Re: Project Orion

From: Chuck Kuecker (
Date: Thu Jun 22 2000 - 02:36:08 MDT

At 11:59 PM 6/21/00 -0500, EvMick wrote:

>I'm not a rocket scientist nor a nuclear engineer...consequently I don't
>understand this. Please explain how fallout is possible in space. The very
>concept is at odds with my understanding of the definition of fallout

Neither am I - just an omnivorously reading electrical engineer. I collect
nuclear trivia, and sometimes can get confused about details, so I welcome
it if somebody catches me distributing misinformation. Don't ask me about
the math, in any case!

>My understanding is that a low airburst or a ground burst sucks dirt, and
>"stuff" (cows, jackrabbits etc) into it's mushroom cloud therby causing it
>to be radioactive.....which is then merrily strewn about by the prevailing
>An airburst, being up in the air (hence the name) doesn't cause "stuff" to
>be radioactive....hence it's much cleaner
>In space there is no "stuff".....whence the fallout?

Fallout in the form of the bomb's "unburnt" materials, and high energy
particles from the reaction that get trapped a'la Van Allen belt radiation.
Even the most efficient device is going to have some wastage.

>The piddling alpha,beta and gamma radiation of a typical multimegaton H-bomb
>amount to spitting in the ocean relative to the solar wind.

The wastage would include a smattering of fission debris, and the remains
of the housing, if chosen of the wrong materials, would become neutron
activated. Good design would minimize the last, of course.

Relatively speaking, any man made device today is puny compared to the
volume of solar wind, but it's locally very intense. I remember reading
about Soviet Topaz reactors trailing a plume of energetic particles that
could fry microcircuits "down orbit".

Chuck Kuecker

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