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  1. Everything your article about nuclear war is true except distance from targets. The distance from “targets” needs to be account for the air blasts targeting by Russian submarine missiles around nuclear bomber bases. That would be the distance the bombers can fly away from the base after missile launch. I enjoyed your article and intend to start reading your Blog. I will probably contribute to your expenses but will wait until I have read a couple of more articles.

    1. The nuclear blast will produce the alpha and beta particles and the gamma rays. Alpha and beta are actually particles expelled from the atom of nuclear explosive material (uranium or plutonium).

    2. Jerry,

      For a 1 megaton device a lethal does of radiation from the blast would travel out to about 2.3 kilometers from the blast. For a 20 Megaton it would be about 4.7 km.

    1. In general “The 7:10 Rule of Thumb states that for every 7-fold increase in time after detonation, there is a 10-fold decrease in the exposure rate. In other words, when the amount of time is multiplied by 7, the exposure rate is divided by 10. For example, let’s say that 2 hours after detonation the exposure rate is 400 R/hr. After 14 hours, the exposure rate will be 1/10 as much, or 40 R/hr.”

      So it depends on the initial radiation, whether or not there are multiple attacks, distance from radiation source and if there are hot spots in your area. Time is your friend but it still may not save you.

      What really matters is the first few minutes, then the first few hours and then the first few days. If you are caught outside in the first few minutes you may absorb a radiation dose that will kill you no matter what happens next. The same is true for the first few hours or days with a lower background radiation. And you may not know what the initial or ongoing background radiation is. Bottom line is if you aren’t in a shelter when the blast occurs or get to one very quickly your chances of avoiding radiation poisoning are very slim.

      A very good number is 49 days in a shelter. But again it depends on circumstances you cannot absolutely know before hand AND that you may not be aware of after the attack.

      One of the random problems that will be hard to plan for is after the first (few) nukes go off all subsequent nukes may miss their intended target by yards to many miles. It is quite possible that a nuke intended for Colorado Springs will hit somewhere in Arkansas far from a legitimate target. Another problem is weather and the “weather” caused by nuclear explosions. Rain will bring down the fallout instead of allowing it to spread far and wide. Winds which are normally from the West can change and make your safe location glow in the dark.

      Best advice is to prepare for the worst, i.e. a fallout shelter that you and your family can live in for 49 days and be close to it when the SHTF.

  2. 3ADScout,
    I don’t dispute that we can survive a nuclear exchange by sheltering and living off of stored supplies but these will eventually be exhausted and we will have to forage/raise food in order to go on. Mankind depends on the birds, insects ect. to help pollinate our crops. The organisms that live in our soil that contribute to keeping it rich enough to grow crops. What will the radiation do to our livestock, and other wildlife? They have no shelter from this radiation and will suffer terribly. Also it’s not just enough to have a good shelter we also need extremely good air filtration in order the keep from inhaling the radioactive dust and from ingesting it into our digestive track. I read the book ‘Killing Our Own’, which by the way can be found on the web as a free PDF download, and in it was told the story of our service men who went into Hiroshima and Nagasaki as soon as our experts told them it was safe to do so. Many were permanently injured from ingesting radioactive dust from the clean up operations and just day to day activities. Many of these men suffered for the next 30 to 35 years until they died, and many died a premature death, and the veterans administration stone walled them according to the story in the book.
    Yes, we can survive but it will be a miserable experience because of the extreme privations on daily life and the measures we will have to go to in order to live. As you mentioned you visited the Nevada test site and there were still area’s that were dangerous and if you had stirred up some dust you would have put yourself and others in your party at risk if you were not wearing one of those moon suits.
    I believe we the Chinese and the Russians realize this and know that nuclear war is looser for all involved. Life for everyone on the Earth will forever be changed.
    Looking forward to your next installments

