Health and Environmental Effects of Nuclear Weapons

Jean Bele

Physics Dept., Lab for Nuclear Science, MIT

The health and environmental risks associated with accidental releases of radioactivity during nuclear weapons production, decommissioning of nuclear facilities and dismantling of nuclear warheads, in addition to the health and environmental hazards posed by nuclear tests, should be a big concern. These risks will continue as long as nuclear weapons exist.

A nuclear explosion will destroy public health and sanitary facilities, thus opening the way for the spread of disease. Water supplies would be contaminated not only by radioactivity but also by pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Sewage treatment and waste disposal facilities would have almost completely disappeared.

Based on its examination of the current nuclear weapons effect’s simulators, the Nuclear Weapons Education Project believes that the existing tools do not support more precise estimates of the health and environmental consequences of nuclear materials or the explosion of a nuclear weapon.

We are developing a new algorithm to design full-scale and robust nuclear weapons simulations tools which will model the health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons in order to develop an accurate simulation and make a complete picture of destruction from nuclear weapons.

Student’s work plan for this UROP:

Objectives:
Students will be able to:
1. Understand how weather and geographical factors (e.g., land contours) affect the migration of radioactive fallout.
2. Understand the range of probability of lethality with variation in overpressure
3. Understand the value of computer models for making predictions of weapons effects.
4. Appreciate the extreme hazard of nuclear weapons as a weapon of mass destruction.

UROP Plan:

The model is divided into 4 parts:

Mountains