CND representative, Ben Folley, reports from Hiroshima on 6th August:
‘As the delegates pour into the city, a peace march of hundreds who have walked from Tokyo also arrives at the Memorial Peace Park. The Japanese anti-nuclear movement is growing – many are from amongst the hibakusha – the survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But many others are young people – around 600 attended Saturday’s youth rally, calling for a nuclear free world.
On 6th August 1945, a nuclear weapon was used in war for the first time. Three days later, over Nagasaki, a nuclear weapon was to be used in war for what, so far, has been the last time.
The artist Isao Hashimoto made this film as a “bird’s eye view of the history”, a month per second. “The blinking light, sound and the numbers on the world map show when, where and how many experiments each country have conducted. I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world.” Isao Hashimoto was born in Kumamoto prefecture in Japan in 1959.
1945, August 6, 8:15 a.m. The first atomic bomb used in the history of mankind exploded approximately at a height of 580 meters, 160 meters southeast of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Products Exhibition Hall. The force of this terrible blast was 35 tons per square meter with a blast speed of 440 meters. The atomic blast and heat wave washed over the Dome setting its roof ablaze and completely gutting the building. As the blast wave traveled in a nearly vertical direction while the center of the main building was miraculously spared from destruction, all the people within the building died instantly. The metal frame of the Dome, which was laid bare, formed the ruins that over time came to be called the “Atomic Dome” by the local residents.
I went to the Hiroshima Memorial Vigil this evening at the east end of Princes Street, by the statue of Wellington. While I was holding up a CND banner, watching people walk by – some pausing as the reminder caught their eye, most walking by without attention – I was thinking about my dad, who has campaigned against nuclear weapons for sixty-seven years, who couldn’t be there this evening. And I was thinking about the effect of a nuclear weapon dropped on Edinburgh Castle. One the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
When building the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Products Exhibition Hall, the designer, Jan Letzel, a Czechoslovakian architect:
used a brick construction partially reinforced with a steel frame with the exterior walls being made of stones and mortar. This was a modern building, the main body being three stories with a five-story stairwell capped with an oval shaped copper dome located in the center of the entrance hall.
At Hiroshima today:
About 50,000 people gathered in Hiroshima’s peace park near the epicentre of the 1945 blast that killed as many as 140,000 people. A second atomic bombing on 9 August in Nagasaki killed tens of thousands more and prompted Japan to surrender, bringing the second world war to an end.
The ceremony, attended by representatives of about 70 countries, began with the ringing of a temple bell and a moment of silence. Flowers were placed before Hiroshima’s eternal flame.
The “Little Boy” Hiroshima bomb was a 16 kt nuclear bomb, that
devastated an area of five square miles (13 square kilometres). More than 60% of the buildings in the city were destroyed.
Official Japanese figures at the time put the death toll at 118,661 civilians. But later estimates suggest the final toll was about 140,000, of Hiroshima’s 350,000 population, including military personnel and those who died later from radiation. Many have also suffered long-term sickness and disability.
If you look at NukeMap, which allows you to consider the effect of any nuclear weapon dropped at any point in the world, the thermal radiation radius from Edinburgh Castle would be 2.14 km. Everyone out of doors or near an open window, from Grange Loan to Inverleith Place, from Gorgie City Farm to McDonald Road Library, would suffer third-degree burns on any exposed skin. All flammable materials would burst into flame. Everyone on the Meadows, in the Royal Botanic Gardens, in the south side of Holyrood Park, anyone on the Water of Leith Walkway from St Mark’s Park as far upriver as Roseburn, would suffer such excruciating burns on any exposed skin.
Everyone within the air blast radius, 1.85 km from Edinburgh Castle, would experience what is sedately described as “4.6 psi overpressure”. That is “the pressure in excess of the normal atmospheric value, in pounds per square inch (psi).” 5 psi overpressure is 163mph winds. (The winds of early January this year gusted at up to 81 mph. This video shows a gust of 155 mph wind.) Most buildings collapse. Waverley Station and Haymarket Station would both be destroyed. So would the Sick Kids hospital, Comely Bank, Bonnington, Dalry – Grange Road and Elm Row.
The catch-22 is: if you are not sheltered by a building, within 2.13km of the bomb, you will probably die of third-degree burns. If you are sheltered by a building, within 1.85km of the bomb, you may well die when the building you in collapses.