    1. James,

      Pinpointing the exact impacts of ionizing radiation on DNA is not an exact science in that you can not reproduce the same results each time. So whether a “mutation” occurrs is not a given. A mutation also might take generations to materialize. Not trying to say that a post-nuclear war world will be a bed of roses but it is also far from zombie land too. There are chemicals in our environment that impact our DNA as well we don’t throw up our hands and give up but we take precauctions to limit our exposure to them, that is exactly what we should plan for post nuclear war. How radiation from nuclear war will impact wildlife is conjecture. We know that wildlife had been impacted by Chernobyl but it (wildlife) still exist. Earth is very resilient, we have examples just in my short lifetime like The Exxon Valdes, The BP new Herizon oil spill, Chernobyl and Fukushima all these events were said (at the time) to be doom and gloom events but they haven’t lived up to that bill. Look at how the earth recovers from volcanic eruptions. We adapt to our environments, always have, always will. Global Warm, Ice Age whatever, we are still here.

      As for our Service men being exposed to radiation from nuclear test, I absolutely believe that our government full well new that there could be impacts to that exposure. Sad to say.

  3. One quibble. For folks living near one of the American hardened targets, the Russians would likely use a SS-18 with 20 MT warhead to ensure the kill. A hardened target includes missile silos, command bunkers, etc. So the folks in Colorado Springs, SAC Headquarters in Omaha, and the Federal Relocation Arc around DC, would need to be prepared for the blast effects and increased fallout pattern from a large ground burst. Such a burst would distribute fallout in a plume about 150 miles long and twenty to thirty miles wide, running EastNorthEast to Northeast from Ground Zero.

    1. OldParatrooper,

      Yes good point about hardened targets. Those will be ground bursts which will generate the vast majority of the fallout. From what I understand the newer nuclear weapons designs are “cleaner” as they produc little fallout if they are set off as an air burst. I suggest that everyone know how the Jetstream moves in their area and what is upwind from your area. I live in the northern part of the Ohio valley and am planning that the jet stream will pick up fallout from the blast in several large cities, military bases and many missile silos.

  4. Gamma at the time of the blast. Alpha and Beta particles are the fallout danger. Air conditioner filters would be Very Good Things.

    A nuke plant engineer told me of their rule of thumb: Induced radiation in steel has a half-life of about seven or eight years. After seven or so half-lives, the radiation level will have dropped to a background-count level. So, roughly a half-century of radiation hazard is possible in the blast zone. I assume that steel was removed from the blast zones of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, since those cities have been rebuilt.

    1. Desertrat,

      I was just thinking about Furnace filters this weekend. We recently had an addition put onto our BOL, complete with a new basement under the addition. When the contractor put the addition on I noticed that I have open spaces between the floor joist that are inbetween the basement rooms. I was thinking of stuffing or stapling furnace filter material between the floor joist so that we can still have air exchange but keep any “dust” out. Will be looking to see if the 3M filters are closer to an N95 type material.

  5. I hope that 3ADscout or someone will address the issue of above ground structures for we folks who live where the water table is too high. The suggestions I’ve seen online
    are way too expensive for people on a tight budget. Any advice please?

    1. Boxes of books, stacked three feet in thickness, according to Dean Inge, will block most radiation. That doesn’t take care of the ceiling, unless the ceiling is sturdy enough to place a three foot thick layer of book boxes on top of it. You could reinforce the rafters if necessary.

      This is a nice solution because you can hide it in plain sight with no one commenting on anything other than your fondness for reading. And it is cheap.

      I think the title of his book was Making It, but am not certain.

  6. Hmm, interesting article. but something has been on my mind for a quite awhile, what would happen if someone were to drop a-bomb on the yellowstone caldera. Hmm, either way, it still would be a quite a mess.

  7. 3ADScout
    Looking forward to your next 2 installments on this matter, I too have questions on gamma rays that i have not fully understood yet myself. I live in the redoubt approximately 100 miles south of the 45th parallel where the snake river divides the states and from the studying i have done it appears to me that my greatest concern would be from TPF (from Cresson Kearny’s book NWSS) and that is taking into consideration that i would be at least 100-150 miles from a targeted area.
    Having been in the construction trades throughout my career my thoughts on shielding from gamma rays would be to construct a basement room using sheet lead like one would do when containing x-rays like in a hospital lab. I just don’t know if 1/16″ thick lead would be thick enough,depending on distance from blast, gamma ray travel etc. Perhaps you or someone else with greater knowledge than myself could speak on the travel of gamma rays and how much shielding one would need for protection.

