Is Rochester ready for nuclear war?

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Image: Ready.gov/Department of Homeland Security

Americans’ fears of nuclear war have reached levels not seen since the tensest days of the Cold War. In a recent survey conducted by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 71 percent of adults said they think Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased the possibility of nuclear weapons being used, and nearly half are “extremely” or “very” concerned such weapons will target the United States.

While the chance of a U.S.-Russia nuclear war appears low, if it did occur, the death toll for a single strike easily could reach into the tens of thousands, with many more injured, and widespread destruction and contamination from radiation. Which American cities would likely be targets? In Rochester, what safety measures has local government taken? And what precautions can individuals take? Such questions now have an immediacy that did not exist before Russian launched its attach on Ukraine in late February.

In the 1960s, Monroe County maintained shelters in hundreds of buildings—schools, office, warehouses—that could provide protection for radioactive fallout. At its height, this civil defense program, as reported recently by City newspaper, offered enough space and supplies to sustain as many as 375,000 county residents. 

But those shelters are long gone. None are maintained and have not been since the 1970s or 1980s, wrote Gary Walker, Monroe County director of communications, in an email to the Beacon. The county has been getting “a lot of questions” about this topic lately, he noted. “We have nothing in our files . . . on the old fallout shelter locations other than old relics like fallout shelter signs, air raid warden helmets.”

In a follow-up email, Walker noted that the county Office of Emergency Management “routinely reviews action plans and schedules periodic incident management exercises for possible nuclear events at Ginna—as well as for scenarios for things like natural disasters, weather emergencies, terrorism, derailments and other scenarios that impact air and water quality, infrastructure, electric power and other threats to the public.”

In the event of an accident at the R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in Wayne County, the Monroe Office of Emergency Management maintains response plans—including possible evacuation—for a 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone surrounding the nuclear plant.

As for an attack on the U.S. with nuclear weapons, Walker noted: “We have not specifically planned for nuclear war in recent years, though our emergency preparedness plans are relevant.”

Walker said the county also shares a Federal Emergency Management Agency advisory, which focuses on what individuals can do if they are exposed to a nuclear explosion.

Indeed, FEMA does not discount the current possibility of nuclear attack on American cities. In its Planning Guidance for Response to Nuclear Detonation (3rd edition, 2021)—a publication aimed at state and local emergency managers—it includes such attacks on a list of possible disasters for which preparation is advised. 

“There isn’t a single jurisdiction in America that has anything approaching an adequate plan to deal with a nuclear detonation,” Irwin Redlener, a physician and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, told Business Insider for a story published in December 2019.

Cities most likely to be targets of a nuclear attack, said Redlener, are those with large populations and that house infrastructure vital to national security, such as financial hubs, government facilities, and energy plants. He cited as likely targets: New York City, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. 

Target Rochester?

Would Rochester also be attacked?

Photo provided by the RMSC, courtesy of the National Reconnaissance Office.

Rochester is not known today as a hub of defense manufacturing, but it does sit between two significant energy facilities: the five power stations operated by the U.S. and Canada 85 miles to the west in Niagara Falls, and Ginna, 20 miles to the east in the town of Ontario, Wayne County. The hydroelectric plants at Niagara Falls produce one-quarter of the energy used throughout New York and Ontario; Ginna powers nearly 500,000 homes and business.

Though these are major energy plants, it’s probably unlikely they put a target on Rochester’s back. But the odds of a nuclear missile strike here are not zero, either.

Blast simulator: Liberty Pole

What would an attack on Rochester look like? To answer that morbid question, there’s “Nukemap.” 

Nukemap is a nuclear blast simulator showing the concentric circles of destruction that would result if a nuclear bomb were detonated in a given location. Users can customize location and size of the bomb. It’s the creation of Alex Wellerstein, an historian of science and nuclear weapons and professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

Nukemap’s traffic has surged since Russia invaded Ukraine, Wellerstein recently told the Atlantic magazine. Since Nukemap came online in 2012, traffic had been about 20,000 people daily. “Right now,” he said, “we’ve been at more like 150,000 people every day.” At times, the site has crashed. 

