
The surviving resources might not be used
very efficiently. Ideally one would want to The American way of life is characterized by
conduct a national survey of surviving assets, material possessions, with private ownership
but the surviving Government would probably of items representing substantial long-term in-
not be capable of doing so, especially since vestments (such as homes, businesses, and
people would fear that to acknowledge a surviv- automobiles) being the rule rather than excep-
ing stock was to invite its confiscation. To tion. Widespread loss of individual assets such
make use of surviving factories, workers would as these could have a strong, lasting effect on
have to live nearby, and they might be unwill- our social structure. Similarly, the question of
ing to do so in the absence of minimally ade- whether individual right to ownership of sur-
quate housing for their families. Ownership of viving assets would remain unchanged in a
some assets would be hopelessly confused, postattack environment would arise. For exam-
which wouId diminish the incentives for invest- ple, the Government might find it necessary to
ment or even temporary repairs. force persons having homes to house families
who had lost their homes.
There is a possibility that the country might
break up into several regional entities. If these The family group would be particularly hard
came into conflict with each other there would hit by the effects of general nuclear war.
be further waste and destruction. Deaths, severe injuries, forced separation, and
loss of contact could place inordinate strains
In effect, the country would enter a race,
on the family structure.
with economic viability as the prize. The coun-
try would try to restore production to the point Finally, major changes should be antici-
where consumption of stocks and the wearing pated in the societal structure, as survivors at-
out of surviving goods and tools was matched tempt to adapt to a severe and desponding en-
by new production. If this was achieved before vironment never before experienced. The loss
stocks ran out, then viability would be at- of a hundred million people, mostly in the
tained. Otherwise, consumption would neces- larger cities, could raise a question on the ad-
sarily sink to the level of new production and visability of rebuilding the cities. (Why recon-
in so doing would probably depress production struct obvious targets for a nuclear Armaged-
further, creating a downward spiral. At some don of the future?) The surviving population
point this spiral would stop, but by the time it could seek to alter the social and geopolitical
did so the United States might have returned structure of the rebuilding nation in hopes of
to the economic equivalent of the Middle minimizing the effects of any future confIicts.
How well the U.S. political structure might
The effect of an all-out attack would be recover from a large-scale nuclear attack de-
equally devastating to the U.S. social struc- pends on a number of uncertainties. First, with
ture. Heavy fatalities in the major urban areas warning, national level officials are presumed
would deprive the country of a high percent- to evacuate to outlying shelter areas; State and
age of its top business executives, Government local authorities will take similar precautions,
officiaIs, medicaI speciaIists, scientists, but probably with less success, especially at
educators, and performers. There is no meas- the lower levels. The confidence and credibili-
ure for estimating the impact of such lasting ty of the system will come under severe strains
losses on our society. In addition to the ir- as relief and recovery programs are imple
replaceable loss of genius and talents, the mented. Changes in an already weakened
100 ● The Effects of Nuclear War

structure are sure to result as many normal alternative possibility is martial law, which
practices and routines are set aside to facili- might be controlled in theory but decentral-
tate recovery. Survivors may demand more im- ized in practice.
mediate expressions of their likes, dislikes, and All of this assumes that there would be no
needs. Widespread dissatisfaction could result significant ecological damage, a possibility
in a weakening of the Federal process, leading discussed in chapter V. Chapter V also dis-
to a new emphasis on local government. An cusses long-term health hazards.



