Monday, January 19, 2015

What Would a Nuclear Weapon Do to Chicago? (Go ahead, guess . . . )

One reason people are passive about the threat of a nuclear exchange is that they convince themselves "it could never happen here."

Living in Chicago, it is abundantly clear that not only "could" it happen here, but if there is ever an exchange of nuclear weapons, it most certainly "would" happen here!

Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA):
Expected target areas in Illinois in the event of a nuclear
attack (1990 estimate). (Retrieved from )

The recent Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, and a presentation here in Chicago by my sister at Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ at an event sponsored by Chicago Area Peace Action, both reminded me that it is very well known what would happen to a city like Chicago if nuclear weapons were ever used.

Nuclear detonations above a virtual 
modern city with 1 million population
16 kiloton atomic bomb at 600 m ... 4.5 km radius
1 megaton (1000 kiloton) hydrogen bomb at 2400 m ... 18 km radius
(Dr. Masao Tomonaga, M.D. Ph.D.)

I have referred to this as the "obscene geometry" of nuclear weapons, and asked "which of your children (or grandchildren) do you want to share this obscene geometry lesson with?"

It occurs to me that every person can easily draw a picture of what would happen in their own city by using Google maps.

For instance, I went to the site and found a page that draws a circle of defined radius around a location of your choice. Anyone can go to this page and see what the 18 km blast radius of a 1 MT nuclear weapon would look like superimposed on their own city.

Let's talk about Chicago
The "radius around a point map" functionality on

Ideally, people would want to know about the multiple circles of injury for their city: starting with the 2.8 km radius circle defining an inner radius with lethal 200 psi air blast and 5000 rem radiation ...

The "Vanished Zone"
If a 1 MT nuclear weapon exploded near the center of Chicago, the entire
downtown (including an area extending almost to the United Center on the west,
to Lincoln Park in the north, and Chinatown in the south,  would be destroyed
outright, and be irradiated to a degree that would prevent future use.

. . . continuing with the 6 km radius fireball  ...

The Fireball Zone
The fireball resulting from a 1 MT nuclear weapon detonated over Chicago
would incinerate everyone within a 6 km radius -- an area extending almost
to Garfield Park on the west, Uptown on the north, and Bronzeville to the south.

 . . . and the the 11 km radius of 10 psi air blast which could be expected to be fatal to nearly everyone present, because of the blizzard of disintegrating structures ...

The Collapse Zone
Much of Chicago would be a death zone, resulting from the the air blast that
would create a blizzard of disintegrating structures in a zone extending 11 km in
all directions from the epicenter of the blast -- extending beyond Hyde Park in
 the south, and practically to Oak Park in the west and Evanston in the north.

and culminating with the startling 51 km radius of third degree burns . . .

3rd Degree Burn Zone: Survival Questionable
Perhaps most startling of all, the area affected by 3rd degree burns would extend
far beyond the city limits to encompass towns as far north as Waukegan,
as far west as St. Charles, and as far south as Crete, and as far east as Gary, IN.
 and east as Gary, IN.

When you look at it this way, is it still possible to say nuclear weapons are "somebody else's problem"?

What would a nuclear weapon do where you live?


Go to the page and create an 
image to show what would happen if a nuclear 
weapon was used where you live.

Share widely (for instance on #NoNukesTuesday).

(Extra credit: use your coding skills to
program a stand-alone page that simplifies 
the process of creating these map images!)

Related posts

There are many books proffered to children that provide justifications for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The discourse on the use of atomic weapons is certainly a worthy topic of study for young people of a certain age. However, there is a distinction between critical reading of atom bombing history and passive receiving of atom bombing dogma. I am wondering about how this can be effectively broken down.

(See Approaching Hiroshima: A Challenge for Children's Literature and Peace Education )

That's right . . .  just take a map of your local metropolis, spread it out on the floor, and put the whole family to work learning the geometry of nuclear strike using high quality wood-crafted educational aids.

(See Obscene Geometry: The Hard Facts about Death and Injury from Nuclear Weapons )

I never quite understood how much of a Chicago story the Bomb and opposition to it really is. I can think of at least three reasons why people right here in Chicago -- today -- need to make themselves heard about nuclear disarmament . . .

(See Unfinished Business in Chicago (Nuclear disarmament, that is))

"Please work with your colleagues (in Congress) and your constituents (here in the 5th district) to regain the People's control over war and injury, and bring to a conclusion the current crisis of our government."
(See An Open Letter to Congressman Mike Quigley: Can We Reduce (or Eliminate) the Nuclear Threat? )