You may survive a nuclear blast – if you have the right shelter

But let’s be honest: most people, even in the middle damage zone, won’t survive. Hardly anyone lives or works in reinforced concrete buildings with almost no windows, nor near a concrete basement. (Even the people in the bank would have to go into the vault to be in the safest place; the people in the subway would get the most benefit in a station so deep underground.) buildings.

This should not be interpreted as a way to be safe in a nuclear blast, says Dylan Spaulding, an earth scientist and nuclear expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Strong structures made of concrete with metal reinforcement and designed for seismic safety will withstand the stresses the team designed, he says, but those stresses would be enough to destroy most traditional homes with wood-frame and brick structures without reinforcement.

He notes that the blast wave is only part of the story. While they are the main source of danger in a non-nuclear explosion – like that Beirut shook in 2020which was caused by a large amount of flammable ammonium nitrate stored in the city’s port – nuclear weapons also emit ionizing radiation and heat, followed by radioactive fallout.

Radiation exposure can be through the skin or inhalation Many health effectsincluding skin burns, organ damage, and cancer. The range of radiation exposure can extend tens of miles from the epicenter, so people who survive the blast can be knocked down by radiation later.

Drikakis’ example focused on a so-called “strategic” nuclear weapon deployed on an ICBM, but there are also “tactical” nuclear weapons, which are dropped by aircraft on the battlefield and which explode on the ground. Spaulding says such eruptions happen differently but can be deadly and destructive, potentially exposing more people to lethal radiation doses.

Russia and the United States also have so-called low-yield nuclear weapons, which have a yield of 5 to 10 kilotons, which is slightly smaller than the 15-kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima. These would wreak massive destruction and cross a dangerous red line, potentially escalating the conflict into the use of even greater weapons.

Mankind’s most destructive weapon in war has only been used once, when the United States destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, with two atomic bombs at the end of World War II in 1945. Together they killed over 100,000 Japanese civilians and wounded many more. Spaulding points out that, along with experiments conducted in nv test sitethey provide some of the only factual evidence about what types of structures can survive an atomic blast, and how well they do.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted at that last year Nuclear bombs are not off the table in his attack on Ukraine. While NATO leaders did not use such threatening rhetoric, the international organization Nuclear maneuvers were conducted In October, a simulation of dropping B61 ​​nuclear bombs. President of the United States Joe Biden Nuclear Posture Review The same month he abandoned the “no first use” policy he had previously supported. One can imagine the nuclear dangers in other conflicts as well, such as the prospect North Korea using a nuclear weapon against South Korea, or Pakistan and India using them against each other.

The world’s arsenals add up to 12,700 warheads, according to JRD Federation of American Scientists. That’s down from a peak of around 70,000 near the end of the Cold War, thanks to arms control treaties. But some of those The treaties have since been dissolvedAnd the dangers never really went away, as the Doomsday Clock metaphor makes clear.

Drikakis says this is not a game. And the risks of a devastating nuclear strike are very real, he adds: “We have to keep the peace by understanding the risks of not keeping the peace.”

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