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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Nuclear Demolition at the World Trade Center on 9/11 – An Empirical Review

Where Fantastical Stories Collide with Observations

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As another anniversary of 9/11 approaches, a number of fantastical stories about the destruction of the World Trade Center skyscrapers have reappeared across social media. In addition to the fantastical story about there being no planes Impacting the Twin Towers (ref1, ref2 and ref3), another fantastical story that frequently appears involves the use of nuclear detonations to destroy the Twin Towers. The purported evidence for this is the high rate of cancer deaths among first responders and the presence of specific atomic elements that are asserted to be “markers” for a highly radioactive event (e.g. atomic elements that are asserted to be nuclear-detonation related). However, none of the fantastical scenarios that have been put forward for nuclear detonations have any supporting evidence.

For those who would like detailed analysis, Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth has posted a comprehensive response in their answer to Frequently Asked Question #13,

FAQ #13: Various authors claim that nuclear blasts caused or contributed to the WTC destruction. Why does AE911Truth not endorse this claim?

An expanded version of FAQ #13 contains all the references, examples, and explanations in a single 29 page document.

Nuclear Detonations

Nuclear detonations at the World Trade Center would leave some very significant evidentiary signatures. Assuming that the nuclear devices were above ground and contributed to a significant amount of the damage, the audio record documented in many videos of the destruction would contain sounds of these detonations. However, the audio record does not contain sounds of any large detonations. Another competing, and mutually exclusive, story is based on subterranean nuclear detonations. Subterranean detonation would need to be centered directly under each of the Twin Towers in the vicinity of the connections of the core columns to the bedrock. Such a detonation in this area of the structure would have resulted in the significant damage to the core columns. No such damage was observed.

Some of the claims that the destruction of the World Trade Center skyscrapers was a nuclear event are based on the presence of atomic elements such as barium, strontium, thorium, uranium, lithium, lanthanum, yttrium, chromium and tritium (an isotope of hydrogen).  An earlier article – Review of Atomic Elements Found at the World Trade Center – discussed the validity of these claims.

“Silent Nukes”

A nuclear detonation creates three types of damage: heat, radiation and blast damage via a large over-pressure wave. A nuclear explosion creates a huge over-pressure wave that would be very loud, distinct and captured in the audio record of the many videos of the towers being destroyed. There were recordings from many independent audio recordings with numerous microphone technologies that documented the sounds of the destruction of the Twin Towers and no really big "BOOMs" are apparent. Even "tiny" nuclear detonations would create really, really, really loud BOOMs – with a distinct BOOM for each "tiny" above-ground nuclear detonation.

The destruction via a large over-pressure blast wave from a nuclear detonation is what was asserted to have created the observed damage. A nuclear detonation that was “quiet”  or "inaudible" is inconsistent with the asserted mechanism of destruction.

For example, both a nuclear detonation and a lightning strike create over-pressure blast waves. These over-pressure blast waves are the supersonic source of the acoustic "BOOM" that both originating mechanisms would produce. An over-pressure blast wave is dissipated as the volume of the blast wave expands and eventually becomes sub-sonic.  Once sub-sonic, the acoustic sound of the explosion travels at the speed of sound.  While this sound is not the structure-destroying blast wave, it is the clearly identifiable remnant that would be heard as a distinct BOOM by witnesses and captured in audio recording devices.

The following table of loud sounds (measured in decibels or dB) from the "Ultimate Sound Pressure Level Decibel Table," provides a basis for comparison. As a point of reference, a nearby lightning strike on land is said to be in the neighborhood of 165 dB.  In the estimated sound level comparisons provided below, the approximate equivalence sound level of a "tiny" 10-ton-of TNT equivalent nuclear explosion would be comparable to (a minimum of) 10 simultaneous lightning strikes.

 {tabulizer:include style[gr.alterora.elemental_2_grey.css] id[tab_4JsTvwMx9Z]}

Sound Level Initiating Event
175.8 dB 1 TON T.N.T. AT 250 FEET
180 dB 1 POUND T.N.T. AT 15 FEET
182 dB 1 TON T.N.T AT 150 FEET, EXACTLY 182.2 DB
187 dB 1 TON T.N.T. AT 100 FEET, EXACTLY 186.8 DB
195.2 dB 1 TON T.N.T. AT 60 FEET
210.6 dB 1 TON OF T.N.T. and a 23.40 foot crater
230.59 dB 1000 TONS OF T.N.T.

No audio recordings exist with distinct booms during the destruction of the Twin Towers. The booms that are in the audio record precede the observed floor-by-floor dismemberment, but do not occur during the dismemberment.

Brilliant Flash

Nuclear detonations produce such an intense brilliant flash that anyone in lower Manhattan looking directly at the detonating nuclear bomb, even one as small as a 10 to 20 ton equivalent of TNT nuclear bomb (e.g., an M388) would have blinded people looking directly at the explosion and would have given all others an experience they would never forget.

