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  #1  
Old 09 Sep 17, 12:42
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Could Nuclear Detonation Testing Cause Earthquakes?

Some say is very well might, some say it's rubbish.

What say you?

As more and more countries developed their own nuclear programs, testing is an unavoidable element of their evolution. Once they created it, they needed to make sure it worked. Majority of the testing took place underground.





Are the earth's tectonic plates able to hold up against over 2,000 underground detonations over the last 70 years?
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  #2  
Old 09 Sep 17, 13:10
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Originally Posted by Persephone View Post



Are the earth's tectonic plates able to hold up against over 2,000 underground detonations over the last 70 years?
In general yes. The energies involved make even the most massive nuclear test comparatively puny in comparison. However it has been theorised that a big underground test in the right (wrong) place might trigger a major earthquake early but the fault line would have to already built up a phenomenal amount of pressure in the first place so the nuke would not cause an earthquake but trigger an inevitable one a bit prematurely. The last straw and the camel's back so to speak.

This is pretty unlikely though as most earth quakes (even shallow ones) have their epicentres way way deeper than mankind could ever build an underground test chamber - many miles deeper. Might not be a good idea to let one off in Yellowstone Park though.
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  #3  
Old 09 Sep 17, 13:50
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I remember in the first Superman movie, Lex Luthor wanted to trigger a massive earthquake by detonating a couple of bombs in the San Andreas Fault.

Hollywood...always entertaining.
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  #4  
Old 09 Sep 17, 14:08
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Nuclear detonations do cause earthquakes (induced seismicity). That's one of the ways we can tell when the Human Chia Pet has actually conducted them.

And nuclear detonations can create faults... However, there is almost no possibility that nuclear tests can trigger earthquakes more than a short distance away from ground zero.
Can nuclear explosions cause earthquakes?

On January 19, 1968, a thermonuclear test, codenamed Faultless, took place in the Central Nevada Supplemental Test Area. The codename turned out to be a poor choice of words because a fresh fault rupture some 1200 meters long was produced. Seismographic records showed that the seismic waves produced by the fault movement were much less energetic than those produced directly by the nuclear explosion.

Analysis of local seismic recordings (within a couple of miles) of nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site shows that some tectonic stress is released simultaneously with the explosion. Analysis of the seismic wavefield generated by the blast shows the source can be characterized as 70-80 percent dilational (explosive-like) and 20-30 percent deviatoric (earthquake-like). The rock in the vicinity of the thermonuclear device is shattered by the passage of the explosions shock wave. This releases the elastic strain energy that was stored in the rock and adds an earthquake-like component to the seismic wavefield. The possibility of large Nevada Test Site nuclear explosions triggering damaging earthquakes in California was publicly raised in 1969. As a test of this possibility, rate of earthquake occurrence in northern California (magnitude 3.5 and larger) and the known times of the six largest thermonuclear tests (1965-1969) were plotted and it was obvious that no peaks in the seismicity occur at the times of the explosions. This is in agreement with theoretical calculations that transient strain from underground thermonuclear explosions is not sufficiently large to trigger fault rupture at distances beyond a few tens of kilometers from the shot point.

[...]

USGS
Even if, Lex Luthor was able to trigger a massive earthquake by detonating nukes in the San Andreas Fault System, his plan would fail because the western part of California would not slide into the ocean.



The San Andreas is a right lateral strike-slip fault system. The western fault block would slide to the north...




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Old 09 Sep 17, 15:06
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[QUOTE=The Doctor;3402645]Nuclear detonations do cause earthquakes (induced seismicity). That's one of the ways we can tell /QUOTE]

Etc etc etc Yawn

All of which grandiosity simply says no not really
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  #6  
Old 09 Sep 17, 15:12
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[QUOTE=MarkV;3402656]
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Doctor View Post
Nuclear detonations do cause earthquakes (induced seismicity). That's one of the ways we can tell /QUOTE]

Etc etc etc Yawn

All of which grandiosity simply says no not really
Grandiosely and humorously says, "no, not really."
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  #7  
Old 09 Sep 17, 19:26
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[QUOTE=The Doctor;3402658]
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkV View Post

Grandiosely and humorously says, "no, not really."
Because they don't blow up LARGE nukes underground. If they did, the problem would get much worse.
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Old 10 Sep 17, 14:11
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I remember Denver had issues with anthroquakes...courtesy of the US military.
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Old 10 Sep 17, 14:14
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I remember Denver had issues with anthroquakes...courtesy of the US military.
That was due to injection wells at the Rocky Mountain Flats Weapons Depot, IIRC.
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Old 10 Sep 17, 14:48
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Originally Posted by The Doctor View Post
That was due to injection wells at the Rocky Mountain Flats Weapons Depot, IIRC.

Yup. Today, Rocky Mountain Arsenal is a nature center.