NUKEMAP by Alex Wellerstein (https://nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/)

So, what would happen if a blast of, say, 100 kilotons (substantially greater than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki but a size, according to Nukemap, that is now common in nuclear arsenals) were detonated in Rochester about 1,450 meters above the Liberty Pole?

Nukemap estimates we’d sustain 72,700 fatalities and 146,240 injuries, as:

■ a fireball of tens of millions of degrees instantly vaporizes everything within about one-half square kilometer (encompassing Eastman Theatre to the east, Xerox Auditorium to the south, the Convention Center to the west, and the Amtrak Station to the north). Radioactive dust and debris would rise over downtown in a mushroom cloud;

Hiroshima, Japan, about two months after 1945 bombing (Wikimedia Commons).

■ high doses of radiation, within a radius of about 1.11 kilometers (Memorial Art Gallery to the east, Alexander Street to the south, Frontier Field to the west, and Kelly Street between Joseph and Hudson avenues to the north) kills most people there within a month; 

■ a shockwave damages most buildings within a radius of 3.26 km (Cobbs Hill to the east, Highland Park to the south, Bullshead to the west, North Marketview Heights to the north), causing widespread fires and damage to power, phone, and gas lines, water mains, roads, and bridges. Injuries are universal.  

■ an electromagnetic pulse, caused by ionization of the atmosphere around the blast, disrupts electronic equipment and networks.

■ thermal radiation extending some 4.38 km (Browncroft to the east, Brighton to the south, 390N to the west, and Irondequoit to the north) results in 100 percent probability of third-degree burns in those exposed (often painless because it destroys pain nerves) with resulting severe scarring, disablement, or amputation.

■ light blast damage including broken glass and resultant injuries to those who come to windows after seeing the explosive flash (which travels faster than the pressure wave) up to 9.18 km (from Penfield to the east, Henrietta to the south, Gates to the west, and the Lake Ontario shore to the north). 

■ fallout, resulting when radioactive material condenses and falls back to earth, contaminates food and water and other surfaces up to hundreds of miles, depending on weather patterns.

Shelter surge

Are there precautions individuals can take to increase their chances of surviving such a blast? Obviously, much depends on where a person happens to be—within which of those Nukemap concentric circles—at the time of a blast, and that’s not something most of us can control.

In the absence of community-sponsored shelters, some people are laying out substantial sums for personal bomb shelters—much as people did in the lead-up to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. One company, U.S. Buildings Group, told Business Insider that since Russia invaded Ukraine they have seen a 130 percent increase over the prior year in consumer inquiries about its home bunkers.

Another firm, Rising S Co., reports a similar surge in orders. The firm offers a pre-fab mini-shelter for $45,000 plus installation. It includes bunk bed, air filtration system, kitchen counter and sink, and water pressure pump. Prices for their “Xtreme” and “Luxury” series of shelters—which include private baths, composting toilet, fresh water inlet, showers, and sleep areas to accommodate a large family or group—rise into the millions.

In Europe, the demand has been even greater. “We have found ourselves in the midst of this giant cyclone of demand,” Giulio Cavicchioli, whose Italian company, Minus Energie, builds nuclear shelters, told the New York Times.His firm has gone from working on 50 bunkers in the past 22 years to fielding 500 inquiries in the past two weeks. “It’s a hysteria for construction of bunkers,” he said. 

Short of laying out large sums to build a private shelter, individuals can at least familiarize themselves with guidelines on how to shelter-in-place in case authorities say a nuclear attack is imminent.

The city of Los Angeles, for example, urges residents to “pre-identify” the best room in their home, workplace or school for a shelter. “The goal … is to put as many walls as possible between you and harmful radiation.” A good shelter is “an interior room with no windows on the lowest floor” that’s close to the center of a sturdy building. Residents are further advised to keep handy “7 to 10 days of emergency supplies” like water, food, and medicine; and “a battery powered flashlight and AM/FM radio” in case electricity is lost. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in a webpage about nuclear explosions, says that “fallout is most dangerous in the first few hours after the detonation when it is giving off the highest levels of radiation. It takes time for fallout to arrive back to ground level, often more than 15 minutes for areas outside of the immediate blast damage zones. This is enough time for you to be able to prevent significant radiation exposure” by following steps such as:

■ Get inside the nearest building to avoid radiation. Brick or concrete are best.

