Nuclear bomb debris can reveal blast size, even decades later | Science News

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


News in Brief

Nuclear bomb debris can reveal blast size, even decades later

New fallout forensics technique measures elements formed from radioactive decay

By
3:17pm, July 5, 2016
Trinity nuclear test

FALLOUT FORENSICS  A new technique allowed researchers to accurately estimate the energy release from the 1945 Trinity nuclear test in New Mexico (shown). The method could help regulators enforce nonproliferation treaties, the researchers say.

A new type of fallout forensics can reconstruct nuclear blasts decades after detonation. By measuring the relative abundance of various elements in debris left over from nuclear explosions, researchers say they can accurately estimate the amount of energy released during the initial blast.

As proof of concept, the researchers estimated the yield of the 1945 Trinity nuclear test in New Mexico — the world’s first detonation of a nuclear device. The work pegged the explosion as equivalent to 22.1 kilotons of TNT, close to the official estimate of 21 kilotons. Applying the method to modern blasts could help regulators identify nuclear tests long after the fact and better enforce nonproliferation treaties, the researchers propose in a paper to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of July 4.

Regulators currently monitor nuclear tests by detecting tremors and

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from this issue of Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content