How To Survive A Nuclear Attack, According To Science

Don't look at the light! matrioshka/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 11 Jun 2017, 21:10

Nuclear weapons stories are incredibly popular right about now, and you don’t get any points for guessing why.

It’s safe to say that if one nuke is dropped on your city, or even if every single nuke in the world goes off at the same time, then there’s a very small chance that you’ll survive. It’s not impossible, however, so we thought we’d let you know what to do in the event of a thermonuclear blast in order to maximize your chance of living.

First, a brief reminder of what a nuclear blast consists of. Let’s once again go with the B83, one of the most powerful weapons in America’s nuclear arsenal. It’s equivalent to 79 Hiroshima “Little Boy” atomic bombs’ worth of energy – 5 quadrillion joules of energy. All that energy’s got to go somewhere, and it’ll unfortunately be heading in your general direction almost regardless of where you are standing or cowering.

Let’s assume, for the sake of simplicity, that it detonates at the surface (an air blast has slightly different characteristics, including a stronger shock wave and a larger thermal radiation coverage). The nuclear fission reaction will spiral out of control and you’ll get a near-immediate fireball – one that uses 50 percent of the detonation’s energy – that will be 83.3 million degrees Celsius (150 million degrees Fahrenheit) at its core. Get caught in this, and you'll sublimate straight from a solid to a gas.

Accompanying thermal radiation – another 35 percent of the total energy – will spread out over an area of 420 square kilometers (162 square miles) at the very least, according to NukeMap, and give everyone third-degree burns.

Your nerve endings will be vaporized, but not before a huge pressure wave will rocket outwards, compress, and crush your internal organs, and flatten any building within a 17-square-kilometer (6.5-square-mile) area.

You’ll also get pretty heavily irradiated, of course. Without wind, an area of just under 21 square kilometers (8 square miles) will see up to 90 percent of the population in it die from radiation sickness.

A test at Camp Desert Rock in Nevada, US Army

So what the hell can you do to survive all this? Well, first thing’s first: be prepared. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, you need to organize your nearest and dearest. Inform them all of the evacuation routes and pick several spots on the outskirts of the city where you can all meet up afterward.

Build up your disaster supply cache too – plenty of bottled water, plenty of thermal blankets, canned food, a radio, and medical supplies, particularly if anyone has a long-term medical condition. If you are lucky enough to have a reinforced cellar or basement, make sure it’s easy to access at all times and is fully stocked.

Yes, we know – this sounds a lot like the conspiracy crackpots who think the world is about to end soon. But, just in case Trump’s ego gets the best of him, this is what you’ll need to do.

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