You can survive a nuclear explosion if you have the right shelter.

9 months ago
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But let’s be honest: most people, even in a moderately affected area, will not survive. It is unlikely that anyone lives or works in reinforced concrete buildings with almost no windows or in the vicinity of a concrete bunker. (Even the people at the bank would have to get into the vault to be in the safest place; people on the subway would benefit the most from the station, which is very deep underground.) Most people live in a timber frame or other less armored space. building.

It shouldn’t be seen as a way to protect yourself from a nuclear explosion, says Dylan Spaulding, a geoscientist and nuclear expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Strong seismic-rated metal-reinforced concrete structures will withstand the pressure the team has modeled, but that pressure will be enough to destroy most traditional timber-framed and unreinforced brick structures, he said.

And he points out that the blast wave is only part of the story. While it is the main source of danger in a non-nuclear explosion like the one that rocked Beirut in 2020 and was caused by a large amount of flammable ammonium nitrate stored in the city’s port, nuclear weapons also release ionizing radiation and heat. and then radioactive fallout.

Radiation exposure through the skin or inhalation can have many health effects, including skin burns, organ damage, and cancer. Radiation impact can extend tens of kilometers from the epicenter, so people who survived the explosion may subsequently die from radiation.

The example of Drikakis focused on so-called “strategic” nuclear weapons deployed on an ICBM, but there are also “tactical” nuclear weapons that are air-dropped on the battlefield and detonated on the ground. Such blasts act differently, Spalding said, but can be just as deadly and destructive, potentially exposing more people to lethal doses of radiation.

Russia and the US also have so-called low-yield nuclear weapons, which have a yield of 5 to 10 kilotons, and are slightly smaller than the 15 kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima. They will still cause massive destruction and cross a dangerous red line that could escalate the conflict to the use of larger weapons.

Mankind’s most destructive weapon was used in war only once, when the US 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. And Spaulding points out that along with the experiments carried out in Nevada Test sitethey offer one of the few real proofs of what structures can survive an atomic explosion, and how well.

But last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted that nuclear weapons were not ruled out in his attack on Ukraine. Although NATO leaders did not use such threatening rhetoric, the international organization conducted nuclear exercises in October, simulating the release of B61 nuclear bombs. US President Joe Biden Nuclear Policy Review that same month, he dropped the “no first use” policy he had previously supported. One can imagine nuclear risks in other conflicts, for example, the possibility North Korea use of nuclear weapons against South Korea, or Pakistan and India use them against each other.

The world’s arsenals number about 12,700 warheads, according to an inventory conducted by Federation of American Scientists. This is less than their peak of 70,000 at the end of the Cold War thanks to arms reduction treaties. But some of these pacts have since been broken, and the dangers have not gone away, as the Doomsday Clock metaphor illustrates.

It’s not a game, Drikakis says. The risk of a devastating nuclear strike is all too real, he says: “We must keep the peace, understanding the risks involved in not keeping the peace.”

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