■ Remove contaminated clothing and wipe off or wash unprotected skin if you were outside after the fallout arrived.

■ Go to the basement or middle of the building. Stay away from the outer walls and roof. (On a related webpage, DHS advises that getting “a level below ground” can reduce radiation by “about 90%.”)

KI protection

A nuclear bomb blast can release radioactive iodine into the atmosphere, which, if inhaled or ingested, can cause cancer of the thyroid gland. DHS notes that potassium iodide (also referred to as “KI”) in liquid or pill form, “while not a general cure-all,” can help block the uptake of radioactive iodine if taken “before or just after” inhalation or ingestion. 

Currently, only KI products that are FDA-approved may be legally marketed in the U.S. As of March, these KI products are FDA-approved and are available without a prescription:

  • iOSAT tablets, 130mg, from Anbex Inc.
  • iOSAT tablets, 65mg, from Anbex Inc.
  • ThyroSafe tablets, 65mg, from BTG INTERNATIONAL, Inc.
  • Potassium Iodide Oral Solution USP, 65mg/mL, from Mission Pharmacal Co.

The Centers for Disease Control cautions that KI cannot protect parts of the body other than the thyroid from radioactive iodine, nor does KI protect the body from radioactive elements other than iodine. The CDC advises consumersto take potassium iodide pills only on the advice of health officials.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, one KI manufacturer, Anbex Inc., has reported a rush of up to 15 million tablet orders from individuals, hospitals, municipalities, and governments worldwide. “In the past five days,” Anbex vice president Troy Jones recently told CNN Business, “we’ve probably sold as much as what typically would take us half a year to sell.”

FDA-approved KI products do not appear to be readily available to Rochester residents.  

“We can only provide (KI) tablets that we receive from the (state Department of Health) to customers who live within a 10-mile radius of Ginna,” Wegmans spokesperson Marcie Rivera told the Beacon. (In September 2020, Wegmans in partnership with Monroe County, distributed KI pills free to people who live within 10-miles of the Ginna plant, as part of regular emergency planning for Ginna.

Added Rivera: “Potassium iodide is not currently available through (Wegmans’) wholesalers for us to order for other customers as all supply is being directed to the government and military at this time.”

CVS and Walgreens did not respond to the Beacon’s requests for information on KI availability at their Rochester-area stores.

One online retailer, Nukepills.com, a distributor of FDA-approved Anbex KI tablets, says it’s currently out of stock but anticipates new supplies as soon as this month.

Optimists

The best hope against there ever being an exchange of nuclear weapons between the U.S. and Russia—or other nuclear powers—was always the military doctrine known as “mutually assured destruction.” Aptly abbreviated as “MAD,” the idea is that self-preservation will prevent one nuclear nation from waging full-scale nuclear war against another because such a war would cause both nations to be annihilated. 

We hope and expect that the MAD doctrine will continue to prevent catastrophe. Some experts, however, see MAD as outdated due to the rise of tactical nuclear weapons. The concern is that these weapons—generally smaller in explosive power and designed to be used in a battlefield situation—may increase the risk of a nuclear exchange while falling short of a full-scale nuclear war. The Federal of American Scientists estimates that Russian has nearly 2,000 tactical—or “nonstrategic”—nuclear warheads. The U.S. tactical arsenal numbers in the hundreds.

Still, we take what precautions we can—such as bunkers and pills—to protect ourselves. They are, in their own way, small signs of hopefulness.

As Guilio Cavicchioli, of Minus Energie, the European maker of bomb shelters, has observed, there is a misplaced view of bunker owners as doomsday enthusiasts.

“Someone who has a bunker is an optimist,” he said. “They believe there will be something afterwards—that life will go on.”

Peter Lovenheim, journalist and author of “In the Neighborhood” and “The Attachment Effect” is Washington correspondent for the Rochester Beacon. He can be reached at [email protected].

12 thoughts on “Is Rochester ready for nuclear war?