If even one nuclear device were detonated at the World Trade Center Complex, even if the light only escaped out of small openings in the building, it would still have been so brilliant that it would have been the most memorable aspect of the destruction that took place on that day. But not one person said anything about seeing an intensely brilliant flash.

Subterranean Nuclear Devices

With the above-ground nuclear detonations easily shown to be a fantastical story due to the absence of either sounds of large "BOOMs" or flashes of light, the remaining story that circulates involves subterranean or sub-basement level nuclear detonations.

Different versions of the story exist because there is no physical evidence for any of the subterranean nuclear device theories. As with other events of 9/11, where alternative theories compete without any link to physical evidence, different, mutually exclusive versions of the story propagate.

In the version of this story described in Figure 1, the nuclear device is planted underneath the core columns and the shock wave from the nuclear detonation travels upward, toward the area of the hat truss at the top of the tower, but does not have enough energy to launch the roof (and/or antenna in the case of the North Tower) upwards. Upon reaching the top of the building, the shock wave is then reflected downward and is said to contain sufficient energy to then dismember the Twin Towers floor-by-floor. It does this dismemberment at the leisurely rate-of-speed (for a blast wave) over the 10 -12 seconds recorded in the videos.  We have this assertion that accompanies Figure 1:

"In reality, however, the nukes would have been placed in the freight elevator service pits, which were sunk at least several stories deep in the bedrock. The bedrock would have contained the blast sideways and projected the plasma beam upwards into the elevator banks. None of it would have been visible from the outside of the buildings. The directed blast effect also explains the apparent top-down collapse of the towers."

Nuc SubterraneanDetonation 2a00f tnFigure 1: Commonly used illustration showing the placement of the nuclear devices below the core columns / elevator shafts.


There is significant counterfactual evidence that makes the subterranean nuclear demolition story not only improbable, but impossible.

First, the base of the building's core was not destroyed. In the case of the North Tower, the core columns remained standing for a dozen seconds before eventually giving-way.

Nuc NorthTowerCoreColumns f51f5Figure 2: Images of the destruction of the North Tower showing the core columns standing after the perimeter columns and floors were propelled away from the core. Photo by Detective Greg Semendinger (NYPD) As shown in Figure 2, the North Tower core columns remained standing after the rest of the Tower was destroyed around it.   A blast directed upward through the elevator area would have done the most damage to the core columns in the lower floors and less to the upper floors. This would have distorted the alignment of the columns and eliminated their ability to provide vertical support, which would have caused the core to collapse before the perimeter columns.  The collapsing core would descend, pulling in all the outer perimeter walls in a mechanism of damage, similar to what was observed during the destruction of the WTC 7.

Second, there were no blast craters observed during the clean-up in the area where the core columns are located (NOTE: a large deep hole in the bedrock was observed in a distant corner of the WTC complex that is far from the either tower, but is frequently associated with a nuclear detonation story).

Nuc 9 11 WTC Incident Site Clean Up annotated 23a34 tnFigure 3: Photo taken during the clean-up showing the intact core columns 100 feet above the nuclear detonation asserted in the story.The area identified by a red circle in Figure 3 is approximately 100 feet above the location where the subterranean nuclear detonation, according to the story, would have been located.  As seen by the intact structure of the core columns in this area, no evidence of a nuclear-detonation crater or blast damage can be seen.    

Third, there were survivors within the core columns of the North Tower that would have been severely injured by radiation and physical dismemberment if a nuclear detonation occurred a few floors below them. This was described in an earlier article The Most Compelling 9/11 Story, The Miracle of Ladder 6.

Nuc Survivor Stairwell Miraclec 04072 tnFigure 4: Location of the survivors in the fourth floor stairwell, just 150 feet above the location where the story asserts that a nuclear detonation occurred.

The standing structure shown in Figure 4 is the highest remaining core column section of the North Tower.  It was taken during the early phase of the clean-up.  This photo shows the stairwell where thirteen members of FDNY Ladder 6 and others were trapped when the North Tower was destroyed.  The stairs are clearly seen zig-zagging down between floors.  The light colored area behind the stairs appears to be the inside of the elevator doors.

This structure was removed during the clean-up and the area without the stairwell can be seen in Figure 3.

Atomic Elements

In the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11, the USGS took samples of the dust and analyzed them for the presence of various elements. The results included elements that some people consider exotic, and the presence of those elements was asserted by those people to be ominous. Furthermore, they claim the presence of elements in the dust, such as uranium and thorium among other elements, “shouldn’t be there.” They conclude that the presence of these elements substantiates a nuclear demolition hypothesis. The following ominous statements have been circulated (with a comment added from the earlier referenced article):