“A convenient rule of thumb for estimating the short-term fatalities from all causes due to a nuclear attack is to count everyone inside the 5 psi blast overpressure contour around the hypocenter as a fatality. In reality, substantial numbers of people inside the contour will survive and substantial numbers outside the contour will die, but the assumption is that these two groups will be roughly equal in size and balance out. This completely ignores any possible fallout effects.
Oh yes, the fallout. Everyone within the radiation radius, 1.42 km of Edinburgh Castle, will get a 500 rem radiation dose. Several weeks later, any of us who survived the thermal radiation and the air blast, probably 9 out of 10 would be dead: some will have taken only a few hours to die, others will take days or weeks. That would be everyone from Easter Dalry to Gayfield Square, from Glenogle to Marchmont. Good solid stone or metal walls could shelter you from radiation. The catch is, those walls have most likely fallen down or gone up in flames.
The air blast within 0.7 km of Edinburgh Castle is 20 psi overpressure: that would be 502 mph winds. The most heavily built buildings are demolished. Gladstone’s Land, St Giles Cathedral, George Street and Princes Street, the Scott Monument, the Usher Hall, the Sheraton, that huge TV screen on Festival Plaza – gone. Everyone from Tollcross to Queen Street, from Shandwick Place to Waverley Bridge, would almost certainly be killed in the destruction.
Finally, the fireball of the nuclear explosion. This I have assumed would be dropped right on the War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle, but it doesn’t make much difference either way. Edinburgh Castle is built of locally-quarried stone on the basalt plug of an extinct volcano. Sandstone is made of various minerals, which may have a melting point as high as 1717 degrees, as low as 800 degrees. Granite melts between 1215°C to 1260°C. Basalt melts between 984°C to 1260°C.
The temperature at the surface of the fireball would be 5000°C. At the centre of the fireball, the temperature would be 300000°C – hotter than the surface of the sun.
Depending how high above Edinburgh Castle the bomb was when it went off, the rock on which the Castle stands, the stones of which it was built, would either melt or be vaporised. The Castle Rock is 0.12 km above sea-level, so if the bomb exploded on impact with the War Memorial, there might be a stump of melted rock left where the Castle once loomed.
The Trident D-5 missiles at Faslane have nuclear warheads of 100kt and 475kt. The Hiroshima bomb was only 16kt.
A 100kt missile, dropped on Edinburgh Castle, would kill everyone from Cameron Toll to West Granton, from Leith Links to Meggetland. (The new Royal Infirmary would be just outside the thermal radiation radius: 4.54 km away in Little France.)
A 475kt missile, dropped on Edinburgh Castle, would create a fireball that would melt or evaporate everything between Lady Lawson Street and Rose Street, between Lothian Road and the Mound. The 100% fatality area would include Little France – from Joppa to Silverknowes, out to South Gyle, everyone would die.
The design and construction of the Trident system was begun in 1980 and the technology is due to end its “working life” in the 2020s. Tony Blair decided to have the system replaced with more up-to-date nuclear weapons in 2006.
Though my grandpa was in another city as a soldier, my grandma, my father, who was two years old, three aunts and two uncles were within 1.8km of the hypocentre.
My grandma had serious burning all over her body, including her face. Two aunts and one uncle died. Luckily, my father, one uncle and one aunt survived.
The situation there was so terrible, cruel and unbelievable. There was nothing. Even people who survived tended to blame themselves as they could not help family, friends or neighbours.
Anger is directed at the five nuclear weapon signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, including Britain, for ignoring their disarmament commitment and going ahead with modernising their nuclear arsenals.The failure of the 2010 NPT Review Conference to establish a negotiation framework or timetable for a Nuclear Weapons Convention to ban all nuclear weapons is repeatedly raised.
There is little faith that the nuclear weapons states are prepared to change course and take disarmament seriously. Some delegates to the conference have called for civil society to boycott the next Review Conference, others have called for more radical protest outside it.
But there is complete agreement that the citizens of the nuclear weapon states should know how isolated their governments are amongst the nations of the world.
Britain’s decision to replace Trident comes in for significant criticism – it is understood the new submarines are being designed to last until the 2060s – potentially to the the NPT hundredth anniversary. But growing budgets for defence and for nuclear arsenals in the US and Russia have also faced significant anger. All the nuclear weapon states are seen to have turned their back on their promises.