Samuel Cohen of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had a destructive notion in 1958. His ideas were tested underground in the Nevada desert in 1963.
His notion was to reduce the blast of a bomb but to ramp up its emission of radiation to kill all life forms in the target area while avoiding excessive damage to local infrastructure. The concept was that this would work well if the Soviets launched a tank attack through the middle of Europe, stopping the assault but not leaving allied nations in Europe as no-go areas for years to come.
Detonating a one kiloton neutron bomb would emit a blast in a 600 metre radius. It would destroy any non-reinforced structures and toss items and people around. Its thermal pulse would cause third degree burns to unprotected skin to those within 500 metres. The neutron radiation would kill unprotected humans in the open within 900 metres, though death would take one or two days. Within 1400 metres those in the open would die from radiation sickness after several weeks. Being secure in a reinforced concrete building would reduce the effects by a power of ten.
In 1978 President Jimmy Carter decided not to pursue the idea as his European allies disliked the notion of it being deployed on their soil. However later that year the Russians tested a similar device, so Ronald Reagan had it back on the agenda by 1981.
That any human being could sit and plot, then test and be prepared to deploy such a weapon staggers belief.
Yet in November 2012 Lord Gilbert, a previous British Labour defence minister, suggested the use of an enhanced radiation reduced blast warhead in the mountain region of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border to prevent infiltration. He did ‘humanely’ add that we should warn the inhabitants to evacuate, before irradiating the area, making it unusable and impassable – the descriptive term applied was that it would be an ‘area denial weapon’. Incredible!
Though battling against this Russian gang armed with the new still water, their adversaries could still see the appeal of their new weapon – excerpts from Still Water
Sir Joseph Maudlin, head of the UK Secret Service, admires its potential:
‘…As a weapon it could be even more effective than a neutron bomb.’
‘…You may recall that was designed to minimise any material damage while killing the humans on the battlefield, but this water seems to manage all of that together with the effective seizing up of any industrial plant without apparently damaging it.’
‘…Let’s toast, the perfect weapon.’
More ideas expressed in Still Water:
It is Professor Groves, advisor to the UKs new Foreign Secretary, who punctuates the action by setting out the issues with some clarity;
General Goncharenko, a retired KGB man, explains how the still water can be applied as a weapon;
But it is the Professor who best highlights the crisis that this still water will accelerate.
Still Water may be fiction but any threat to our water is very real – the book ends with a conservationist refrain –