  • Barium and Strontium: Neither of these elements should ever appear in building debris in these quantities. The levels never fall below 400 ppm for Barium and they never drop below 700 ppm for Strontium and reach over 3000 ppm for both in the dust sample taken at Broadway and John Streets.[Basis for this statement is incorrect]
  • Thorium and Uranium: These elements only exist in radioactive form. Thorium is a radioactive element formed from Uranium by decay. It’s very rare and should not be present in building rubble, ever. So once again we have verifiable evidence that a nuclear fission event has taken place.[Statement is wrong]
  • Lithium: With the presence of lithium we have compelling evidence that this fission pathway of Uranium to Thorium and Helium, with subsequent decay of the Helium into Lithium has taken place.[Statement is wrong]
  • Lanthanum: Lanthanum is the next element in the disintegration pathway of the element Barium.[Statement is wrong]
  • Yttrium: The next decay element after Strontium, which further confirms the presence of Barium.[Statement is wrong]
  • Chromium: The presence of Chromium is one more “tell-tale” signature of a nuclear detonation.[Statement is wrong]
  • Tritium: A very rare element that should not be found at concentrations 55 times normal in the basement of WTC-6 no less than 11 days after 9/11, which is another tell-tale sign of nukes.[Statement is wrong]

More information on atomic elements at the World Trade Center can be seen in Review of Atomic Elements Found at the World Trade Center.


One of the elements that was studied during the early phase of the clean-up was the isotope of hydrogen, tritium. The study was performed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and was documented in their report, Elevated tritium levels at the World Trade Center (LBNL et al, 5/14/2002) The purpose of the study was to investigate the release of tritium from manufactured devices located in the World Trade Center complex. Tritium is manufactured for various purposes such as watch dials, exit signs, night-vision scopes. There were reported to be dozens of night vision scopes in the WTC complex, with most of these in the US Customs Building, WTC 6.

In the basement of WTC 6, one sample was found to contain 3,530 pC per liter. Excluding WTC 6 basement and sewer samples, the highest value was 210 pC per liter from the surrounding area around Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. A violent dispersion would have contaminated large areas with high levels of tritium – not just the tritium in the WTC 6 basement. A few geographically co-located samples within WTC 6 are indicative of a local source of contamination. Furthermore, it is known that even deep underground nuclear tests will create very high levels of tritium at the surface.  No similar dispersion was observed around the World Trade Center Complex.

The levels of tritium that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) considers to be problematic are above 600,000 pC per liter. These are the concentrations that were observed at the Indian Point Nuclear Station 20 mile upstream from the WTC on the Hudson River. The Indian Point Nuclear Plant had tritium events in 2000, 2001 and other years, with the highest recorded tritium levels in the test wells measured at 600,000 pC per liter. While these tritium levels at Indian Point are indicative of a problem, they are over two orders of magnitude greater than the highest WTC 6 reading.

Health Effects / Cancers

It has been asserted by those who promote the nuclear demolition story that there are many thyroid cancers, and that any elevated levels of thyroid cancer proves that 9/11 was a nuclear event.  However, The Never Forget Project  provides some data and notes that academics and air pollution experts have described the dust from the collapsed towers as "wildly toxic." The dust from the Towers was reportedly comprised of more than 2,500 contaminants including glass, lead and mercury.

During the clean-up, fires continued to burn during the rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero.  Workers were exposed to carcinogenic chemicals like asbestos and many other toxins.  Studies have shown that those exposed to World Trade Center dust were more likely to develop lung problems, respiratory symptoms, sinus problems or asthma. The World Trade Center Health Program also recognizes certain mental health conditions, digestive disorders, musculoskeletal disorders and cancers as being related to 9/11.

An FDNY study found that nearly 9,000 firefighters who were exposed to the 9/11 dust may be at greater risk for cancer than those who were not exposed, and the city’s World Trade Center Registry found small increases in the rates of prostate cancer, thyroid cancer and the blood cancer multiple myeloma among nearly 34,000 rescue and recovery workers, compared to New York State residents.

The link between the long term health outcomes of many first responders – including cancers – is not clearly linked to radiation exposure. 

As a point of reference, documented cases of acute radiation sickness in the immediate aftermath (days and weeks) after 9/11 have not been reported.   


This empirical review of the evidence regarding the story of nuclear detonations at the World Trade Center on 9/11 shows that there is nothing to support the story, and significant contrary evidence to refute the assertion.  This review includes the following:

  • Lack of loud BOOMs that would have accompanied an above ground detonation were not captured in the audio recordings or witness statements,
  • Lack of bright flashes that would have accompanied an above-ground detonation were not captured in the video recordings or witness statements,
  • Lack of craters or damage to core columns at the center of the footprint of the Twin Towers precludes the presence of subterranean nuclear detonations,
  • Lack of data about the presence of atomic isotopes associated with a nuclear detonations,
  • Assertions of atomic elements, found in the WTC dust, that should never be in building debris was shown to be based on faulty assumptions,
  • Tritium levels, outside the samples taken within the basement of WTC 6, are within the range of background tritium levels,
  • Lack of reported death and illness due to radiation poisoning in the immediate aftermath of 9/11,
  • Long-term health effects among first responders and clean-up crews, especially cancer-related illnesses point to many other environmental hazards as potential disease initiators.

With the lack of any supportable evidence for nuclear detonations – and the presence of significant contra-factual evidence – the story of nuclear detonations destroying the World Trade Center on 9/11 are indeed fantastical stories that do not even rise to the level of a credible hypothesis.

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