13 April 2007

Nuclear Strike: Nightmare at 17th & H Streets

You're in government or the private sector and charged with consequence management planning - how do you set up your assumptions and what kind of scenarios and guidelines are there for you to use? Fortunately, there is a set of 15 "standardized" scenarios, running the gamut of an outbreak of "hoof and mouth" disease up to the nuclear terrorist attack using a simplified gun-device & stolen HEU, concealed in a delivery truck - something like this:

Net effects run like this: Denoted at ground level in Washington, D.C., a 10 KT bomb would kill as many as 204,600 people, including many government officials, and would injure or sicken 90,800. Another 24,580 victims would die of radiation-related cancer in ensuing years. Radioactive debris would contaminate a 3,000-square-mile area, requiring years-long cleanup.

Those scenarios are located here, BTW.

Despite the publishing of the planning scenarios, repeated warnings from the Administration and $300B in Homeland Security spending, experts are warning that the US is still unprepared for this scenario (and as pointed out in other fora - if we are unprepared for the most important scenario, what's that say about preparedness for the other 14?). In an article written for the McClatchy Newspapers by Greg Gordon of the Washington Bureau, these experts point out several shortcomings in preparedness:

  • The government has yet to launch an educational program, akin to the Cold War-era civil defense campaign promoting fallout shelters, to teach Americans how to shield themselves from radiation, especially from the fallout plume, which could deposit deadly particles up to 100 miles from ground zero.
  • Analysts estimate that as many as 300,000 emergency workers would be needed after a nuclear attack, but predict that the radiation would scare many of them away from the disaster site.
  • Hospital emergency rooms wouldn't be able to handle the surge of people who were irradiated or the many more who feared they were.
  • Medical teams would have to improvise to treat what could be tens of thousands of burn victims because most cities have only one or two available burn-unit beds. Cham Dallas, director of the University of Georgia's Center for Mass Destruction Defense, called the predicament "the worst link in our health care wall."
  • Several drugs are in development and one is especially promising, but the government hasn't acquired any significant new medicine to counteract radiation's devastating effects on victims' blood-forming bone marrow.

Run the numbers again -- 300,000 National Guard, military reservists, first responders and other civil emergency workers would be needed to assist the expected 1.5 Million refugees...it staggers the mind to consider the possibility, doesn't it? And that is just one 10KT bomb. Read the rest of the article here.
(h/t: ArmsControlWonk)