Many people believe that it is useless to attempt to survive an all-out nuclear strike because the blast will presumably kill everyone and turn the earth into a radioactive wasteland.
That is simply not true.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) states that in one week the radioactivity will retain only 10% of its radioactive strength.
Two weeks following the detonation, the radioactive fallout retains only 1% of its radioactivity.
The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have shown that survivors of nuclear radiation may only have an increased cancer risk of 15%.
Depending on your proximity to the blast and if you are downwind of it, it should be safe in as little as two weeks to begin going outdoors for an hour each day.
As more days pass, you could gradually spend more time outside.
Pregnant women and small children would need to remain sheltered for longer periods of time, and would especially need to avoid exposure to rain, since it will continue to wash radioactive particles out of the atmosphere for several months after the blast.
Generally speaking, the inhalation of fallout particles should not be one of our greatest concerns, since only the smallest fallout particles are small enough to be inhaled.
Since these tend to stay in the stratosphere longer, these tiny particles have lost much of their lethal dosage through radioactive decay by the time they reach the earth.
Radiation dosage would be increased on rainy days as radioactive particles still suspended high in the atmosphere are brought to the ground, but a greater concern would be exposure to gamma rays and beta particles in the initial hours after the explosion.
The amount of radiation a body receives is expressed in terms of exposure and dose.
Different materials that receive the same exposure may not absorb the same amount of energy from the radiation, so a radiation absorbed dose, or rad, measures the amount of energy which a particular object absorbs, typically a human body.
A rem, or roentgen equivalent man, is the amount of radiation required to produce the same biological effect as one rad of high-penetration radiation, such as gamma rays.
With gamma and beta radiation, one rad of exposure results in one rem of dose.
The roentgen is an obsolete term which refers to the amount of radiation exposure equal to the quantity of ionizing radiation that will produce one electrostatic unit of electricity in one cubic centimeter of dry air at 0°C and standard atmospheric pressure.
The International System unit for radiation absorbed dose is the gray (Gy).
A gray is the absorption of one joule of radiation by one kilogram of tissue.
- One gray equals 100 rad.
- One sievert (Sv) equals 100 rem,
- and one gray equals one sievert in whole body exposure.
In a healthy adult it takes a dose of 100-200 rem of radiation within a short period of time to produce radiation sickness.
The symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hair loss
- Abdominal pain
- Skin burns and blisters.
400-500 rem within a few days is fatal. If a group of people were exposed to 400 rem over a short period of time, approximately half of them would die.
Ionizing radiation associated with a nuclear explosion has a greater effect on the cells in the body that actively divide: specifically the hair, intestines, bone marrow, and reproductive organs.
Symptoms of radiation poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin discoloration, and hair loss.
Radiation is often linked to leukemia, various types of cancer, infertility, and birth defects. This occurs because the ionizing radiation damages the DNA within the cells, and therefore their ability to control their rate of division. If the DNA damage occurs in the cells of the reproductive organs, these genetic mutations can be passed on to offspring.
There is also a theory that the dust clouds from fallout and the smoke from bomb-initiated fires could block the sun’s rays from the earth, ushering in a “nuclear winter.”
Since this period of darkness and sub-freezing temperatures would presumably last for several months or even years, plants would eventually die, farm animals would die of starvation, and very few people would survive.
This myth was first purveyed on the public in 1982 by scientists such as Carl Sagan and was very useful in frightening the public into believing that it is absolutely useless to prepare to survive a nuclear strike.
The nuclear winter myth has since been refuted by such noted scientists as Starley L. Thompson and Stephen H. Schneider, authors of “Nuclear Winter Reappraised.”
Both of these fatalistic misconceptions held by some Americans are in sharp contrast to the attitudes of most foreign governments, some of which are continuing to make active preparations for surviving nuclear warfare.
Even the former Soviet Union is reported to have over 350 metric tons of grain stored securely in nuclear fallout shelters, most of which was purchased from the United States.
Milk & Steaks
Cows that live in fallout areas would produce iodine-contaminated milk from ingesting fallout-laden grass and water, so it should not be consumed for at least a month.
These animals would become ill and should not be eaten, but animals which appear unaffected in low fallout areas should be safe to eat.
The time after an EMP is not the time to eat your steak cooked medium rare. All meat in this situation should be thoroughly cooked all the way through.
Mammal organs and clams should not be eaten in radioactive areas because they will have a higher concentration of the contaminants.
Food and water that are exposed to fallout may be salvageable.
- Carefully clean the fallout off the sealed containers and the food inside will be fine for consumption.
- Fruits and vegetables can be washed thoroughly and peeled, making the slightly contaminated items safe to eat.
- Water in covered reservoirs such as cisterns would be safe to drink. In fact, any food or water that is covered and dust-free should be considered safe to use.
Nuclear attack aftermath
Even though it would be possible to survive a thermonuclear strike, it would be a grim existence for a while.
Farmers would be unable to get fuel, fertilizer, repair parts for machinery, and other critical farming supplies.
They would be unable to gather the crops in the field, or to plant new ones. Even if they could, there would be no transportation system to take the food to the cities.
Food would rot on the vine as people in the urban areas starve.
Since a nuclear strike would target most major cities, most of our nation’s medical personnel and supplies would be lost within a matter of seconds.
As the drugs and food run out, riots and civil unrest would quickly follow, regardless of the radioactivity.
Sanitation and water systems, left unattended, would promptly fail, causing diseases which would spread at alarming speed.
Another less severe scenario that escapes most of our attention is the radiation fallout the United States would receive in the event of a nuclear war overseas that did not involve us.
We have already received barely perceptible fallout on several occasions from nuclear testing performed by the Chinese and the Soviets.
If an all-out nuclear war were fought in the Middle East or Asia, some of the fallout would certainly reach us across the Pacific Ocean on the prevailing west-to-east winds.
This fallout would be enough to render milk in the US unsafe to drink, devastating the dairy industry. This is only one example of the catastrophic economic consequences in the US.
The economic impact would unfortunately be compounded by the general public’s complete lack of preparation for the shortages which would be inevitable.