Nuclear terrorism: The new day after

Hugh Gusterson in The Bulletin:

A recent New York Times opinion piece asked what we will do on the day after a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States. The June 12 op-ed, “After the Bomb,” was written by William Perry, Ashton Carter, and Michael May–a former defense secretary, assistant defense secretary, and director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory respectively.

They argue that, for a Hiroshima-sized bomb, “little could be done” for those within two miles of ground zero. Survivors downwind, however, as long as they were getting good information from government broadcasts, would be in a position to decide how many days to shelter in their basements from radiation or to decide whether “to return to pick up a beloved pet” from their home in exchange for increasing their lifelong chance of getting cancer to 21 or 22 percent. As for first responders: “Few would choose to have their risk of death from cancer go up to 30 percent. But in cases of smaller probabilities . . . a first responder might be willing to go into a radiation zone.”

Since there might be a second bomb, the article goes on, “people in other cities might want to evacuate on the day after, or at least move their children to the countryside, as happened in England during World War II.” Meanwhile they advise that the U.S. government should refrain from attacking a country, such as Russia or Pakistan, whose fissile material was in a terrorist bomb because “their cooperation would be needed to find out who got the bombs and how many there were.”

More here.