    1. Lead is EXPENSIVE. Unless space is at an absolute premium, then you are better off using bricks (mostly for retrofit) or poured concrete (for new construction.) Enough of either will give you the same halving thickness of that lead.

  8. So far very interesting. It reinforces what I learned while in the Army in the 60’s and 70’s. I hope you will do a follow up on the many questions that will be asked if they are not covered in the next instalments.

  9. I enjoyed your analysis of the effects of radiation.
    I would also like to know your opinion on the economic damage of just one nuclear weapon would have on the US. Let’s say it takes out New York City.

  10. A lot of the questions you all have about fallout and blast radii are explained in a link on the Survival Blog. Open up: ” The Good News about Nuclear Destruction.” Good, accurate information. A few comments, Russian missile accuracy is currently as good as ours. They have bigger missiles because they pack more warheads on to each (MIRVs). Most targets will get multiple warheads in the high kiloton range rather than one big megaton weapon. Both sides figured out long ago that this was more efficient. Currently, the New Start treaty limits each side to about 1500 warheads rather than the tens of thousands that were deployed during the peak of the cold war. With the majority of these targeting each others missile and military bases, some of us might have a chance! However, there is a a good chance that this treaty may go the way of the INF and other treaties the US has walked away from in recent years.

  11. Good article reinforcing what I have learned and studied about RADEF ( radiological defense ) over the years. Really the basics, RAD 101. They concern over a full scale nuclear exchange is probably not likely. Any rational and sane leader in either the US, Russia or China would not risk the use of nukes over fear of destructive retaliation. Note I said rational. Islamic terrorists and other fanatical types would not hesitate to use nukes if they felt if further their ends. So that is where I feel the nuke thing could go. Or the minor players like Pakistan/India, Iran, possibly Rocketman in the PRK. Best take any reasonable precautions nonetheless. I have.

  12. Thank you Scout for this very interesting topic. I spoke with some people experienced in cleanup of Nuke engines, and they have some interesting observations I learned from.

    Regarding radiation, when I lived in northern Wyoming, a few old timers gave me graphic details about how their geiger counters detected fallout of a large surface nuke test from Utah.

    Where I worked along the Powder River, there were several active uranium mines, and a yellowcake mill. Smoker employees were cautioned that lung cancer was probable just from working there. No detonation required.

    For those of you who plan on basement shelters: testing for radon gas, are you?

    I’m in an irrigation district, and think an ‘above ground’ earthen bermed bunker may be a good solution. I love having irrigation water filling our soils, so will forgo a basement.

    I’m going to start pushing for our county to make sure a volunteer hazmat team exists, and can do radiological monitoring. Thanks for including that comment in the article. I hadn’t thought of it, and we have an extremely active CERT group here.

    God Bless

  13. This is very interesting, I live in western Montana and there are not a lot of targets around here, but the fallout from upwind is a concern. Looking forward to the next 2 posts.

    Of course EMP surges to my solar and electrical systems are a great concern also, I have 2 layers of these added to my electrical


    They make them to cover your AC and AD, I now have 4 installed and another 2 ready to backup the origional 4, If I can save my inverter and charge controller, my life will be very easy

  14. I am not a believer in destructive retaliation anymore. Some in the Atlantic
    Council argue that a US first strike is winnable. Some Russians argue the same point.

    I suspect and fear that as we keep pushing the Russian bear into a corner they will hit us very hard in short order with the Chinese piling on and taking out US Western related targets in their area (Japan, and Australia et all).

    The Russians have a robust shelter system that they put money into every year. They had one massive go to the shelter drill last year and one countrywide warning to get your go bags ready to hit the shelters during a close call near naval battle in the Mediterranean that just went over everyone’s head. No one noticed. This is no joke. It is serious perpetration. Putin’s family came from Stalingrad. His heroes were from Stalingrad. Think they will let it happen again?

