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Ref: Looking at nuclear attack impact on major city

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How Costly is a Nuc in a City?

Filed under: Organizational Issues, Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Jonah Czerwinski on May 31, 2007
As we debate the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed Securing the Cities Initiative, its worth considering the actual impact of a nuclear weapon detonated in a densely populated urban environment. Defense Canada’s R&D arm partnered with Battelle to produce a schematic illustrating a “preliminary analysis on the economic impact of a nuclear weapon event in
Vancouver.”

The city of Vancouver has a population (578,041) about the size of Washington, DC (581,530). The project considers the impact of a 0.7 kiloton bomb, a 13kT bomb, and a 100kT bomb. The presentation identifies five different categories of cost:

1. Loss of productivity of earnings forgone

2. Indirect effects or multiplier

3. Loss and damage to building structures

4. Decontamination

5. Evacuation

Perhaps the costliest aspect would be the response to a nuclear detonation in a North American city. One of the more important developments underway right now within the counter nuclear threat community is the creation of a more unified forensics capability to identify, characterize, and source nuclear material – hopefully pre-detonation.

The National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center is being developed under the guidance of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office at DHS. The interagency Center is charged with serving as “a national capability developer for pre-event rad/nuc materials forensics” and with providing “end-to-end planning, enhancement, and integration” of nuclear forensics capabilities. Three areas comprise its mission:

· Signatures development

· Analysis

· Capabilities enhancement

With about $17 million in the FY08 budget request, this is a modest start, but an important one.

The original impetus behind creating the DNDO rested on the understanding that the smuggled nuclear threat is different from other WMD threats in several ways. One principle way is the dispersed ownership of the mission across the Executive branch. A uniquely interagency approach is critical. The NTNFC reflects this as a microcosm. Participating agencies in the forensics center include DHS, FBI, and the Departments of Energy and Defense.

DHS leads the pre-event interdiction mission, DOD, the post-detonation part, DOE has pre-det “nuclear device technical nuclear forensics”, FBI is in charge of investigations and analysis. One big happy family. Let’s hope this whole Center is merely an academic exercise, but should forensics – or attribution – become necessary, this unified approach makes sense.

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