Nuclear fallout is a leftover radioactive material moved in the atmosphere after a nuclear explosion. It falls out of the sky after the nuclear explosion, and the shock wave passes.
Fallout is also referred to as radioactive ash and dust, created when there's an explosion of nuclear weapons.
A Nuclear fallout may get along with a pyrocumulus cloud and fall on the ground as a black rain darkened by other substances. This radioactive ash and dust usually contain fission products. It is mixed with neutron-activated atoms by exposure, which is highly dangerous.
In this article, we will learn more about nuclear fallout and how to survive it shortly.
Different types of fallout
There are different types of nuclear fallout, which are the local and global fallout. An airburst or a nuclear detonation in the air could lead to worldwide or global fallout. Meanwhile, a ground burst can lead to a local fallout.
Fission products and nuclear residues will condense into a refined suspension of tiny particles during a worldwide or global fallout.
Then, these particles will be stuck in the stratosphere. The fallout would be dispersed worldwide through atmospheric winds and settle on the surface after days, weeks, months, and years as global or worldwide fallout.
The global fallout can bring radio-biological hazards in human beings due to the potential accumulation of lived radioisotopes, like Caesium-137 and Strontium-90. This can be through eating foods that contain radioactive materials.
On the other hand, during a local fallout, the heat can vaporize a huge amount of water from the water surface, bursting and drawing up to form a radioactive cloud near the explosion site.
Local fallouts are intense, but it is short-lived. This material will turn into a radioactive contaminant as it condenses with fission products that, in turn, become neutron-activated.
Some radioactive products affect vast land and bodies of water, which causes a mutation in human and animal life.
When a surface bursts, it can produce a huge amount of particulate matter. The larger particles will pour out of the stem, and nuclear fallout will arrive near ground zero, possibly within an hour. Those that deposit first are the less volatile elements.
Factors that Affect the Nuclear Fallout
The height and the surface composition determine the location of an explosion. If a nuclear weapon is detonated in the air (air bust), it will produce less fallout than those detonated near the ground. Meanwhile, when the nuclear weapon is detonated on water (water surface burst), it will produce less local fallout, extending to a greater area.
The fallout from seawater is difficult to remove. On March 1, 1954, scientists conducted a hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll.
On the other hand, meteorological conditions can also affect fallout. Atmospheric winds can bring fallout to far and large areas. For example, the Castle Bravo surface burst at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954, affecting the Pacific Ocean and its islands, extending over 500 km downwind and 100 km varying in width.
Furthermore, snow and rain can accelerate the local fallout. Nuclear blasts in limited areas of heavy contamination may be formed in special meteorological conditions.
Effects of Nuclear Explosions
After a nuclear explosion, a wide range of biological changes could happen to animals, human beings, and the environment.
First, a nuclear blast can directly injure humans by affecting the lungs' eardrums and throwing people at high speed. In addition, during a nuclear blast, casualties can occur due to flying debris.
Second, it can cause thermal radiation, start a fire, and prevent people's escape. Thermal radiation can also burn a person's skin and cause death.
Lastly, it can also cause initial radiation due to the gamma radiation and neutrons released. Nuclear explosions can lead to nuclear fallout over minutes to hours.
Effects of a Nuclear Fallout
The radiation dosage after a fallout can be delivered over an extended period. Most of the dose from nuclear fallout is external exposure to gamma radiation from radionuclides on the ground.
Radiation has latent and acute effects on the body. The acute effects can cause sickness and death due to the high radiation dosage.
Meanwhile, the latent effect is cancer. Another long-term effect is the induction of eye cataracts. This effect is prevalent in Japanese survivors during the atomic bombing and workers during the Chornobyl disaster.
Finally, it has been confirmed that Japanese survivors during atomic bombings experience non-cancerous diseases such as hypertension, thyroid diseases, myocardial infarction, cataracts, chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and myoma.
How to Survive from Nuclear Fallout
Thus, we have seen above that nuclear explosions and fallout can lead to diseases and death. Below are some of the steps for survival during fallout:
First One Hour
Anyone who is near the detonation of the bomb will be killed instantly. But if you are far from the 'mushroom,' there are ways to survive.
If you are outside your home during a fallout, finding a shelter within 15 minutes is recommended. Go to the nearest building you can see.
If your home or the building you're staying in has an underground fallout shelter, proceed to this location.
Only stay on your cars, trucks, or other automobiles if you can drive away from the fallout area before your 15-minute time allowance is up.
Next, close the windows and doors of your shelter. Turn off the air ventilation so the contaminated air outside during fallout won't get inside your home or building where you're staying temporarily. In seeking shelter, it is recommended that the walls and ceilings should be heavy and dense to protect you from falling debris and radiation from fallout.
Next, it must be noted that the further you go underground, the better. If you can't go underground, stay in the middle of the house or the building. Be sure to stay for longer hours inside the building and avoid getting outside.
If you were outside when the fallout happened, make sure that you remove your clothes and take a bath. Wash your hair with a shampoo without conditioner, and clean your body with soap, including your ears, nose, eyelashes, and eyelids.
The goal is to remove the radioactive material in your body as much as possible.
Remove your clothes and put them inside a plastic bag, seal it, and keep it away from people. Put clean clothes on so you can survive the weather.
Teach the same steps to your family and friends within the fallout.
