Interaction of the blast wave, fire, and extent of blast
damage are important factors in determining fire
Flash burns are likely to occur on a large scale as a
result of an air or surface blast of a nuclear weapon.
Because thermal radiation travels in straight lines, it
burns primarily on the side facing the explosion. But
under hazy atmospheric conditions a large proportion of
the thermal radiation may be scattered, resulting in
burns received from all direction. Depending on the size
of the weapons, second-degree burns may be received at
distances of 25 miles or more.
The intense flash of light that accompanies a
nuclear blast may produce flash blindness, even at a
range of several miles. Flash blindness is normally
temporary, though, the eyes can recover in about 15
minutes in the daytime and in about 45 minutes at night.
A greater danger lies in receiving permanent damage to
your eyes caused by burns from thermal radiation,
which may occur 40 miles or more from a large-yield
Under some conditions, individual fires created by
a nuclear explosion can come together into mass fires
with great potential for destruction. The most
significant types of mass fires are divided into two
categoriesfirestorms and conflagrations.
FIRESTORMS.In a firestorm, many fires
merge to form a single column of hot gas that rises from
the burning area. Strong, fire-induced, radial winds are
associated with the column. Therefore, the fire front is
essentially stationary and the outward spread of fire is
prevented by the in-rushing wind. Virtually everything
combustible within the firestorm area is destroyed.
moving fire fronts driven by the wind. Conflagrations
can spread as long as there is fuel. Unlike firestorms,
conflagrations can develop from a single ignition.
Nuclear radiation hazards consist of alpha and beta
particles, gamma rays, and neutrons.
ALFA PARTICLES.Alpha particles have little
skin-penetrating power and must be taken into the body
through ingestion or cuts to be injurious.
BETA PARTICLES.Beta particles can present
a hazard to personnel if the emitters of these particles
(carried in contaminated dust, dirt, or bomb residue)
come into contact with the skin or get inside the body.
Beta particles with enough intensity cause skin burns
GAMMA RAYS.Gamma rays are pure energy
and not easily stopped. They can penetrate every region
of the body. In fact, many gamma rays will pass right
through a body without touching it. However, gamma
rays that do strike atoms in the body cause the atoms to
ionize. The ionization may result in any number of
possible chemical reactions that damage the cells of the
NEUTRONS.Of all the nuclear radiation
hazards, neutrons have the greatest penetrating power.
When the neutron is captured in the atoms of various
elements in the body, atmosphere, water, or soil, the
elements become radioactive and release high-energy
gamma rays and beta particles.
Initial radiation contains both gamma and neutron
radiation. Residual radiation, our greatest concern,
contains both gamma and beta radiation.
EFFECTS ON SHIPS AND SHIPBOARD
Ships close to a detonation point may sustain
considerable material damage from air blast,
underwater shock, water waves, and possibly thermal
radiation. There will be a ship kill zone around ground
zero. Outside ground zero, there will be a much larger
damage-survival zone. Here, ships will receive severe,
moderate or light topside damage as well as operational
and equipment damage.
Damage from an Air Blast
Depending on the weapon yield, the blast wave
from nuclear detonations can cause damage to ships
miles from the blast. Damage will be inflicted primarily
on the superstructure and the hull above the waterline.
Some examples of damage from an air blast might
include the warping or buckling of the flight deck; a
distortion of airplane elevators, hull girders, deck