International Threat Management, LLC
A suitcase nuke or suitcase bomb is a very compact and portable nuclear weapon and could have the dimensions of 60 x 40 x 20 centimeters or 24 x 16 x 8 inches. The smallest possible bomb-like object would be a single critical mass of plutonium (or U-233) at maximum density under normal conditions.
Pu-239 weighs 10.5 kg and is 10.1 cm across. It doesn’t take much
more than a single critical mass to cause significant explosions
ranging from 10-20 tons. These types of weapons can also be as big
as two footlockers.
warhead of a suitcase nuke or suitcase bomb consists of a tube with
two pieces of uranium, which, when rammed together, would cause a
blast. Some sort of firing unit and a device that would need to be
decoded to cause detonation may be included in the “suitcase.”
portable weapon is a “backpack” bomb. The Soviet nuclear
backpack system was made in the 1960s for use against NATO targets
in time of war and consists of three “coffee can-sized” aluminum
canisters in a bag. All three must be connected to make a single
unit in order to explode. The detonator is about 6 inches long. It
has a 3-to-5 kiloton yield, depending on the efficiency of the
explosion. It’s kept powered during storage by a battery line
connected to the canisters.
occurs when either part of or all of the body is exposed from an
external source, such as when a person is standing near the site of
where a radiological device such as a suitcase bomb or suitcase nuke
is set off and he or she is exposed to radiation, which can be
absorbed by the body or can pass completely through it.
occurs when radioactive materials in the form of solids, liquids or
gases are released into the air and contaminate people externally,
internally or both. This happens when body parts such as the skin
become contaminated and/or if the harmful material gets inside the
body via the lungs, gut or wounds.
of radioactive material
occurs when body cells, tissues and organs such as bone, liver,
thyroid or kidney, are contaminated.
can travel many meters in the air and many centimeters once in human
tissue; therefore they represent a major external threat. Dense
material is needed as a shield. Beta radiation can travel meters in
air and can moderately penetrate human skin, but clothing and some
protection can help. Alpha radiation travels a very short distance
through the air and can’t penetrate the skin, but can be harmful
if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through open wounds.
in the first hour after an explosion is about 90 percent, with it
going down to about 1 percent of the original level after two days.
Radiation only drops to trace levels after 300 hours.
in the immediate vicinity of a suitcase nuke or suitcase bomb
detonation would likely die from the force of the conventional
explosion itself. Some survivors of the blast might die of radiation
poisoning in the weeks afterward. Those farther away from the
explosion might suffer radiation sickness in the days and weeks
afterward, but recover. Over time, risks of cancer in the affected
area would rise, but perhaps only slightly.
mix of physical symptoms must be used to judge the seriousness of
exposure. Impact of radiation poisoning also changes if the body has
experienced burns or physical trauma. In the case of treatable
victims, extensive medical treatment may be needed for more than two
months after exposure.
symptoms may include vomiting, headache, fatigue, weakness,
diarrhea, thermal burn-like skin effects, secondary infections,
reoccurring bleeding and hair loss.
detection and decontamination occurs soon after exposure, about 95
percent of external radioactive material can be removed by taking
off the victim’s clothing and shoes and washing with water.
Further decontamination may require the use of bleaches or other
of a victim within the first six weeks to two months after exposure
is vital and is determined by what types of radioactive isotopes to
which the victim was exposed.
personnel will treat victims for hemorrhage and shock. Open wounds
are usually irrigated to cleanse them of any radioactive traces.
Amputation of limbs may occur if a wound is highly contaminated and
functional recovery isn’t likely.
radioactive material is ingested, treatment is given to reduce
absorption and enhance excretion and elimination. It includes
stomach pumping or giving the victim laxatives or aluminum antacids,
among other things.
If radioactive material has gotten into a victim’s internal organs and tissues, treatment includes giving the patient various blocking and diluting agents, such as potassium iodide, to decrease absorption. Mobilizing agents such as ammonium chloride, diuretics, expectorants and inhalants are given to a patient to force the tissues to release the harmful isotopes. Other treatments involve chelating agents. When ingested, these agents bind with some metals more strongly than others to form a stable complex that, when soluble, are more easily excreted through the kidneys.