A U.S. retaliatory attack against the Soviet Soviet population) to a low of 50 million to 80
Union would destroy 70 to 80 percent of its million (20 to 32 percent). The high-value range
economic worth. The attacking force would is due to the different data bases used by DOD
consist primarily of U.S. strategic bombers and and ACDA and the higher protection levels
Poseidon/Polaris SLBMs, since most U.S. land- assumed by AC DA. The low-value range results
based ICBMs are assumed lost to a Soviet first from the use of day-to-day alert status by the
strike. Bombers carry gravity bombs and short- interagency intelligence study as compared to
range attack missiles having yields of about 1 ACDA’s use of generated forces, and the types
Mt and 200 kt respectively. Poseidon SLBMs of weapons used against the economic target
nominally carry up to 10 RVs of 40 kt each. base in the two studies. With evacuation, the
ACDA study estimated that fatalities would be
The attack would strike the full set of Soviet
reduced to 23 million to 34 million. It is dif-
targets —strategic offensive forces, other mil-
ficult to judge whether these figures represent
itary targets, economic targets, and cities.
a high or low estimate. They could be consid-
Population would in fact be struck, although
ered as representing the low side because of
killing people would not be an attack objec-
the coarseness of Soviet data as used by
tive in itself. The objectives would be to cause
ACDA. On the other hand, some would say
as much industrial damage as possible and to
that the evacuation scheme assumed by ACDA
make economic recovery as difficult as possi-
was unrealistic, and the results should be con-
ble. The attacks might not be limited in time. sidered a high estimate. Nevertheless, Soviet
Concentrations of evacuees would probably fatalities are lower than the United States for
not be struck, but industries that recovered
both in-place and evacuated population pos-
very quickly after the attack could be.
tures. The lower Soviet fatalities are again pri-
The immediate effects of the attack would marily due to major differences in the yields of
be death and injury to millions of Soviet citi- the weapons detonating in each country, and
zens, plus the destruction of a large percent- to the greater proportion of Soviet population
age of Soviet economic and industrial capaci- that lives in rural areas.
ty. As with the all-out Soviet attack, the execu-
As to the cause of fatalities (blast, thermal
tive branch studies provided a wide range of
radiation, and direct nuclear radiation versus
casualty estimates. Since the thrust of those
fallout radiation), DCPA data suggests that, in
analyses was to look at the potential effec-
large attacks, that is, attacks that include
tiveness of Soviet civil defense, casualties
economic or economic and population targets,
were estimated under various assumptions re
fatalities are primarily due to prompt effects
Iated to the posture of the population.
as opposed to fallout. Prompt effects account
If the Soviet population remained in-place, for at least 80 percent of the fatalities for all
fatality estimates range from a high of 64 mil- population postures when economic targets or
lion to 100 million (26 to 40 percent of the population are included in the attack. ACDA
Ch. /V—Three Attack Cases ● 101

notes a similar result in its study for attacks war appeared certain; or war through miscal-
that include counterforce and other military culation. I n any event, a Soviet decision to
targets. The reason for this is that in attacks on strike first would allow the Soviets to make
targets near urban areas, that is, attacks involv- preparations—distribute supplies, improve
ing economic targets or popuIation, those pro- and stock shelters, increase production of
tected enough to survive the blast effects also essential goods, harvest grain, protect Iive-
have enough protection to survive the fallout. stock, conduct civil defense training, harden
Conversely, those who do not have enough industrial facilities, and so on. These actions
protection against fallout in urban areas near would also make Soviet citizens more respon-
targets will not have enough protection against sive to civil defense instructions, especially to
prompt effects and will already be dead before a warning that an attack was underway. While
fallout has an effect. these actions would be observed by the United
States, they would be more ambiguous than an
Estimates of Soviet injuries were generally evacuation, so the United States could see
not included in the analyses. However, one them as safeguarding against an attack rather
study suggested that injuries might be roughly than preparing for one.
equal to fatalities under certain attack and ex-
posure assumptions. The effects of evacuation in reducing casu-
alties could be diluted to some extent by vary-
ing U.S. attack strategy. Spreading the attack
The First Few Hours over a period of time could extend shelter peri-
As chapter 11 I notes, Soviet civil defense can ods, enhance economic disruption, and delay
have substantial impact on the full range of ef- rescue and emergency operations.