    EMP on devices on their new steerable hyper sonic missiles could blind us and take out the grid completely as well as a good part of the GPS system. Their nukes will follow in right behind. What is left of our land based system will fire over the north pole which they completely control. They could counter blast them over Canada.

    A few of our our subs, which may be well tracked by them can get off one Mirved missile before being targeted and removed.

    I have a friend in shipping that used to tell me that at any time China could park ten divisions off our coast easily with the amount of shipping they continually have off of our coast.

    Nuclear war followed by invasion on the US? It is not inconceivable. Is the US that big of a pain in the arse? Listening to them we appear to be in their way. I am sure they would rather destroy us economically if they could. We might do that ourselves anyway.

    Something big is going to happen and it does not look like happy days are here again…

    Rev_14:8 And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

    Rev_16:19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.

    Rev_17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

    Rev_18:2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

    Rev_18:10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.

    Rev_18:21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.

  15. I think what people aren’t getting, is that gamma radiation will be released upon detonation of the weapon, the blast wave, and or heat would kill you instantly. The threat from alpha,beta and gamma come in the form of fallout. A ground detonation will kick up a lot of dirt. It’s this dirt that then becomes contaminated with the different types of radiation. Some will be hotter, some won’t. As this dirt( fallout) falls back to the surface, this is where the radioactive threat will take place for most of us, outside of the initial blast area. I also attended the course at the Nevada test site. It was excellent training.

    1. I tend to see it this way as well. They did the math a long time ago. The first strike wins…Russia is fully prepared, and our “leaders” are totally bought and paid for, leaving our nation without borders, let alone defenses or fall out shelters. What about our wheat and corn reserves, fuels good for a change but our refinery’s have taken some hits in recent years.

      As to filters, think hepa, they do the best job and final job. perhaps some regular filters first to contain the larger particles would be wise as well. Filters will be valuable, if you have a plan to use them wisely, efficiently. I think water filters and air filters are crucial, not either or. Kinda like gas masks….

