In case of apocalypse: How to survive a nuclear explosion

In 1964-1967, a couple of American physicists who had barely graduated from college conducted the "Country N Experiment" and, according to information from open sources, created a workable nuclear bomb project in less than three years. Fortunately, most attackers are far from that educated, and to go from a project to a finished product, you need at least gas centrifuges to obtain uranium, which requires large, dangerous and complex production.

However, the risk of seeing a nuclear explosion has not disappeared. Even a technical failure of the missile attack warning system could theoretically trigger the mechanism of a big war without much desire from the rival parties, not to mention all the bellicose statements by politicians on both sides of the ocean. What to do if it does come to nuclear explosions over the city?



The most "advanced" nuclear warhead that a resident of Russia can face is the American W88 with a capacity of 475 kt. The optimum height of its detonation in the event of an impact on cities is about 1840 m. First of all, a high-altitude flash will appear, the sound will come with a great delay. Seeing her, you should not hesitate. A third of the energy of a nuclear explosion reaches us as light and infrared radiation, the peak of its power is reached within a second after the explosion. However, the glow itself lasts more than five seconds, and if you rush for cover right away, then most of the radiation will not hurt you.

An urgent shelter (or at least the notorious "fold of the terrain") should be chosen at a distance of no more than three steps, so as to get there with one throw. The best way to escape from a nuclear explosion is to jump into a ditch on the side of the road farthest from the explosion. In extreme cases, you can simply throw yourself to the ground face down, head from the explosion, thrust your hands under your body. If there is a hood, pull it over your head right in the fall. In winter, you can turn up the collar or just pull the outerwear over your head.

Once in the car, brake to a full stop, put it on the handbrake, trying not to rise above the line of the windshield. By the way, don't forget to close your car windows. In an apartment or office, hide under the nearest table below the window line, and in extreme cases, knock it down so that the tabletop protects from light burns from a nuclear strike.


On an unprotected skin surface, W88 radiation can cause continuous third-degree burns at a distance of up to 8.76 km from the epicenter. This is the most "long-range" damaging factor of a nuclear weapon in an air explosion, and also the most insidious: the rapid death of nerve cells dulls the sensation of pain. Without noticing the defeat, you can easily touch the burned part and additionally damage it.


If you heard a civil defense warning - and it will be 5-10 minutes ahead of nuclear explosions - everything should turn out much better. You will either get to the shelter if you take care to find out where it is in advance, or you will run to the basement - this, of course, if it is open in your house. At the very least, shade the windows and have time to hide.

Half of the energy of a nuclear explosion goes into a shock wave. If you are closer than 5 km to the explosion, most residential buildings will collapse at least partially. The wreckage of the house is the main danger in this scenario. Of the 340 thousand inhabitants of Hiroshima, less than 80 thousand died from the explosion, although almost 70% of houses were destroyed. The reason for this is simple: a traditional Japanese house with a light timber frame and paper walls is nowhere near as dangerous. Concrete urban "birdhouses" thus turn out to be much less reliable refuge.

The basement is a safe place in this respect. A resident of Hiroshima Eizo Nomura survived in the basement, being 170 meters from the epicenter of a nuclear explosion. He will also help from radiation: although Nomura had had radiation sickness, he lived for many more decades and died at an advanced age. At the same time, people who remained on the surface and a kilometer from the explosion died from radiation sickness. It is possible that the entrance to the basement will block up and you will have to wait for help for several days. Keep water ready and close windows and crevices so that less radioactive dust gets inside.

As the power of the warhead increases, the area of ​​continuous destruction from a nuclear explosion grows rapidly, but the area affected by penetrating radiation expands much more slowly. Gamma photons have an extremely short wavelength, so they are well absorbed by air. It is worth considering that the more powerful the ammunition, the higher the optimal height of its detonation above the city. In Hiroshima it was 600 meters, for W88 this figure is three times more. Therefore, W88 will give a strong radiation damage (from 5 sievert) in a radius of about 1.32 km, and the "Kid" in Hiroshima worked in a radius of 1.2 km. The difference is only slightly more than 10%, and in practice the proportion of deaths from radiation sickness will be even less than in 1945.

The fact is that during a nuclear explosion in Hiroshima, the radius of the zone of severe destruction (> 0.14 MPa, destruction of 100% of buildings) was only 340 m, average destruction (> 0.034 MPa, destruction of more than half of the buildings) - only 1.67 km ... But from W88 over Moscow, the radius of heavy destruction will be 1.1 km, medium - 5.19 km. Hardly any residential building will stand in the radiation damage zone (1.32 km). In this position, you are either in the basement, alive and protected from radiation, or already knowingly died. Let's be honest, in the area of ​​severe destruction, radiation from W88 is only moderately dangerous for those who survived.


