As we debate the Department of Homeland Securityâ€™s Securing the Cities Initiative, its worth considering the actual impact of a nuclear weapon detonated in a densely populated urban environment.Â Defense Canadaâ€™s R&D arm partnered with Battelle to produce a schematicÂ illustrating a â€œpreliminary analysis on the economic impact of a nuclear weapon event in Vancouver.â€Â
The city of Vancouver has a population (578,041) about the size of Washington, DC (581,530).Â The project considers the impact of a 0.7 kiloton bomb, a 13kT bomb, and a 100kT bomb.Â The presentation identifies five different categories of cost:
1.Â Â Â Â Â Loss of productivity of earnings forgone
2.Â Â Â Â Â Indirect effects or multiplier
3.Â Â Â Â Â Loss and damage to building structures
4.Â Â Â Â Â Decontamination
5.Â Â Â Â Â EvacuationÂ
Perhaps the costliest aspect would be the responseÂ to a nuclear detonation in a North American city.Â One of the more important developments underway right now within the counter nuclear threat community invests in both the pre-event and post-event challenges.Â The creation of a more unified forensics capability to identify, characterize, and source nuclear material â€“ hopefully pre-detonation â€“ is making progress.Â
The National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center is being developed under the guidance of the Domestic Nuclear Detection OfficeÂ at DHS.Â The interagency Center is charged with serving as â€œa national capability developer for pre-event rad/nuc materials forensicsâ€ and with providing â€œend-to-end planning, enhancement, and integrationâ€ of nuclear forensics capabilities.Â Three areas comprise its mission:
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Signatures development
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Analysis
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Capabilities enhancementÂ
With about $17 million in the FY08 budget request, this is a modest start,Â but an important one.Â
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.Â One principle way is the dispersed ownership of the mission across the Executive branch.Â A uniquely interagency approach is critical.Â The NTNFC reflects this as a microcosm.Â Participating agencies in the forensics center include DHS, FBI, and the Departments of Energy and Defense.Â
DHS leads the pre-event interdiction mission, DOD, the post-detonation part, DOE has pre-det â€œnuclear device technical nuclear forensics”, FBI is in charge of investigations and analysis.Â One big happy family.Â Letâ€™s hope this whole Center is merely an academic exercise, but should forensics â€“ or attribution â€“ become necessary, this unified approach makes sense.
Update: I am traveling until Monday, June 4, without access to the site.