fects. Fallout shelters, blast shelters, and in- The Soviet Union, despite its vast geograph-
dustrial hardening can reduce the overall dam- ical size, is vulnerable to an urban/industrial
age from nuclear attack. First aid and civil attack in many of the same ways as the United
defense training can ameliorate health prob- States. Although there has been extensive pub-
lems. Storing supplies in shelters lengthens licity on their reported dispersal of industry, in-
shelter stay time. Thus, the issue is how well dications are that population and industry are
Soviet civil defense would in fact work. Many becoming more and more concentrated. While
unknowns— numbers of shelters, amount of some industries may have been moved away
f o o d a n d m e d i c i n e stock piIes, small er from cities, many others have been built near
amounts of surplus resources than the United cities. Indeed, some of the industries recently
States–prevent a judgment in detail. It seems built away from cities are themselves so con-
safe to assume, however, that Soviet civiI de- centrated that they form new targets of their
fense measures would be at least as effective own. Hedrick Smith describes
as U.S. measures and probably better.
the Kama River Truck Plant as an arche-
Preattack preparations would have a de- type of the gigantomania of Soviet planners,
cided influence on damage caused. Since a as a symbol of the Soviet faith that bigger
U.S. retaliatory attack is by definition pre- means better and the Soviet determination to
ceded by a Soviet first strike, it would seem have the biggest at any cost.
logical that some evacuation would have oc- Kama is the kind of massive crash project
curred. However, there are reasons why evac- that appeals to Russians. It emanates brute
uation might not have taken place. These in- strength. In 1971, Soviet construction brigades
started from scratch to build t h e w o r l d ’ s
clude the following Soviet concerns: an evac-
largest truck plant in the open, rolling, wind-
uation could increase the risk of a U.S. attack;
swept plains about 600 miles east of M o s -
the U.S. attack might be so close at hand that cow Kama was not just one factory but six,
an evacuation couId increase casualties; a pro- all huge The production complex, costing
longed evacuation might be such an economic in the bilIions, occupies 23 square miles, an
disruption that it would be better to wait until area larger than the entire island of Manhat-
102 ● The Effects of Nuclear War

tan. At full capacity, Kama is slated to pro- percent of a factory’s output is produced in
duce 150,000 heavy trucks and 250,000 diesel the last 10 or 15 days of the month. (This 80
engines a year, dwarfing anything in Detroit or percent is typically of such reduced quality
the German Ruhr.6 that Soviet consumers often refuse to buy mer-
The attack could cause “derussification. ” chandise made after the 20th of a month. ) Hy-
The U.S.S.R. is a nation of nationalities, of pothetically, an attack around the 15th or 20th
which Great Russians — who dominate politics, of a month would cause the loss of most of a
industry, and much else— comprise about 48.5 month’s production, and would destroy the
percent of the population. Most Great Rus- large inventory in factories of partially com-
sians live in cities, so an attack would reduce pleted goods and of inputs that cannot be used
their numbers and influence. Derussification until other inputs arrive.
could weaken Great Russians’ control of the
On the other hand, the U.S.S.R. has several
U. S. S. R., with unforeseeable consequences.
strengths. Cities are in general less flammable
Timing makes a critical difference in de- than U.S. cities, as there are more large apart-
struction. An attack at night would have peo- ment buildings and fewer wood frame houses.
ple with their families and more dispersed; These buildings would also provide better
they would seek shelter in apartment build- shelter, especially those that have shelters
ings. An attack during the day would strike built in. People would expect to follow instruc-
people at factories and offices; to the extent tions and would be less likely to evacuate
they left to find family members, chaos would spontaneously. The Party apparatus would
result as in the United States, but to the extent probably survive with a far lower casualty rate
they sought shelter at work, they would be or- than the population at large because it is well
ganized by economic task. Such organization distributed and because blast shelters have
would be useful for postattack recovery. been constructed for party members. Russians
are likely to be less traumatized by shelter con-
An attack in winter would expose more peo-
ditions, as they are more accustomed to aus-
ple to bitter cold and impede evacuation; an
terity and crowding. The nation is larger, which
attack in spring or fall, when many roads are
in theory provides more land area over which
made impassable by mud, would hinder evac-
people could relocate, but much of the area is
uation by motor vehicle. An attack near har-
mountain, desert, or arctic.
