20 FEBRUARY 1953, Page 3

Atomic Speculations

Although, as we perhaps over-frequently remind ourselves, we live in an Atomic Age, few seem to be clear in their own minds about world trends in the development of nuclear fission.

This week it has been necessary for the 'American President to dispel doubts cast by his predecessor on the progress made by Russian scientists in this field; General Eisenhower quoted a report in .which the Atomic Energy Commission affirmed that the Soviet Union certainly possessed atomic weapons and had detonated a bomb on at least three occasions. A much more intimidating estimate of Russia's capacity for atomic warfare appears to be entertained by America's Civil Defence Adminis- tration, who compute that casualties in a day-time attack, even if warning of its imminence had been received, would average 110,000 a bomb, while the total casualties in such an attack would work out at 11 million. The Administration, who can hardly be accused of wishful thinking, expect that at least one atomic bomb would be delivered on each of the critical target areas" in the United States; these areas com- prise eighty-nine major cities, having nearly half the population of the country. If we leave the realms of science-fiction and come nearer home, some remarks by the C.I.G.S. about the development of atomic weapons for use by, or in support of, land forces are worthy of note. Sir John Harding did not, and indeed could not, go into any detail, but he did reveal that an exercise is to be held in August to study the use of these new weapons, and he added that representatives of the Common- wealth Forces would be invited to attend it.