How Far Away Can You Survive a Nuclear Blast?

Minor first-degree burns can occur up to 11 km (6.8 miles) away, and third-degree burns, which destroy and blister skin tissue, can affect anyone up to 8 km (5 miles) away. Third-degree burns that cover more than 24 percent of the body would likely be fatal if people don't get medical care right away. Nuclear explosions are among the most powerful and catastrophic events our species has ever witnessed. Apart from natural disasters, such as asteroid impacts, volcanic explosions, earthquakes and tsunamis, few things come close to the destructive potential of a nuclear explosion.

The consequences of a nuclear explosion can devastate large areas around the detonation point and far beyond. It starts with a brighter flash than the sun. Trees, fences and people immediately catch fire. The only reason you survive is because you run inside and dive into the cast-iron tub just as the shock wave hits.

You bump into your crooked front door and look into the burning ruins of your neighborhood. Deadly fallout is on its way. Should you stay in your wobbly house or run across town to the public library to take refuge in its basement? A New Mathematical Model May Have the Answer. The model is the brainchild of Michael Dillon, an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. He began exploring the topic about 5 years ago after the U.

S. government called for more research on nuclear shelters. Curious about his work, his family asked him what they should do if they saw a mushroom-shaped cloud. “I realized that I really didn't have a great answer,” he says. The government's advice is to take refuge in the nearest and most protective building.

For most people, that would be the basement of their house. But, Dillon says, there aren't many basements in California that offer little protection from rain. For such people, official recommendations suggest an early transit to find a better shelter, ideally one with thick layers of concrete over the head and plenty of food and water. But if you spend too much time outside in the rain, you're lost. Lawrence Wein, research scientist in operations at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California disagrees with these conclusions.

He believes it fails to account for several important issues that are of vital importance to policy recommendations. Anyone heading to the apocalyptic wasteland will have no idea how long the transit time will actually last. Because of this uncertainty, he says, U. government's recommendation is to take refuge for at least 12 hours after the explosion. Wein is also concerned with the problem of collective behavior.

After the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, a few thousand people were ordered to evacuate and nearly 200,000 people took to the streets. The model assumes that you have each person on the strings of the puppets and you can dictate their actions. This is simply not going to be the case in the aftermath. But that criticism doesn't reach the point, says C. Norman Coleman, U.

Public Health Researcher at National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. As someone who works with government and state and local planners, we found models extraordinarily useful to help us develop concepts of operations, he says, noting that this is his personal opinion and not an official U. S. For example, knowing how long you have the opportunity for people to get to a better shelter can help classify evacuation plans. At the very least, Coleman says, Dillon's model reveals what can be done and what isn't likely to be useful.

Essentially, it's best to avoid countries with access to nuclear weapons and those that participate in nuclear agreements. For survivors of a nuclear war, this persistent radiation hazard could pose a serious threat for a period of 1 to 5 years after the attack. This marked the beginning of a frightening new era known as the Atomic Age, and the threat of nuclear weapons never disappeared. If we've learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic it's that we can't wait for a crisis to respond.

Science and AAAS work tirelessly to provide credible evidence-based information on the latest scientific research and policy with extensive free coverage of the pandemic. Your tax-deductible contribution plays a critical role in maintaining this effort. The 1963 Limited Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty ended atmospheric testing for The United States, Great Britain and The Soviet Union but two major non-signatories France and China continued nuclear testing at a rate of approximately 5 megatons per year.

Bradford Tutwiler
Bradford Tutwiler

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