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National Post (Canada) reports on its newspaper Jan. 2, 2002. http://www.nationalpost.com/
Eleven warheads would suffice to crush Canada, researchers warn
Eleven nuclear missiles targeted at cities would wipe out 25% of Canada's population, scientists believe.
Canada could be destroyed by as few as 11 nuclear warheads, according to a new computer program developed for nuclear weapons researchers in the United States.
The scenario would see Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Calgary and military installations each hit by a 475-kiloton warhead.
"If you take out Canada's major centres, what is there left in terms of medical and rescue services, government, industry and other functions?" asks Matthew McKinzie, a physicist who worked on the computer program for the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council.
"There is not enough to continue functioning as a country. For Canada, 11 weapons will do that."
It took two years for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental and arms control organization, to develop the computer program, now being used by defence analysts and peace organizations.
Mr. McKinzie said he is working on modifying the software for eventual distribution to the public.
The idea behind creating the computer program is to raise questions about the existing U.S. policy of stockpiling thousands of nuclear weapons, he said.
"Why do we need several thousand deployed nuclear weapons when even a few hundred would assure an overwhelming loss of life?" Mr. McKinzie asked.
Using the software, researchers estimated it would take 124 weapons to destroy the United States and 51 to eliminate Russia as a country.
The computer program mimics the U.S. military's SIOP, or Single Integrated Operational Plan, which outlines the targeting of America's nuclear weapons and the likely consequences of each attack.
SIOP is so secret, even members of the U.S. Senate with high-level security clearance are not allowed to know the details.
The Natural Resources Defense Council scientists used such declassified U.S. government information as radioactive fallout projections, satellite photographs, census data and maps of military installations to develop their software.
The computer program comes at a time when tensions among some nuclear powers are increasing.
Over the weekend, India boasted that it could survive a first strike by a Pakistani atomic weapon but its rival would be wiped out in a swift nuclear counterattack.
The new software did not include numbers of weapons that would be needed to destroy either India or Pakistan, but that scenario could be determined.
Mr. McKinzie said to define what constituted the destruction of a country, the researchers followed the U.S. government's policy of mutual assured destruction (MAD).
In 1962, then defense secretary Robert McNamara defined MAD as the ability to use nuclear weapons to kill 25% of a country's population and destroy 50% of its industry. According to the MAD theory, no nation would resort to using nuclear weapons because its own destruction by the country it was attacking would be assured.
The computer program determined that using more nuclear weapons to hit a country does not substantially increase the number of people killed because most of the damage appears to be done in the first wave of attacks.
"The first 11 weapons [used] on Canada kills 25% of the population," explained Mr. McKinzie. "But 22 weapons would only kill 30% of the population."
According to the computer program, smaller countries such as Iraq and North Korea could be destroyed by as few as four nuclear weapons.
To destroy all of the NATO countries, Canada included, would require approximately 300 warheads.
China, because of its large population, would have to be targeted by 368 nuclear weapons.
The United States and Russia still have thousands of nuclear warheads in their stockpiles. Although the U.S. government says it no longer aims its weapons at Russia, it would take only a few minutes to reprogram missile guidance systems to direct them back on to their previous targets.
George W. Bush, the U.S. President, has pledged to cut the American nuclear arsenal. But some defence analysts have warned that Mr. Bush's plan to go ahead with a missile defence system will spark a new nuclear arms race, forcing Russia and China to build more weapons.
The United States has said the missile defence system it wants to build is designed to protect against attacks from such so-called rogue states as North Korea and Iraq.
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