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Question
Hello, I am a freshman student at a project based school, and I am currently doing a project on Weapons of Mass Destruction (nuclear, biological, and chemical). I was wondering if you could answer some questions for me.

1. What type of WoMD is the most lethal in your opinion?
2. Besides the bombings on Hiroshima, and Nagasaki in WW2, what are some other nuclear incidents?(Not just including bombs, and war.)
3. Can you direct me to any other sources or experts on weapons of mass destruction?
4. What are things civilians can do to prepare themselves for a chemical, biological, or nuclear attack?
5. What would the aftermath be like in a nuclear, chemical, or biological attack?

Answer
Hello,

1. It's hard to say what type of weapon would be the most lethal since it depends on exactly what type of weapon and how it is used.  There are tactical nuclear weapons that are probably less dangerous than conventional weapons.  But a large nuclear bomb launched on a large city could wipe out millions instantly and kill many more from radiation for decades.  A massive launch of many nuclear weapons worldwide could precipitate a nuclear winter and wipe out virtually all human life on the planet, making the planet largely uninhabitable for decades or even centuries.  Similarly, some biological weapons just make people sick, but others might create a plague that could wipe out large percentages of the population, much like the black plague did in Europe or how smallpox decimated the Native American population.  Overall, I would say nuclear weapons are probably considered the most dangerous though.

2. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the only times a nuclear weapon has been deployed against people in an act of war.  But there have been a great number of nuclear tests.  The US tested numerous nuclear bombs in Nevada in the 1950's which led to cancer deaths of many soldiers participating in the tests as well as residence downwind from the tests.  There are similar testing casualties in other countries, including Russia, and China.  UK and France (other early nuclear powers) had the sense to test only outside their country.

Other nuclear incidences involve accidents at nuclear reactors.  Chernobyl in Russia and Fukushima in Japan are probably the two largest.  Three Mile Island in the US was a major scare but did not result in major casualties or long term damage.

3. You may find these sites helpful for more information:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2006/06/20/weapons-mass-destruction-handbook/

http://www.ndu.edu/press/lib/pdf/CSWMD-OccasionalPapers/CSWMD_OccationalPaper-8.

http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/terrorism/wmd

http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/wmd.htm

4. Civilians could take preventative measures, such as moving to less populated areas, building bomb shelters, stockpiling food and water, buying protective clothing, etc.  But given the drastic nature of such preparations and the small chance that an attack would take place, most of these preparations don't make sense for most people.

5. A biological attack worst case would result in a pandemic where disease would spread.  There would likely be a long period of time where people would have to follow certain health protocols, such as avoiding contact with others and control of food and water to stop the spread of the disease.  A chemical attack probably has the least long term consequences.  Most chemicals dissipate relatively quickly and affect only limited area.  There would just be the matter of gathering and burying the dead, which could number in the thousands or even millions depending on the size of the attack.  A nuclear attack on one or a limited number of cities would create some chaos.  But like Hiroshima or Nagasaki, it would probably result in a period of time where the city was abandoned until radioactivity levels fell, then rebuilding and eventually recovery.  An all out nuclear attack that brought on a nuclear winter would probably have the most far reaching consequences.  The sun would be blotted out and it would become nearly impossible to grow food.  Freezing weather and lack of food would likely kill millions, if not billions of people who survived the initial attacks.

I hope this helps!
- Mike  

General History

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Michael Troy

Expertise

My specialties are 17th through 19th Century history, especially in the Americas and Europe. I also have a fair knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman History, and some knowledge of Medieval European history. My expertise is focuses on Military and political history, but I`ll take a crack at anything.

Experience

I have been a guest lecturer at George Washington University. Mostly, I have just read hundreds of books about world history.

Publications
http://unlearnedhistory.blogspot.com/

Education/Credentials
J.D. Univ. of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

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