  1. Well, what can one say except “well done, writer.” This article is of national interest and should be required reading for all Americans. It is as harsh a mental reality as one can get with the exceptions of living in Mariupol etc. No one person has any right to ruin nature and us included. What a “beast.” Manhattan Project Director “Oppie” was right.

    thank you for the stark and necessary warning.

  2. Oh brother! A new low in heightening paranoia! OK, let’s heighten it further with a reality check. Time to embrace the horror!

    If Rochacha gets nuked, it will mean that every major city in the US will have been hit as well. As will all major military bases and power generating facilities. Radiation from the west will spill over Rochester. The destruction of Chicago alone will be sufficient to cook our collective geese.

    The cumulative EMPs will render 95%+ of vehicle and the entire civilian communication system inoperative, cutting us off from whatever is left of the rest of America. Those older vehicles which survive the initial pulse will quickly be rendered useless by a lack of access to gasoline as the collapse of the power grid sets Rochester back into the electronic Stone Age.

    From the Collateral Damage Dept., the destruction of the Niagara Falls hydroelectric facilities will mean the destruction of the Falls itself as well as the widening of the Niagara River below the Falls. Once the resulting nuke impact crater fills with water, it’s been estimated that the overflow into Lake Ontario will be at a rate 2 to 3 times the current flow. This will result in mass flooding along the south shore of the lake, inundating large swaths of Greece, Charlotte, Irondequoit, Webster, etc. This will complete the destruction of Ginna and the release of vast amounts of additional radiation even if the plant itself isn’t nuked.

    With most of the rest of the US reduced to the same heap of glowing rubble, there will be NO outside aid coming to help survivors in Rochester. Swept by radioactive winds and rains which will contaminate the water supply in lakes and reservoirs (the water pumping system will already have been destroyed) and make growing food impossible, bunkers and pills (unless they’re cyanide pills) will provide only a lingering and painful death as stored food, fuel and medical supplies run out.

    “The living will envy the dead” – attributed to Nikita Khrushchev, speaking of the effects of nuclear war

    Oh well. At least the optimists will at last have the opportunity to see how well the “duck and cover” propaganda that we were handed in school in the 50s/60s works out.

  3. With the detonation of “Little Man” and “Big Boy” nuclear devices that unequivocally ended the war with Japan in August 1945, a nuclear race with the USSR was ushered in. the space race followed. The US and several other Nuclear powers raced to see who could develop the smallest weapon with the biggest bang for the buck, and make them in large quantities.

    Fortunately, there are only a handful of nation-states that actually have deployable nuclear devices. Even with MIRV’s Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry vehicles, Ballistic missiles that reach space and then deploy several nuclear warheads at different targets, the number of civilian targets would be highly limited. Even wealthy countries like the U.S. don’t have unlimited nuclear weapons. Cruise missiles that can be deployed from submarines or surface ships and of course aircraft represent the greatest danger and are the ones most likely to be deployed against military targets because missiles in silos would be the first to be targeted. There are numerous anti-missile weapons that have the ability to destroy incoming threats before they detonate, I’m sure there are plenty of hi-tech US defense systems we don’t know about.

    Authors, anti-nuclear activists, science fiction writers, and the media-hyped the threat and capability of nuclear weapons for decades, and perhaps that’s a good thing because exaggerating the destructive ability of these weapons frightened leaders enough to keep them from being used.

    There are different kinds of nukes and different ways to deploy them. I believe that Putin is threatening the use of battlefield tactical nukes. Small weapons that could be used to deny an enemy the use of the target for decades to come, but also destroy soldiers and equipment. Putin and his ilk know full well that the first strike of a nuclear weapon no matter how small would invite a significant response, most likely his fleet in the Black sea. I’m not suggesting Putin would never use a tactical nuke, but even a mad man knows there will be a devastating response. I would hope That President Biden accedes soon to Ukraine’s request for modern jet fighters to level the battlespace odds and to let Putin know that in no uncertain terms NATO and the West will not be deterred by his threats.