First 24 hours
After surviving the first hour of fallout, make sure that you stay put inside the building. Gather all survival materials that you can find.
First, find water and food. Water bottles and canned goods are the best solutions during these times. Check the pantry to see if you have stocked MREs (Meals Ready to eat), canned goods, pastry, etc.
Make sure to ration the food. If you can't find water bottles, then create your drinking water. You can filter water from a well, covered reservoir, or water tank. Avoid drinking water contaminated by the fallout.
Remember, even if you boil it, it is not safe for drinking.
Next, gather all the essential emergency supplies such as the battery-operated radio, flashlight, candles, matches, first aid kit, sleeping bags, gloves, face masks, extra clothes, knives, and others.
Check for a temporary power source such as fuel or fuel generators, extra batteries, and power banks. Ready your gadgets like your smartphones and charge them.
Of course, our phones are very helpful nowadays, and you can call for help from authorities if your phones are working. You can also check on your loved ones if you have a good battery and signal.
On the other hand, there could be power outages after a fallout. Thus, a battery-operated radio will keep you updated on when you should get out of the building.Meanwhile, a face mask can help you temporarily prevent inhaling contaminated air inside the shelter you are staying in.
If you are feeling dizzy, nauseous, and tired because of the fallout, make sure to drink potassium iodine and get some rest. If you are vomiting in the next hours and experience seizures, you must go to the nearest hospital for immediate medical attention.
First One Week
For the first week, leave your shelter with the advice of the authorities. Although 80% of the energy of the fallout subsides in the first 24 hours, it is still advisable not to get out of shelters.
Continue to listen to your radio for updates. If your food and water are depleting, you should explore other resources. Ration your food, and remember not to eat food from the backyard garden exposed to fallout.
Waste disposal could be an issue in the long run. Make sure to use plastic bags for your food waste. Also, put your used gloves, masks, wipes, and clothes exposed to fallout inside a plastic bag and label it properly.
Be vigilant—mind over matter. Don't panic, and be smart. Listen for updates and plan your survival.
Why It's Important to Keep Potassium Iodide On Hand
Potassium iodide has come to be associated with surviving nuclear war.
The Food and Drug Administration approved potassium iodide tablets in 1982 to protect the thyroid gland from thyroid cancer-causing radioactive iodine emitted by nuclear weapons. The tablets flush the radioactive material out of the gland, which floods it with stable iodine. Each complete kit has these.
Despite helping the thyroid, potassium iodide does not shield the rest of the body from radiation. The World Health Organization emphasizes combining it with other precautionary measures to lessen the adverse effects of radioactive exposure.
The standard table salt won't work. Skip the grocery shop and get what you need instead.
- Eat potassium iodide ideally two to three hours before radiation exposure
- If not, take them as soon as possible after a nuclear explosion.
- Take these every day at the same time until you leave the radioactive area.
Preparing a Nuclear Survival Kit
You can survive a nuclear explosion with a well-stocked nuclear survival kit.
You have a ton of options when creating a go-bag or a kit for sheltering in place. So it's possible to shop while overthinking. Follow this set of requirements, and it's done! You have a survival kit in case of a nuclear attack. The good news is that, other than those already mentioned, the list resembles any other disaster emergency kit.
Remember to customize your kit or the kit for your household based on your specific demands. Does anyone in the household have allergies or require prescription medication? What would your pets need to survive for X amount of days, if you have any? How about entertainment, such as a deck of cards (hopefully more)?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that each person have a three-day supply of supplies and food. Remember to replace any items in your emergency supply that have reached their expiration date every six months since that's the main goal here.
Keep an emergency survival kit, or many kits, at your home, car, and places where you spend the most time.
Here is the list of things, ideally, that you can start preparing now so you'll survive a fallout:
- Food and Water- Water bottles, MREs, Canned Goods, and other food items are suitable for 30 days. Make sure to have one gallon of water per person for at least a week.
- Radiation dosimeter
- Hand-crank radio
- Multipurpose shovel/pickax
- Flint fire starter
- Hurricane matches
- Wire saw
- Potassium iodide tablets
- Pocket knife
- First aid kit
- Eye protection
- Surgical masks
- Wrench or pliers
- Local map
- Manual can opener
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape
- Garbage bags
- Moist towelettes
- Electrolyte drink mix
- Sleeping bags/thermal blankets
- Medical supplies
- Fire extinguisher
- Cell phone, charger, backup battery
- Rubber gloves
- Personal items — baby gear, prescription medication, family documents, etc.
You can store the food items in the pantry or in cool, dry, and dark places. You can also put it inside a waterproof container and ensure it is appropriately sealed.
Meanwhile, you can put the non-food items in a box or big plastic containers. Put it in places where it can be accessed quickly during emergencies. Replenish the items regularly and ensure they are within their used-by dates.
Although there's a good chance you won't need any of these supplies, it's always better to be proactive and ready just in case.
The United States now faces a much different and shadowy nuclear threat from terrorist groups and other countries.
If a nuclear blast occurs in your town or city, and you have somehow avoided its flash of light, shock waves, and fireball, it is recommended to look for shelter immediately.
Familiarize yourselves with the tips mentioned above because you might use them soon.
In addition, prepare a few items handy in your nuclear survival kit. Indeed, it is smart to have a family plan and emergency kits that can last several days during a nuclear fallout.
We can't prevent nuclear attacks, but we can take measures to ensure our safety and our families' survival.