  16. Always good to see self-help civil defense discussed on the blog.
    A couple of points…three feet of concrete does a pretty fair job of shielding from fallout gammas, (and of course, alfas and betas). It doesn’t block all of it, but surely enough to protect the health of those sheltering behind it. it is fairly easy to construct a buried shelter that can protect against the prompt radiation effects, both gammas and fast neutrons that exist within 7500 feet of a ground burst by using 6 feet of concrete (a real budget buster!) or 8 feet of earth. I prefer earth because it’s a lot cheaper. The best structure shape for going this deep is a cylinder, large enough to provide adequate living and storage space. Either rolled steel plate (NEW diesel tanks) corrugated steel pipe works extremely well for this purpose and it relatively cheap and available. You just have to weld bulkheads on the ends or pour concrete walls for end caps, provide a low-volume entrance with a 90 degree turn and air-in and air-out conduits. There are more details, but you get the idea. The Nevada Test Site still has many of the shelter designs that were tested during the 1950s and 1960s atmospheric test series…they’re still there. These will withstand blast over pressures exceeding 200 psi, though occupants will likely be struck and killed by the shelter walls over this threshold. The shelter will be accelerated along with the soil it is buried in because of ground shock (scientists call this “translational displacement”). Practical sure-safe range in a good buried steel cylindrical shelter is around 500 meters beyond the crater edge of a surface burst. Actual distance varies with weapon yield, soil type, and moisture saturation in the soil. They are sure-safe directly beneath any airburst assuming the height of burst is adjusted to maximize the 10 psi overpressure zone for destroying industrial targets.
    A quick look in available publications such as Jane’s reveals that warhead yields have actually gone down compared to the first 20 years of the nuclear age. Older ICBMs were not very accurate so yields had to be very high to assure destruction of a target. As accuracy improved, yields could be reduced, and the advent of multiple independent re-targetable vehicles provided more targeting flexibility from a single missile. Instead of a Circular Error Probable of 3.5 miles, the latest example of Russian ICBM technology can deliver half of its warheads to within less than 30 meters from 6800 miles away. Ain’t technology grand? Why hit one target with a huge warhead when you can hit 15 to 24 targets with the same missile using smaller ones?
    Now days, there are a few dozens of warheads in service on Russian SLBMs that are in the one megaton class, and a few dozens more in the 300 kiloton range. The more warheads on a missile, the smaller they must be, or the shorter the range that missile is capable of. Russian ICBM warhead yields range from 300 kiloton (depending on the total number planned for a specific missile) to 750 kiloton intended for silo-busting. It is highly unlikely that any 20 megaton warheads exist in any of the active inventories today. [The SS-18 has been withdrawn from Russian missile regiments and is being replaced by the Satan II, with upgraded MIRVs and guidance systems.]
    The figure of 40 psi lethality to humans assumes that the person is protected from blast, flying debris, thermal effects, prompt radiation, etc. At 40 psi overpressure, one would be inside the fireball of a one megaton weapon and the outside air temperature would exceed tens of millions of degrees. Good blast and fallout shelters are fitted with certified, lab tested blast valves on the ventilation pipes, such as those manufactured in Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, and Israel by companies who know what they are about. These close in milliseconds to effectively block the entrance of high-pressure air, high temperature gases, and dust/debris. I might add that the threshold of ruptured ear drums is only 5 psi overpressure….and that at 7 psi the dynamic pressure (wind) will suck a person out of a deep basement that has lost its first floor (that usually goes at 5 psi).
    Will everyone need a shelter? That depends on the extent of the attack, by which rival, and which areas are hit. We don’t get to know until that happens…so my approach is to assume the attack will be from one of our two very potent enemies, and it will be for “all the marbles”. Communists are not known for military restraint in combat. The only other candidate is North Korea and their main thrust will likely be an EMP letdown.
    Apparently, Switzerland thinks everybody needs a shelter because they are mandated by federal building code in all cantons (counties) of the country, and they must all be built to rigid government standards (30 inch reinforced concrete ceilings, etc) and use approved ventilators, blast doors and valves. They actually have more shelter spaces than they have people to fill them…and they are still building more. Shelter programs exist in Russia, Singapore, China, Israel, Kuwait, UAE, Iraq, Iran, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Slavic countries, and others, but to a lessor extent than Switzerland’s program.
    There is a pretty good article on the net called “The Efficacy Of Bomb Shelters”, written by several board members of The American Civil Defense Association. It’s worth your time. Another good read is “How The Swiss Avoided War”, if the Swiss program picks your interest. My shelter can be seen on Youtube, (one of them) by searching Peter Larson, Nat Geo, if you would like some ideas. It has ten feet of earth on top of a ten foot diameter culvert pipe, 50 feet long. You can get a lot of beans in one of these. Some copies of The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, by Glastone may still be available on Amazon. The editions put out by the US Government Printing Office (hardbound) had a nifty weapons effects calculator/slide rule in the back of the book. The book was discontinued during the Clinton administration.
    Nuclear attack is quite survivable, but the attack is just the first chapter. After that, many of the other skills shared on this blog will be of utmost importance to your family.
    The American Left has vigorously opposed defense in any fashion….national defense, civil defense, and self defense….why should they break with tradition and welcome a border wall?
    I sure hope I’ve wasted time and money on the shelter, but I fear I have not.
    The belief in Mutual Assured Destruction is obsolete and Russian generals know they can destroy the US nuclear deterrent in a first strike leaving little behind to retaliate with. My mentors find no comfort in the idea that no one would dare attack. American politicians boasted in a similar fashion just weeks before Pearl Harbor. We discovered to our horror that the Japanese really could fly airplanes, shoot straight, and successfully attack our fleet right in our front yard.

  17. Here’s a graphical map of what a nuclear explosion looks like. A picture is worth a thousand words.


    Let me point out, the author did not discuss neutron radiation because there’s nothing you can do to protect from this type of radiation. Focus on protection from alpha/beta first then gamma radiation.

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