    Back in the day when B&L and Kodak made strategically critical equipment such as bombsights, and others made PT Boats and other military products it was reasonable to assume that we would be a first-strike target. I don’t think that’s the case any longer. Many of our citizens have moved and we are just not that important, from a military perspective. So sleep well tonight.

    I could go on about how nukes work, and what civilians should do if they know for sure a weapon was “in-bound” but more than 60% of our housing stock is made from wood and would immediately burn to the ground from the thermal and pressure blast. Anyone contaminated by fallout would need to wash it off, but most likely the water plants and plumbing would be destroyed as well.

    Take my advice and that of Dr. Strangelove (a sixties cult classic movie) “Dr. Strangelove: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb” It’s a dark comedy starring Peter Sellers in multiple roles. It’s a movie everyone should see as well as Seven Days in May. No matter what happens in Ukraine, nobody will nuke Rochester.

  4. Its a tragedy that this is what its come to. Our leaders used to communicate the “why” and the strategy of our foreign policy but seem unable to do this presently . For example, why does the USA still have forward based troops in Europe >75 years after WWII, & >30 years after the end of the Cold War? Why was NATO expanded to the edge of the Russian frontier (I’m not justifying Russia’s actions here, but its understandable given they have been invaded multiple times throughout history why they would be apprehensive of NATO encroaching on its borders). The US wouldn’t allow Russian allied forces in Mexico or Canada per the Monroe Doctrine? Allowing the potential of Sweden and Finland to join NATO will not help deescalate this situation. In fact I don’t perceive much of a effort to give the Russians a off-ramp from the present hostilities. President Clinton told us in the 90s that Russian missiles were no longer pointed us and he was happy to tell his daughter Chelsea that at bedtime . How did we get from that to today’s expose on the effects of a possible nuclear event in Rochester and how to prepare and react to it? How many of our fellow citizens that we come in contact with daily understand the answers to these questions? (I’d proffer not many..) Im surprised how calmly the media complex and the public square seem to be with this. I recall when President Reagan called Russia the “evil empire” , the nightly news was full of accusations that the California cowboy was going to start a nuke war. I don’t recall JFK or Reagan ever making it personal with the Russian leaders, vs today we have Twitter hashtags beginning with Putin. How about a Presidential address to the nation explaining what we are doing here, and if the Cold War is reappearing , how about telling us why and what the strategy is? (Instead of finding a underground block building and being instructed as to how to avoid nuclear fall-out….)

    • Tom – As the old saying goes, Putin is crazy, but he’s not stupid. While he and his stooges claim that his invasion of the Ukraine was a necessitated by the eastward expansion of NATO, he knows that that’s just so much baloney…or perhaps borscht. NATO is a purely defensive alliance of members states who freely joined for mutual protection against ex-KGB agent Putin’s old bosses in the Kremlin. They weren’t dragooned into joining like the old Warsaw Pact. No member country, no alliance of countries is going to preemptively attack Russia. Putin knows it. We know it. Our NATO allies know it. So no, Putin’s rape of the Ukraine is NOT “understandable”.

      What makes any claim of NATO being a threat to Russia even more absurd is the fact that Putin is a madman with an (aging and deteriorating) nuclear stockpile, and an equally aging and deteriorating command and control structure for launching those nukes. There’s little doubt in many peoples’ minds that were NATO to attack Russia or one of its puppet “republics”, Crazy Vlad, or one of his field commanders, would eventually press the Big Red Button. This of course is one of the fears in the Ukraine that, having had his much-vaunted military machine shown up to be little more than a gang of armed thugs, Putin’s ego is such that his use of battlefield or tactical nukes cannot be ruled out.

      As to US forces still in Europe, with the fall of the Soviet Union we began to cut back from 300,000 in 1990 to today’s approximately 65,000. Of which the vast majority are located in Germany, the UK and Italy. Maybe that was still too many 10 or 15 years ago. But it’s probably too few today given the aggressions and dreams of conquest of Emperor Vlad.

      Lastly, as to trying to claim hypocrisy in the US stationing forces in Europe while not allowing Russian forces in this hemisphere. I seem to recall a country called Cuba where, missiles aside, the Soviet Union had a huge commitment for three decades until they were removed with the fall of that government. But they’re now back in one form or another. Today Russia is again providing “advisors” and billions of dollars in military assistance to Cuba as well as to Nicaragua and Venezuela.

