What is radioactive fallout?
We often see “radioactive fallout” in historical articles about nuclear bombs and their applications, but almost no attention is given to the nature of the radiation that occurs after a nuclear explosion.
In our last discussion, we talked about the shockwave, blinding light and the tremendous amount of heat that comes about after a nuclear weapon has been detonated.
However, there is one more thing you should be aware of: the presence of radioactive material in the atmosphere, air and even in rainwater after a nuclear incident.
This radioactivity is caused not only by the blast itself but also by the resulting fallout.
How does radioactive fallout occur?
Radioactive fallout occurs when countless radioactive particles are catapulted into the atmosphere during a nuclear explosion.
Due to the presence of extreme energy released by continuous nuclear reactions, there is sufficient force to transport radioactive materials directly to the lower portion of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Once they reach their maximal height, these radioactive particles begin to “fall back” to Earth, like rain. “Nuclear rain” is often described as darkened, radioactive water falling to the Earth after a nuclear plant disaster or nuclear explosion.
What should you know about radioactive fallout?
1. Fallout Spreads and Contaminates the Earth – Radioactivity can be transmitted to metals, nonmetals, soil and even the air surrounding a nuclear blast site.
If a 20-megaton nuclear bomb were to explode at ground level, literally millions of tons of surrounding earth will be drawn upward by the explosion and rendered radioactive. A titanic depression will be left on the surface of the ground as the materials are catapulted into the atmosphere by the blast.
2. Radioactive Fallout is More Severe Than Nuclear Shockwaves and Heat Blasts – Nuclear bombs and weaponry wouldn’t be so frightful if they didn’t carry radioactivity with them. Thousands of tons of TNT would be better than a single, 5-megaton nuclear bomb.
Why? Because TNT is not radioactive and while it will destroy structures and claim lives, it will not cause long term poisoning of the earth, water and air. Nuclear weaponry on the other hand, ensures continued destruction at all levels of existence from macro to molecular.
The heat and shockwave created by a nuclear blast affects structures and people living within 30 to 50 miles of the explosion. Radioactive fallout, thanks to rain, erosion and wind, can seriously damage human populations within seven thousand square miles of the blast site.
This figure applies to a smaller nuclear blast caused by a 5-megaton nuclear bomb. The radius of effective radioactivity can go up significantly if a 20-megaton bomb is used instead.
3. Length of Time Determines Habitability of Affected Areas – After the first few days of a nuclear blast, radioactive materials in the surrounding areas of a blast will quickly begin to disintegrate. This disintegration is a natural occurrence; it is called “nuclear decay.”
If a home was only moderately exposed to fallout, in about two weeks time the radioactive strength of any remaining contaminated materials will only be 0.1%.
However, nuclear experts would still need to measure the radioactivity of a house before it can be declared safe for human habitation once again.
How can you protect yourself from a nuclear blast and the resulting fall out?
Being out in the open is definitely not an option if there has been a nuclear blast. The best way to prepare for a nuclear blast is by creating a shelter at the lowest part of your home (the basement).
Here are some guidelines in creating a nuclear blast shelter:
1. Location Matters – You need to put as much distance as you can between the effective level of the blast and yourself. Pick a corner in the basement that is as far away as possible from doors and windows leading outside.
2. Improvise & Fortify - An improvised shelter can quickly be assembled with furniture and anything else you can find. The thicker and heavier the layers of protection, the more protected you will be from heat, shockwaves and windswept fallout.
You can even use dense, packed snow to protect yourself from nuclear fallout should a blast occur. Use anything you can find in your surroundings to absorb all the energy that a nuclear explosion generates.
3. Block Openings and Take Shelter – If you have time, it would help if you can block all windows and doors that link directly outside. The extra barriers will help absorb the elements of the blast and will also help reduce any direct damage to your shelter.
4. Cushion Any Room Used as Shelter – In the event that your house doesn’t have a basement, go to the centermost room in your house and cover the walls with everything you can find.
Block windows and doors and stay as low as possible to stay protected from the blast and heat. Stay away from upper rooms that are closest to the walls as these will most likely experience the greatest structural damage in your home.