The Aswan High Dam is destroyed by a nuclear weapon

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Leo euler, Jan 8, 2005.

  1. Leo euler Member

    Aug 5, 2004
    Bit of background: the Aswan High Dam was a dam completed in the sixties by Egypt at the first cataract of the Nile. It is 3.6 km long, almost a km wide at the base, and generates up to 2.1 gigawatts of power (the Hoover Dam has a capacity of 1.3 gigawatts). It's construction created the giant lake upstream, Lake Nasser, which is 175 cubic kilometers. In addition to electricity, the AHD doubled agricultural production in Egypt. There were some negative environmental effects, though.

    Info gathered from:

    I learned an interesting fact yesterday that I hadn't ever thought about. What if the dam were destroyed, leaving Lake Nasser to rush downstream? The answer is that a tidal wave of such magnitude would be created that Egypt would essentially cease to exist as a country. Tens of millions of people would be killed, and untold material damage would be created. It would, basically, be the largest single catastrophe in human existence. In terms of both humans killed and wounded, and property damage, NO natural disaster would rival it. Maybe all the extent of World War II would rival it, but that took six years. Put another way, imagine the devastation of the recent Asian tsunami magnified perhaps 500 times over. This information boggled my mind--after all, only one nuclear weapon would be required to destroy it, but the resulting damage would have the effect of many megatons of nuclear damage, but without the radiation. I don't know what yield the bomb would have to be; maybe an engineer could figure it out. It is, after all, a very long, thick, concrete wall. And then there's the fact that the water a dam holds back can often break even a slightly damaged dam.

    99 percent of Egypt's population lives along the Nile, in an area about 55,000 square kilometers. If we assumed that the waters of Lake Nasser spread only along this area, and the water were distributed evenly, then it would rise to a height of 3.2 meters, roughtly 11 feet or so. More realistically, this wouldn't happen, but even if the water covered an area of three times that amount, the water would still be around a meter high, probably at a speed and height to destroy and kill much in it's past. Of course we have to take into account the fact that the rushing water would be higher near the source and lower farther away, however.

    The possible damage is speculation on my part. A scientist could probably give a much more accurate picture of what would happen; but, for the purposes of this thread, let's assume that Egypt would basically be wiped out. There's also another, smaller, Aswan Low Dam six km downriver. Let's assume that it's either simultaneously destroyed, or destroyed by the rushing water, or bypassed by the rushing water. Also, assume that the water of the Nile contained "within" Lake Nasser is used, and doesn't stay behind like it might.

    Here's the scenario: what if, during the 1967 war, Egypt was winning? What if it got so bad, other countries joined in, and Israel was on the verge of being conquered? As a result of this, they decided to use their trump card and nuke the AHD, causing the results described above. What would have happened?

    Also, what would happen if the dam were instead destroyed by terrorists somehow?

    The dam could obviously be destroyed in the future. That's another scenario we could look at.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2005
  2. BurningWickerman Ceremonial Sacrificial Device

    Dec 11, 2004
    If Isreal did that they would get destroyed anyhow as it would turn everyone into an enemy. They themselves might get nuked. Killing millions of innocent people is something that would assure their destruction in any event but destroying something as iconic as egyptian monuments and thousands of years of history would motivate practically very country of earth in to bitter enemies.
    You would have to have a situation as if they were losing so badly there was a coup and a zionist so fanatical he called for the death of all muslims/gentiles in the world.
  3. Dave Howery laughs at your pain

    Jun 21, 2004
    Cheyenne WY
    did Israel have nukes in '67? The '73 war would be a better POD....
    also, who would nuke Israel in return?
  4. aktarian illegal in 20 states

    Jan 2, 2004
    In your closet/in your head
    Rumours float about couple (up to 5) that were ready in 1967.

    But why would Israelis nuke AHD? What would that achieve? In 1973 Egypt wasn't a threat to Israeli existance. Even if they didn't stop after crossing Suez they would still have to cross entire Sinai to reach Israel. So why bother? And if nukes would be used against Egypt they would be used either against troops on Sinai, Cairo, other cities (with probable exception of Alexandria), then AHD.