vest time could result in the loss of an entire
year’s crop, thus leaving food reserves at a low
point. This effect could be magnified if the
United States attacked agricultural targets,
The First Few Days
such as storage silos, dams, and drainage facil- Actions in this period would greatly affect
ities. the number of casualties and the amount of
Even time of month makes a difference be- economic damage. Obviously, much damage
cause of the Soviet practice of “storming.” The would have been caused in the first hour.
Soviet factory month in practice divides into Many people trapped in the rubble could be
three periods: “sleeping,” the first 10 days; rescued, would be seriously injured but could
“hot” work, the second 10; and “feverish” survive with medical care or first aid, would be
work, the third. This division occurs because able to seek shelter or evacuate, could prepare
the economic plan calls for a specified output hasty fallout shelters, could improve existing
from each plant by the end of the month, but shelters, and so on. Some industries would be
the inputs needed often arrive only after the damaged but not destroyed; if small fires were
15th or 20th of the month. Thus, perhaps 80 extinguished, undamaged equipment hard-
ened against blast, exposed equipment pro-
tected from rust, and so on, more resources
‘Hedrick Smith, The Russians (New York: Ballantine would be available for recovery. Likewise,
Books, 1977), p. 241. farms could harvest crops, shelter livestock,
Ch. IV—Three Attack Cases • 103

and protect harvested crops in the few days Undamaged areas, especially those not
before fallout deposition. threatened by heavy fallout, wouId face severe
burdens. They would receive many evacuees in
the first few days, would send rescue teams
The issue is not what could be done but and resources to devastated areas, and would
what would be done. Proper use of time— or- strive to produce as much as possible. Evac-
ganization and prioritization to get the most uees in undamaged areas would be pressed
important tasks done with the least wasted ef- into work in fields and factories, and would be
fort and resources —would be critical. The sheltered in public buildings or private homes.
Soviet system offers a major advantage in this The performance of undamaged areas would
period. As we noted in the case of a counter- thus largely determine the nation’s ability to
force attack, the Government’s role in this prosecute the war and to achieve economic
crisis would be more clearly defined, and its viability. The Government would, however,
control over individual action and the econ- face a dilemma in how to use resources surviv-
omy would be much stronger than that of the ing in undamaged areas: it could maximize
U.S. Government in a comparable situation. Its current production, leaving workers and re-
experience with central planning and a com- sources vulnerable to further attacks, or it
mand economy would be good preparation for could seek to protect workers and resources,
the actions needed —decisions involving large thus reducing current production. The specific
shifts in behavior and resources, obeyed choices wouId depend on the likelihood of fur-
without argument. Its decisions would save ther attacks, criticality of various products,
some people and industries and condemn and so forth, but the dilemma would stand.
others, but delay in order to make better deci-
sions could easily condemn more. Evacuation
would have to be ordered in this period, or else An all-out attack would exacerbate the inef-
would-be evacuees would have to wait until ficiencies that Soviet industry has in peace-
radiation had reached safe levels. For cities time. The Government would have to decide
damaged only slightly, evacuation would what it needed to have produced, and whether
prove difficult but not impossible. With many the factories existed to have them produced.