      • Congratulations, of the many times I’ve posted similar rhetorical comments, you are the only one that chose to engage (mostly) on the merits (of course there several low information people that accused me of being pro Russian or worse) . However you did ignore my disclaimer that I was NOT validating Russia’s act of war actions here. I don’t buy the argument that everyone that disagrees with us is “crazy”. Obviously NATO encroachment is no excuse to invade your neighbors, but it did give Russia a propaganda point that we could do without. If you study Russian history there have been many invasions of their territory going back to the Czars and before (ie Alexander Nevsky) , a fact that can contribute to their present paranoia over NATO encroaching on their border. The original NATO members signed on as much to have the US “big-brother” protect them from each other , as to protect them from a foreign invader (given centuries of major wars on the continent) . The expansion was another story, when Germany reunified, the Sec of State James Baker was to have said to Gorbachev that East Germany will be a part of NATO, but NATO will not expand “1 inch” further east. I don’t recall extensive public instruction or debate back in the 90s as to why a expansion was in the interest of the US taxpayer? The so called “crazy” Russian leader at the time was either Gorby or Boris Yeltsin. Historically, even with the massive troop deployment of WWII, the US never deployed troops to the Russian frontier (other than a brief disasterous foray into Russia during WWI). FDR saw no cost-benefit (in fact he accepted a defacto Russian sphere of influence in that region) , Gen Eisenhower demoted Gen Patton for even talking about deploying US troops in Eastern Europe, when Russia invaded Hungary in 1956 (after the Eisenhower admin’s broadcasts to that country via Radio Free Europe to rise up and throw off the yokes of their Communist overseers) Eisenhower made no military move to assist the revolt. When Crimea (Ukrainian territory) was usurped by the Russians in 2012, the Obama admin didn’t seem to see much of a US interest in that part of the world at that time. I would hope our leaders see their charter as preventing war, not starting one, I would state again they haven’t shared the strategy with us, justified the expansion of NATO, or why defense of Ukraine is in the interest of the US. Instead I’m reading about nuclear detonation preparedness?? Btw- to achieve Russian withdrawal of missiles from Cuba in ’62, JFK agreed to not over throw the Russian backed govt there, and thus it still exists. To the extent Russian influence exists in Nicaragua and Venezuela , its due to the feckless nature of our leaders. For example previous administrations utilized the Monroe doctrine and took counter actions.

      • As luck would have it, CSPAN did a book review with the author Mary Sarotte (John Hopkins professor) recently , on her latest book titled ” Not One Inch” referring to the then Sec of State James A. Baker’s comment on incorporating East Germany into NATO. If you watch the interview (at the link below) she does a good job deconstructing the diplomatic mechanics and personalities that led us to this mess (my characterization) in Ukraine . (I must of been asleep in the 90s because we the taxpayers and our children that serve in the military got signed up for a lot of overhead beyond the original NATO charter IMO back then)
        https://www.c-span.org/video/?519120-1/not-inch

    • Tom: We seem to be having some major definitional issues here.

      1) “crazy” – When I said that Putin was crazy ( I never mentioned Gorby or Yeltsin. They’re YOUR “red” herring) I meant it literally, not figurtively . That he disagrees with the US doesn’t make him crazy. But an ex-KGB agent running a dictatorship, silencing (and arguably murdering) political opponents, invading a sovereign country and slaughtering thousands without a speck of justification, DOES make him crazy. He’s not a “savvy genius” as America’s self-proclaimed “stable genius” said. He just a nut. A nut with nukes. There’s never a Gavrilo Princip around when you need one.

      2) “understandable” – That word can be defined as “to be expected; natural, reasonable”. Sorry, but I still don’t accept that past invasions of Russia by others (but not by any unified Ukrainian forces) in past decades and centuries in some manner makes Putin’s attack on Ukraine “expected, natural or reasonable” What is “understandable” is that Putin’s war is driven by his insane lust for power and a desire to rebuild the Soviet Union.