    I can see no benefit Israel would get by nuking AHD they would not get by nuking Cairo. Nuking Cairo could be justified, destroying AHD couldn't.
  5. Grimm Reaper Desperate But Not Serious

    In theory if Israel were to do this, it would only be due to the near certainty that they were going to destroyed regardless of their own actions.

    The Aswan Dam was an unmitigated disaster for Egypt. First, the need to finish this prestige project led Nassar to commit himself to the Soviet Bloc for almost 20 years, which did nothing to help Egypt.

    It damaged the hyrdroelectic mills that produced power up and down the Nile in Egypt. In fact, it is debatable as to whether the dam produces as much power as those mills would have today, if unobstructed and modernized.

    It destroyed Egyptian agriculture. By ending the twice yearly floods which renewed the land for millenia, Egypt must now import or otherwise provide vast amounts of chemicals and fertilizers to maintain the land, and the price goes up annually. The new land provided is of questionable use and the costs of keeping the old land producing already run to the billions every year.

    Oh, and then there's that vulnerability thing mentioned. Instead of nukes, imagine Israel, or Libya in the 1980s SEIZING the dam.
  6. MerryPrankster Gone Fishin' Donor

    Jan 10, 2004
    In the novel Lucifer's Hammer, titanic rainstorms resulting from seawater evaporated by oceanic impacts flood the Nile and cause the dam to burst. Essentially the entire Nile Valley and everyone in it is wiped out.

    Seizing the dam--that would enable them to basically hold the entire nation of Egypt hostage if they could rig up enough bombs to blow the thing.

    Setting off a nuclear weapon on the site of the dam (unless its an airburst) would add a buttload of radioactive material to the water that's pouring down the Nile Valley. That might interfere with farming there for years.
  7. Kadyet Banned

    Dec 18, 2004
    People's Republic of California
    Israel wouldn't do it for the same reason that Taiwan won't destroy the Three Gorges Dam. It'll destroy all of their international support and lead to their annihilation.
  8. Leo Caesius Banned

    Feb 17, 2004
    As I understand it, most of the power produced by the dam goes to the bauxite mines in the Arabian Desert, and the rest goes to fertilizer plants.

    The dam has also caused the water table to rise, which has endangered the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and elsewhere. The water seeps through the walls of the tombs, depositing salts and destroying everything on the surface. Also, the delta, home of the most fertile land and much of the population of Egypt, is diminishing in size. Furthermore, the environment of Egypt has changed drastically - it now rains regularly in Cairo, whereas rainfall in ancient Egypt was practically a once-in-a-lifetime event.
  9. Leo euler Member

    Aug 5, 2004
    I agree. Why destroy the whole country when much less would do.

    I also agree that Israel would become an international enemy for that reason. It would be overkill. Although, the threat of doing it is probably beneficial to peace in the region, the same way no one attacks America or Russia under the threat of being nuked into oblivion.

    It's interesting to hear that the agricultural disadvantages of the dam are perhaps even worse than the benefit of it doubling agricultural production. Also, I guess that, due to international trade now, the threat of people going hungry in the event of a famine is not so bad as it was when the AHD and ALDs were being constructed.

    Edit: does anyone know which direction the water would move? Would it spread out in a cone from the direction it came out of the dam, or would it tend to follow the Nile, even though it has many turns?
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2005
  10. Tony Williams Greybeard

    Nov 9, 2004
    Possibly my failing memory is at fault, but I vaguely recollect reading many years ago that Israel had at one time hinted to Egypt that just such a measure might be taken if Egypy joined in another 'annihilation war' against Israel.

    Even if the story were true, it doesn't necessarily mean that they would have done it, of course.

    Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website and Discussion forum
  11. Bill Cameron Banned

    Oct 8, 2004


    A good 'topo' map will hold the answers you need. If anything, that amount of water being released will dig a new channel for the Nile.