> Last night Professor Mark Serreze, a sea ice specialist at the official US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), hailed the publication of the images – on an obscure website by scientists at the University of Bremen, Germany – as "a historic event"
August 21, 2008, 2:00 a.m: At Churchill, Manitoba the local weather is clear: temperature 8.7°, visibility 24.1 km, wind direction 180 degrees, wind speed 19 km/hr.
The Murmansk-Churchill Arctic Bridge between Churchill and the port of Murmansk is in full operation. The voyage from Murmansk to Churchill is only eight days and Russian container ships arrive daily. Nine days before, on August 12, the Russian Arctic container vessel, Norsk Nova, departed from Murmansk. Four days out of Churchill, on August 16, its Captain, in compliance with Transport Canada’s regulations, forwarded the required details of his cargo and his route. Since it is not classified as a major port, Churchill has no radiation detection devices for screening containers for it is reasoned that, compared to ports such as Halifax, and Vancouver, such a large investment at the low volume port of Churchill would yield little in return. The government’s routine target and risk assessment process for identifying containers to be checked concluded that the owner of the vessel was a trusted shipper.
Shortly after its arrival at 8:00 p.m. on August 19, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) staff at Churchill carried out only a pro forma inspection of the ship and its cargo. By 9:00 p.m. the Captain had received the OK to unload. By midnight the ship’s cargo of containers were safely secured aboard the rail cars on the HBRW siding. At 1:20 a.m. on August 20, with his ship refuelled, the Captain headed his ship back out to sea, and set a return course to Murmansk.
Three weeks before, on July 31, a Chechen terrorist cell affiliated with al Qaeda bribed the drug-addicted and poorly paid commander of a badly secured storage unit at the Sevmorput naval shipyard near Murmansk, and received an early model of a trunk-size, man-portable, low yield nuclear device (a “suitcase bomb”) which had been recently rebuilt with new radioactive elements whose "half-life" made it operable for at least four months. It was not equipped with a modern electronic lock. The theft was not discovered by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), and the International Atomic Energy Agency was not alerted to what had taken place. The terrorist group’s plan was to surreptitiously transfer the stolen device to fellow travellers in the United States by concealing it in a cargo container earmarked for transhipment to Chicago via the HBRY and its interconnected Canadian and American railways.
For reasons unknown, however, the device spontaneously detonated at 2:00 a.m., between the grain elevators and the “tank farm.” Measured from its epicentre at the Port of Churchill’s railway siding the immediate damage inflicted by the 1-kiloton ground level explosion is significant.
Fireball. All matter within the 150-metre diameter fireball was vaporized.
Blast. Out to 500 metres from the explosion the blast wave over pressure of 5 pounds per square inch, followed by winds of around 150 miles per hour, destroyed all wood-frame buildings, and caused severe damage to brick buildings. Destruction and damage of the power-grid nodes in the vicinity of the port caused widespread power outages throughout the area. In addition to the blast effects, the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from the explosion destroyed most electronic equipment in the vicinity. Containers from a cargo ship in the port were scattered at high velocity. Two ships, including a crude-oil tanker waiting off loading, suffered hull ruptures at the waterline on the side facing the explosion. Oil from the tanker began to flow rapidly into the harbour and is ablaze.
Heat. Out to about 600 metres, the fireball energy in infrared, visible, and ultraviolet wavelengths has burned exposed skin, and charred or ignited flammable materials.
Radiation. Out to around 1,100 metres, all persons in the open receive an immediate neutron and gamma ray dose of 5001 rem, (the dose that will prove fatal within 30 days to about half the people receiving it).
Fallout. A radiation dose of 500 rem will be received by all unprotected persons who remain for over 48-hours in the three square kilometres downwind elliptical area exposed to radioactive fallout in the form of deposited fission products and neutron-activation products.
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