rail yards and some key bridges out, it would The Government would have far more difficul-
be difficult to get trains to smaller cities. ty correlating inputs and outputs and arrang-
Destruction of petroleum refineries, some ing for their transportation. It would have to
petroleum storage capacity (especially that assign people to jobs, and arrange to transport,
located in rail marshaling yards that were at- shelter, and care for workers. Many workers
tacked), and some electric power generators, would be sick, in shelters, killed, traumatized,
would further impede evacuation by train. or debilitated by radiation sickness. However,
Fallout contours would be difficult to predict, the Government would probably be able to
so it would be hard to select the best evacua- control what movement of people did take
tion routes and relocation centers. An attack in place. Even in peacetime, the Government has
winter wouId add other problems. very high control over mobility. People are not
in the habit of going anywhere without permis-
sion, and everyone’s actions must be justified
Survivors in Soviet cities would face the and accounted for. There is little independent
same severe problems as those in U.S. cities. travel. The internal passport system strength-
Many would be injured, trapped in rubble, ir- ens these controls. I n wartime, the Govern-
radiated with initial nuclear radiation, etc. ment would presumably strengthen its control
Many shelters would be destroyed or dam- of transportation. People would have nowhere
aged. Power would be out, so water pressure to go where they could be sure of shelter from
would be too low for fighting fires. Rubble fallout unless the Government arranged their
would impede rescue. transportation and shelter. This control would
104 “ The Effects of Nuclear War

help the Government maintain economic orga- mine the damage to agriculture and which in-
nization following attack. dustries would need to remain closed. Harvest-
ing crops uncontaminated by fallout would be
impeded by fuel shortages, but evacuees
The Shelter Period would be plentiful and could harvest crops by
By all reports, the Soviets are better pre- hand. Similarly, evacuees could work in surviv-
pared than Americans to spend extended peri- ing industries in uncontaminated areas.
ods of time in shelters. In their literature well- The key issue that the Government would
conceived protective structures are seen that face would be successful organization. Pro-
should afford good survivability. Life in duction would be far below prewar levels. It
shelters and evacuation areas would in some would take some time before the Government
ways be similar to that described in earlier could take inventory, set priorities, arrange for
cases. Actions taken before fallout deposition inputs of workers, resources, and power, and
would affect casualties. Public health, number transport the outputs. Most needs in this
and quality of shelters, and amount of food period would be met from inventory. The Cov-
and medicine stockpiled are uncertainties. ernment would thus need to establish strict
Civil defense and first aid training would controls over inventory; it could be necessary
mitigate deaths, but to an unpredictable ex- to implement severe rationing of food, as was
tent. People in uncontaminated areas would done in Leningrad in World War 11.
be best off, followed by those in fallout shel-
ters in contaminated areas, those in secure Problems of organization would be especial-
fallout shelters in blast areas, and those in ly critical in light of the intense struggle for
hasty shelters in contaminated areas. resources and the need to use resources as
widely as possible. The competition for petro-
One public health problem would be espe- leum, discussed previously in Case 2, would be
cially acute in this case. Antibiotics, which are minimal compared to the competition here.
invaluable in fighting many diseases, are in The military, agriculture, industry, transporta-
short supply in the U.S.S.R. even in peacetime. tion, and life support systems would all have
Antibiotics have a short sheIf life and cannot urgent claims on resources. Everything would
be frozen. Large doses of radiation destroy be in short supply; there would be hundreds of
most of the body’s antibodies, which fight dis- bottlenecks instead of one. How would the
eases. Antibiotics are typically used to com- Government mediate among these claims?
pensate for the drastic decrease in antibodies There would be far less margin for error than in
in radiation victims, as it takes the body a long peacetime, and a decision to use resources for
time to rebuild its antibodies after large radia- one purpose would almost automatically pre
tion doses. Because of the U.S.S.R. ’S limited elude other courses of action. Viability would
supply of antibiotics, many people could be be at issue, and deaths would increase because
expected to die from diseases. of delays in achieving it.
In areas contaminated by fallout but un- What sacrifices would the Government de-
damaged by blast, shelter life would be less in- mand? Obviously, each critical sector would
tolerable. Utilities might be working, buildings be called on to make some, and consumer
would be undamaged so would offer better goods would probably be sacrificed complete-
shelter, people would be uninjured, there Iy. Public health would be sacrificed to some
would be time to prepare and provision shel- extent by starting production in contaminated
ters, there would be less inclination to areas early and by giving people contaminated
evacuate, and there would be less pressure to food rather than nothing.
leave shelters prematurely.