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Rocky Mountain Arsenal Visitors' Center opens to the public

Over the past fifteen years, the federal government has turned the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, once one of the most contaminated Superfund sites in the United States, into a wildlife refuge, complete with nature trails, lakes for fishing and summer camps. Tomorrow, the Arsenal will open its newest attraction, a 12,500-square-foot, $7.6 million visitors' center that was constructed with renewable or recycled materials (including beetle-kill trees) and is designed to be environmentally friendly.
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  #11  
Old 10 Sep 17, 15:15
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[QUOTE=Pirate-Drakk;3402698]
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Originally Posted by The Doctor View Post

Because they don't blow up LARGE nukes underground. If they did, the problem would get much worse.
No it wouldn't because they would be relatively near the surface. To affect the inter plate tectonics you need to go really deep and we don't have anything like the technology to do that (and maybe never will).
Don't let the Doc confuse you - seismic vibrations are nor earthquakes and oll companies let off small charges all the time to produce them when managing reservoirs, looking for new sources etc etc (as Doc knows all too well) - these are not earthquakes, An underground nuke will produce this on a much stronger scale but these whilst detectable with specialist equipment halfway round the world any shaking of the grounds will be relatively localised.
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Old 10 Sep 17, 17:00
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Originally Posted by MarkV View Post

No it wouldn't because they would be relatively near the surface. To affect the inter plate tectonics you need to go really deep and we don't have anything like the technology to do that (and maybe never will).
Don't let the Doc confuse you - seismic vibrations are nor earthquakes and oll companies let off small charges all the time to produce them when managing reservoirs, looking for new sources etc etc (as Doc knows all too well) - these are not earthquakes, An underground nuke will produce this on a much stronger scale but these whilst detectable with specialist equipment halfway round the world any shaking of the grounds will be relatively localised.
Maybe you could actually quote whatever I posted that you find confusing.
In its most general sense, the word earthquake is used to describe any seismic event whether natural or caused by humans that generates seismic waves.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake

Firstly, many earthquake faults are quite shallow. This is why wastewater injection wells can trigger earthquakes. Underground nuclear tests have been conducted as deep as 1 km. The San Andreas fault system actually breaches the surface. A large nuclear detonation, even at a shallow depth along the San Andreas could possibly trigger some movement of the fault. However, that would be a relatively minor risk associated with such a nuclear detonation. If the 1971 test in the Aleutian Islands failed to trigger any secondary earthquakes, it's a fairly safe bet that routine nuclear testing is extremely unlikely to trigger earthquakes on any faults within a few km of the detonation.

http://seismo.berkeley.edu/blog/2009...rthquakes.html

Secondly, the vast majority of earthquakes, both natural and man-made, are undetectable by anything other than seismometers (specialist equipment halfway round the world).

Thirdly, explosive charges are not used in fracking or any other method of oil extraction... at least not in the past 50 years. The closest thing to explosives used in wells are the cartridges used in perforation guns... roughly equivalent to .45 ACP. Explosives are still used in some seismic surveys (induced seismicity).

I specifically used the phrase induced seismicity. Humans can cause earthquakes (induced seismicity) by triggering fault movement or setting off explosives. The earthquakes from explosions are very different than fault movement and easily differentiated. Explosives generally don't generate much in the way of S-waves and exhibit evidence of a point source.

Last edited by The Doctor; 11 Sep 17 at 07:51..
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Old 10 Sep 17, 18:54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Persephone View Post
Some say is very well might, some say it's rubbish.

What say you?

As more and more countries developed their own nuclear programs, testing is an unavoidable element of their evolution. Once they created it, they needed to make sure it worked. Majority of the testing took place underground.





Are the earth's tectonic plates able to hold up against over 2,000 underground detonations over the last 70 years?
Totally moot point - a nuclear detonation creates an earthquake of its own, detectable all over the planet. That's we detect underground tests in the first place. Of course, if a 20 MT was set off on the San Andreas Fault one could probably kiss California goodbye.
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Old 11 Sep 17, 05:59
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Totally moot point - a nuclear detonation creates an earthquake of its own, detectable all over the planet. That's we detect underground tests in the first place. Of course, if a 20 MT was set off on the San Andreas Fault one could probably kiss California goodbye.
No it only creates a localised set of tremors. It does create seismic shock waves that specialised equipment can can detect halfway round the world but those are not earthquakes any more than the ones that oil exploration companies create almost daily using conventional explosive are. And it would only start a San Andreas Fault quake if a] it was deep enough and b] pressure had already built up inside the fault over time (you don't get major earthquakes every day) compared to the energy released by a big quake even an H bomb is puny. It might be able to trigger one if one was due. It is fortunate for us humans that big quakes usually have their epicentres really deep down.
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Old 11 Sep 17, 07:23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Persephone View Post
Some say is very well might, some say it's rubbish.

What say you?

As more and more countries developed their own nuclear programs, testing is an unavoidable element of their evolution. Once they created it, they needed to make sure it worked. Majority of the testing took place underground.

Are the earth's tectonic plates able to hold up against over 2,000 underground detonations over the last 70 years?
I like the Mercalli scale because it is a very human, social way of measuring effects that is easily communicable, especially the references to fright, panic, ringing bells and total destruction. Just the sort of thing for internet forums rather than scientific papers and engineering calculations. Anyhow, my wild punt is that the OP's question, relating to testing, would land somewhere between 1 and 3. Nukes just cant move enough confined mass.



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercalli_intensity_scale
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