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Igor Kurchatov's Report on the Danger of Atomic War

1954
Following the detonation of the "Bravo" hydrogen test in the Pacific, Igor Kurchatov, scientific director of the Soviet nuclear weapons program, and three other scientists wrote a report warning of the dangers of nuclear weapons.

The Danger of Atomic War

This March the U.S. government informed the world twice about H-bombs blasts. The responses to these statements show that world public opinion is very much concerned with the bleak prospects promised by the ever increasing power of nuclear weapons. This is quite understandable.

Modern atomic practice based on thermonuclear reaction allows us to increase, practically to an unlimited extent, the explosive energy contained in the bomb. Today the H-bomb's destructive power can be compared to the most destructive natural forces such as large-scale earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, large meteorites falling on earth, like the famous Tungus meteorite, etc.

While a normal atomic bomb releases energy equivalent to tens of thousands of tons of TNT an H-bomb produces many million of tons of energy. One bomb can destroy all residential buildings and structures within a radius of 10 to 15 km, i.e., to eliminate all above-ground constructions in a city with a population of many millions. The power of one or two modern hydrogen bombs translated into an equivalent quantity of TNT is comparable to the total amount of explosives used by the fighting sides in the last world war.

Contemporary military hardware allows the side possessing nuclear weapons to reach targets several thousand of kilometers from the frontier. Obviously, defense against such weapons is practically impossible--it is clear that the use of atomic weapons on a mass scale will lead to devastation in the warring countries. Aside from the destructive impact of atomic and hydrogen bombs there is another threat for mankind involved in atomic war--poisoning the atmosphere and the surface of the globe with radioactive substances originating from nuclear explosions. In the form of minuscule particles and gases, these are lifted by the force of the blast together with dust particles to comparatively high altitudes. Wind spreads them all over the earth's atmosphere. Later these radioactive substances fall onto the surface of the earth with rain, snow, and dust, thus poisoning it.

On March 1st this year the United States tested a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific. The result: radioactive injury to Japanese fishermen and sickness among those who ate radioactively contaminated fish. Today, after only several scores of atomic and hydrogen bomb tests, radioactivity in the upper layers of the earth has grown considerably. Bodies of water are also being contaminated.

Calculations show that if, in the case of war, weapons that already exist are used, levels of radioactive emissions and concentration of radioactive substances, which are biologically harmful to human life and vegetation, will be created on a significant portion of the earth's surface. The rate of growth of atomic explosives is such that in just a few years the stockpile will be large enough to create conditions under which the existence of life on the whole globe will be impossible. The explosion of around one hundred hydrogen bombs could lead to this result.

There is no hope that organisms, and the human organism in particular, will adjust themselves to higher levels of radioactivity on earth. This adjustment can take place only through a prolonged process of evolution. So we cannot but admit that mankind faces the enormous threat of an end to all life on earth.

Signed

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