The Government would probably be able to
Fallout deposition patterns would become maintain control. Food rationing, control of
clear in this period, and would largely deter- transportation and shelters, and internal
Ch. /V—Three Attack Cases ● 105

passports would help the Government restart If things went well, production would sta-
the economy. Its economic plans would be the bilize at a level that made good use of surviv-
only alternative to chaos, and people would ing resources, and would recover from there.
expect to obey them and their demands even The Government would increase its control
without controls. Many party members would over people and the economy, production of
survive. Contenders for resources wouId strug- consumer goods wouId be delayed, many re-
gle inside the Government, but external sources would flow to the military, public
threats, the specter of chaos, the urgency of health would be lower, but sacrifices would
decisions, and the recognized impossibility of pay off. Soviet engineers and plant managers
getting everything needed would dampen the reputedly are skiIIful at improvising solutions
debate. All sectors would make sacrifices. The to mechanical problems. Such skills, Govern-
military, for example, might be forced to ment organization and control, and brute
forego fuel-intensive training. In agriculture force could overcome bottlenecks, use pro-
and industry, manual labor—which would be duction to expand capacity, and give people
plentiful – would substitute for machinery. austere but adequate food, housing, medical
People would use wood for fuel where possi- care, and other necessities.
ble; many would go cold. Coal-burning loco-
motives woud Iikely be taken from storage. The recovery could go poorly, however. A
Decisions would be taken quickly and set rigid- great many people could require medical care
ly, Productivity would decrease before it in- that could not be provided, and would die. The
harvest could be lost, and more would die.
creased. The standard of living would be far
lower, and some would die in this period and Starving people would find and eat grain to be
planted next year, reducing that crop and caus-
the next as a result. The question is— how
ing others to starve. Transportation could col-
lapse, preventing factories from obtaining in-
puts and making it impossible for their prod-
Recuperation ucts to be distributed, forcing them to close.
Hardening might save key machine tools, but
Production– and with it, standard of living these tools might be buried under tons of rub-
and the number of people production could ble or be in intensely radioactive areas, pre
support —would go down before it went up. In-
eluding their use. The Government might be
dustries would use inventories of supplies for
unable to conduct a detailed resource inven-
production, then would have to close until sup-
tory that could integrate these tools into the
ply could be reestablished. Transportation
economy, or there might be no way of trans-
wouId wind down as petroleum refining was
porting them to a factory that could use them.
cut off, and petroleum supplies became ex-
A war or threat of war, from NATO, China, or
hausted or requisitioned by the military. Peo-
both, might divert surviving industry and mate-
ple would be diverted from production by be- rials into producing for the war effort and
ing sick or injured, caring for the sick or in- away from the economy. Which way the econ-
jured, or being drafted for military service. omy would go is unpredictable, for there are
What production took place would be far less far too many unknowns. But should economic
efficient. Many workers would be debilitated productivity fall precipitously, for whatever
by minor cases of radiation sickness, other ill- reason, the economy couId support fewer peo-
ness, malnutrition, psychological shock, and so ple, and more would die. Indeed a failure to
on. Many would be called on to do tasks for achieve viability could cause as many Soviet
which they lacked the training or the physical deaths as the attack itself.
strength. Factories would be damaged or could
not obtain necessary parts, so industrial proc- I n summary, the effects of a large-scale nu-
esses would have to substitute labor for capital clear attack against Soviet military and urban-
or use shortcuts that would reduce the quality industrial targets wouId remove that nation
of the product or the efficiency of the process. from a position of power and influence for the
106 Ž The Effects of Nuclear War

remainder of this century. Soviet fatalities, due ing industry would be less severely damaged
to asymmetries in weapons yields and popula- than their U.S. counterparts. Nor is there any
tion densities, would be lower than those for evidence that the Soviets face a lower risk of
the United States. However, there is no evi- finding themselves unable to rebuild an indus-
dence that the Soviet economy and its support- trial society at all.