      3) “encroachment” – My dictionary defines that term as an infringement of territory or rights, directly or by gradual steps. Out of curiosity, what territory or rights of Russia has NATO infringed on?

      Speaking of NATO, and I don’t grasp why you try to use them as somehow relevant to this whole issue, what Baker or anyone else in the US government
      said in the past to the Soviets has no more bearing on our relationship with the Russian Federation today than what the US might have said to Weimar Germany had any bearing on our relationship with the Third Reich.

  5. Articles like this are needed to transform main stream “news” stories from entertainment to relevancy in our every day lives. I grew up in S. Fla. during the Cuban Missile Crisis and knew the immediacy of the danger of nuclear war. It is to tempt fate to proclaim “nobody will nuke Rochester.” Oh, if that statement could be made with 100% certainty. Another fine article by Mr. Lovenheim.

  6. Perhaps I need to be more precise. If Putin decides to use a nuclear weapon to “win” the Ukraine war, more likely than not, it will be a low-yield “tactical” battlefield nuke, and if NATO were to respond, it’s not at all certain they would use a nuke as well. There is no benefit to Putin deploying a strategic nuclear weapon against any target in Europe or Globally because he must know. His generals must surely understand that a response would devastate Russia and its’ military assets.

    Perhaps I misrepresented Rochester’s strategic military value during an all-out war. Someone mentioned, “EMP” (electromagnetic pulse), a byproduct of a large nuclear blast. These pulses disrupt any device that uses wires that send electrical signals. Military aircraft can minimize the effect through shielding, which adds significant weight. Advancing military vehicle design is the desire and gradual implementation using fiber optic cable. It’s lighter and faster than cooper and probably cheaper. Rochester, Corning, and several other N.Y. cities are deeply involved in producing fiber cable, and the devices that will use them employ laser light sources. Additionally, Rochester has one of the largest, if not largest, manufacturers of military communications equipment, Harris.

    So, could Rochester be a nuclear target? Possibly, but not likely. If a global conflict were to ignite that had small cities on the target list, no civil defense shelter plan would be worth utilizing. There are evacuation plans and reception centers, but the interstate highway system was designed and built to move military equipment from place to place. There wouldn’t be room for civilian vehicles. Congress has a deep underground bunker in (I believe) West Virginia. The president had Air Force One, and the navy had its’ submarines. The Air Force has Cheyanne Mountain. I saw an educational special once that claimed all the Civil Defense preparations and duck and cover drills in the fifties and sixties were just a cynical ploy by the government to alleviate fear and panic in public because they knew full well almost no one would survive an all-out nuclear exchange. They wanted to keep hope alive and morale high.

    This discussion reminds me of a song sung by Tom Lehrer called, “We’ll all go together when we go.” It was a ‘60s anti-war anthem. Russia and the U.S. reached détente in the ‘80s & ‘90s because MAD ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ leaders acknowledged no nation could “win” a nuclear war. I’m not sure what Putin means when he uses ambiguous terms like “serious consequences if NATO doesn’t back off supporting Ukraine.” No matter how deluded and misinformed he may be, he knows going nuclear is unthinkable back in his lizard brain. NATO and the U.S. have vast arsenals of highly destructive conventional weapons, including the massive “bunker-buster bombs.”

    The sinking of the Russian Black Sea Flagship “Moscow” should give Putin and his military high command pause. They want the Donbas Region to solidify their control of Crimea and all of the shoreline ports in the East of Ukraine, perhaps even hoping to create an “East Ukraine” perhaps bounded in the West by the Dnieper River, similar to what they did after WWII with Germany. The Russian people and their leaders have a pathological fear of invasion and NATO missiles on their border. Truthfully, the time it would take for a NATO warhead to reach Moscow from Western Ukraine vs. Eastern Ukraine, realistically speaking, won’t make much difference in a shooting war. [Ukraine is 200 miles wide, a cruise missile travels at 500 miles per hour, how much of a difference would it make if Russia could add a ten or fifteen-minute delay attempting to shoot it down?

    You can sleep well tonight and all your future nights. Nobody is going to nuke Rochester. And if they do, likely, you will never know it happened.

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