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Can a nuke crush a volcano's slope?

  1. Jul 15, 2009 #1
    There was no "Geology section" so I guess here is where this thread belongs.

    So, can a nuclear explosion blast one of the slopes of a volcano and open a gap through which lava will flow? Or will it be insufficient. By "nuke" I mean a bomb of ~20 kilotons, something between "Little Boy" and "Fat Man."

    Thx for the answers.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2009 #2


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    Probably yes, but what for? To make sure lava flows in the direction we want? Fallout will be gigantic, and it will most likely make the idea useless (saving people living on the several square kilometers at the price of unspecified number of others living on thousands of square kilometers doesn't sound reasonable).

  4. Jul 15, 2009 #3
    The idea is entirely useless. Volcanoes with runny basaltic lava (shield volcanoes), like Hawaii, are mostly harmless, it is only the explosive volcanoes with highly siliceous, viscous, magma that poses any risk. A nuke on the side of one of these volcanoes (like Mt St Helens) would probably likely trigger a wild and unpredictable eruption provided that the gas pressure in the volcano was sufficiently high.

    (you could post this thread in the "Earth forum")
  5. Jul 15, 2009 #4
    Nuclear weapons detonated underground don't produce fallout (or at least reduce it so much that it's not really an issue)... or so I've heard, I may be wrong.
  6. Jul 15, 2009 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    They don't, but you want to create an opening - and that means ejection, which in turn means fallout.

  7. Jul 15, 2009 #6


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    NO idea is ever entirely useless except the one that ideas can be entirely useless. Even the most ill-conceived idea can be a stepping stone towards a better one.
  8. Jul 15, 2009 #7


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    And in this case the better idea is probably not to do it!
  9. Jul 15, 2009 #8


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  10. Jul 16, 2009 #9
    In an abstract way you're probably right.

    However, in the context, my initial response was that the idea of using nukes to save lives at risk from the threat of a volcano was useless. If you understand a little of the behaviour and the risks posed by different types of volcano I think you would agree with me. The idea that nukes can somehow be used to calm nature is a surprisingly common one: my ex-supervisor at uni, a leading expert in geophysical hazards and a governmental advisor on such things, was inundated with queries from members of the public on that falacious idea. Given the widespread misconception that nukes could somehow be useful in managing volcanic risk, I think it was appropriate for me to knock the idea down as being "entirely useless". If the idea does have merit, it certainly isn't in risk management!
  11. Jul 16, 2009 #10
    Makes me wonder whether it's possible to actually completely level a large mountain/volcano with a nuclear device.

    Well, of course it's possible, but exactly how much power it takes to destroy a mountain is the question.
  12. Jul 19, 2009 #11
    Thank you for the information; I wanted to know because of a StarCraft-based fanfiction I'm writing :smile:

    P.s. Nice of you to think about the humane applications of such a theoretical situation... Although my specific dilemma was oriented at sci-fi stuff :rolleyes:
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