If a nuclear war does start, it will surely be after some kind of foreign policy aggravation. You have long suspected the most unpleasant thing and listened to the radio. This is still the most reliable method: bulk SMS alerts across the country may not work. So, you heard the warning in 5-10 minutes. Let's be honest: over the post-Soviet years, the majority of shelters have degraded and have ceased to be reliable shelters. So if minutes have passed after the explosion, and you are nearby, but are still alive, then most likely you are in an ordinary basement. What's next?

The best option is to do nothing for at least a day, and if there is water, then for several days. Most likely, no fire threatens you. In Hiroshima, after a nuclear strike, a real citywide fire with a fiery tornado raged, but it was caused by overturned houses made of wood and paper, ignited by imperfect electrical wiring and open fires. Our damaged gas pipelines can cause explosions, fires - infrequently. Concrete walls, under the debris of which the bulk of combustible materials will be buried, will not allow the fire tornado to disperse. Even in Nagasaki, a real citywide fire never happened.

И все же есть ли смысл сидеть в подвале днями, чтобы пережить ядерный взрыв? Есть, и немалый, – особенно если вы оказались в Москве. Ведь именно по столице в случае глобального конфликта ударит больше боеголовок, чем по какому-либо другому городу на планете. В Москве расположены ключевые центры управления, прикрытые эффективной противоракетной обороной. Чтобы гарантированно добраться до них, противник вынужден нацеливать множество ракет, с запасом.

Moscow will be subject to many nuclear strikes, and some of them will most likely be on the ground in order to get buried sanctuaries for the military-political elite. The energy of such explosions is quickly absorbed by the surface of the earth, which makes them generally much less destructive - in fact, they are used only to attack deep protected targets. However, ground-based explosions create a mass of dust that falls out in radioactive fallout - the famous "fallout".

That is why it is worth sitting in the basement. The heaviest particles will fall quickly, moreover, the dangerous isotopes they contain are mostly short-lived. After 7 hours, the dose in the affected area will drop tenfold, after 49 hours - 100 times, and after 14 days - a thousand. After 14 weeks, even in the former "red" zone, it will be possible to walk with almost no risk to life. So for the first few days after a nuclear explosion, it is better to stay in the basement, and if there is water and food, then it is worth staying for weeks. By this time, perhaps, help will arrive.

What was destroyed?


Most of us, seeing a flash in the sky, would rather start staring at it in surprise than looking for cover. The case itself conducted such mini-exercises, because it is almost impossible to visually distinguish a nuclear explosion from an asteroid explosion in the atmosphere. Such a ball of fire exploded over Chelyabinsk in 2013 and was accompanied by many incomprehensible glances, and hardly anyone threw themselves to the ground in a flash. In the event of a nuclear war (or the fall of an asteroid slightly larger than the Chelyabinsk one), such lovers of gazing will lose their eyesight, the sensitivity of the facial skin, and possibly the skin itself.

So, what to do in a nuclear explosion - briefly:

  1. Hide from light radiation urgently. If there is no place to hide, lie face down, with your feet in the direction of the explosion. Protect exposed skin with clothing.
  2. If you have time to hide in a shelter, run there. If possible, take water and food with you, this will help you stay on the contaminated surface for as long as possible.
  3. Take your time to leave the shelter or basement. Remember that the dose of radiation is reduced significantly every day. 14 days after a nuclear explosion, even in the former "red zone" it will be relatively safe.

Time for optimism

Let's add a little more optimism. As theoretical models show, a significant part of the population will survive the first nuclear attacks on cities. Contrary to the stories of radioactive ash, it is estimated that in the US it will survive at 60%. In Russia, due to the greater overcrowding of the population and high-rise buildings, the proportion of survivors will be slightly less, but still quite solid. But what about the end of the world, nuclear winter, hunger and hordes of mutants?

Unfortunately, the analysis of urban folklore is not part of our task. Therefore, we will simply note: a nuclear winter will not happen in practice. The hypothesis about it was based on the assumption of the formation of firestorms over cities ignited by nuclear strikes. With them, soot can reach the stratosphere, above the level of ordinary clouds, and remain there for years. However, today experts agree that such a scenario is unlikely for a modern metropolis, and even if separate firestorms arise, their strength will not be enough to lift soot into the stratosphere. And from the troposphere, it will fall down with precipitation in a matter of weeks and will not be able to prevent sunlight from reaching the planet's surface for a long time.

There is no need to expect a universal famine: almost exclusively city dwellers will die - that is, consumers, not food producers. The contamination of fields will be moderate and local, because strikes will not be applied to sparsely populated rural areas. Yes, and long-lived isotopes after the explosion of an atomic bomb are quite few: the weight of the fissile matter in the bomb is too small. The very next year after a nuclear strike, radiation in the fields will rarely remain a noticeable threat.

Existence after the start of the Third World War will be very difficult. But if you are not lucky enough to die after the first blow, easily and simply, then you will have to try to live on.


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