Nukes and Nots
SK: This may sound strange at this point but what the hell is a nuke? You have mentioned nuclear power, nuclear waste, nuclear weapons and now a nuke, but if I don’t have any idea what you are talking about. How are my readers supposed to understand?
SK: Good what?
JS: You are starting to understand what you don’t understand. You may eventually turn out to be a good reporter, not a journalist, but a good reporter at least.
SK: What is the difference?
JS: We will get to that later. There is a whole lot of science behind your first question. Far more than I understand. Do the school books where you come from cover the topic of molecules and atoms?
SK: You mean, like the periodic table of the elements?
JS: Yes, exactly. One of those elements, uranium, has about six naturally occurring isotopes. No, don’t ask. I have to quote big words from memory here and I don’t have the definitions at hand. One of the most common forms is U-238.
Scientists found out that they could enrich U-238, adding various pieces of other atoms, turning it into something that could be used as either fuel for a nuclear reactor or enriched further to become the core of a nuclear bomb.
All anyone really needs to know is that all forms of uranium and some forms of other elements gave off an invisible and deadly energy wave known as radiation. While you do not see the wave itself, if you venture near the forbidden zones, you can see the effects of prolonged exposure to very low levels of this radiation.
Have you ever seen images from those forbidden zones?
SK: Of course, everyone who ever attended school has. We’ve seen the distorted plants and bizarre insects.
JS: Well, even depleted uranium gives off some level of radiation.
SK: And that is what a nuke is?
JS: No, it’s a symptom. Many electrons and various types of radiation are given off whenever an atom is forced to split. I don’t understand the science but when enriched uranium was formed into rods or bars, and those bars are placed inside of a container with graphite or carbon bars interspersed, the resulting nuclear fission or splitting of atoms releases massive amounts of heat and radiation. When water is circulated around the container with some kind of radiation shield that lets heat out and keeps the radiation contained, the heat could instantly create steam from water. The steam was then used to turn turbines for electric and other energy. That was nuclear energy.
Scientists also found out that if you didn’t control the chain reaction of fission, with those carbon rods and containers, a tiny amount of enriched uranium could create a massive explosion, larger than anything that could be created with gunpowder. Eventually, they came up with different methods of enrichment: one to produce fuel and the other to produce something that would make a gigantic boom when properly detonated. Military types chose to refer to nuclear weapons as nukes. The short phrase, which evolved to indicate someone wanted a nuclear strike, was “nuke ’em.”
SK: So these forbidden zones are all from the nuclear power plants that once existed?
JS: Not all. Some were storage sites for nuclear missiles and bombs. Others were due to the enrichment facilities. Still others were places where nukes were made. A few exist because the supposedly safe disposal sites weren’t so safe. There is plenty of blame to go around.
SK: What was the purpose of all this nuclear stuff if it was so dangerous?
JS: Clean, limitless, near-free electrical power.
SK: So everybody had nearly free electricity?
JS: Gosh, no. That was just the marketing pitch. Nuclear power cost more than any other form of electricity, especially when you add in the human and animal lives.
SK: Why would anyone want it then?
JS: Nuclear power provided cover for enriching uranium and building nuclear bombs. All of the militaries wanted to watch their enemy cringe in fear from the mere threat of a nuclear strike.
SK: Did that really happen?
JS: Oh yes, eventually.
SK: After everybody learned about the potential damage?
JS: Goodness, no. Nobody is scared when you talk about potential damage. It isn’t real. Everybody believes it won’t happen to them or that they can, in some way, mitigate the damage so that it isn’t really noticed. People didn’t cringe until after a world war was brought to an end by dropping two of those bombs on two different major cities.
SK: Was this one of the Microsoft Wars?
JS: No. It was the Second World War.
SK: Did nukes play a role in the Microsoft Wars?
SK: What role did nukes play?
JS: You aren’t ready for that yet. You don’t even know how two small ones ended the Second World War.
SK: Small ones? You mean we, or someone, built bigger ones?
JS: Yes. As I told you before, they increased in size and potential damage—all the way up to those planet crackers we talked about earlier. I have no knowledge of any larger ones, but I would believe there were at least plans on paper to build bigger and better. Everybody was caught up in the one nuke to win a war race.
SK: Was there ever a war won by a single nuke?
JS: No. Many wars were prevented because of the massive stockpiles. Limited wars were started in other countries that didn’t have nukes, so one country could drag another country into a war of attrition. International political pressure always seemed to stop actual deployment of nukes during these conflicts.
SK: Nuclear wars weren’t wars of attrition?
JS: Not for the side with the nukes. The side that was attacked with them would suffer massive population attrition in seconds.
For centuries, armies had destroyed large population centers by laying siege to them. It took days, if not months or years, to capture and level a city of significant size and fortification. Thousands of lives would be lost on both sides. This cost, more than anything else, stopped countries from going to war.
If only one side had nuclear weapons, there was no real cost to wiping out a city. Perhaps they would lose a few planes and air crew if they didn’t have long-range missiles but attrition wasn’t a factor. The Second World War ended when the world learned this. The Unites States suffered no casualties dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but both cities, for all practical purposes, ceased to exist, taking roughly a quarter million Japanese with them. They left a wake of illness and ash that plagued the people for years.
SK: How could anyone justify that?
JS: It’s easy when you did the math. Each island battle in that protracted war was costing thousands of troops on both sides. Unspeakable atrocities were being committed against prisoners and civilians alike. The Japanese government had organized all citizens on the main island to defend the emperor with whatever weapons they had at hand when the invasion finally happened.
War had been going on for over four years. Final estimates put the combined civilian and military dead somewhere between 40 to 60 million. Yes, that’s correct—40 to 60 million. When the final enemy tells you they are going to fight to the last person despite that kind of hardship having already occurred, you look for any tool that will change the attrition factor.
SK: But killing a quarter million with only two bombs. That would be the equivalent of wiping out our entire population.
You are reading a special promotional version of “John Smith – Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars.” This is the third book of the “Earth That Was” trilogy. You can obtain the entire trilogy in EPUB form from here: