The consequences of a nuclear explosion in the heart of a city may seem unthinkable to most, but experts think that, if the proper precautions are made, it wouldn't be as bad as you may assume.
Of course, "bad" is a relative term; a panel of doctors and public health officials set up by the National Academy of Science to look at the effects of such an explosion agreed that everyone within a one kilometer radius would be almost certainly be killed, but that things could be much worse. As panel head Georges Benjamin explained,
Clearly there would be loss of life, but it's not hopeless... We feel that there are things that one can do to mitigate it.
The panel's recommendations focus on those protecting those outside of the kilometer radius from the dangers of radioactive fallout from the blast. According to New Mexico Veterans Administration Health Center's Fred Mettler, a member of the panel, just making sure people stay inside would bring immediate benefits:
That's a place where you could get big gains if you plan right... Without prior education, it would be a horrible issue.
Also under advisement from the panel are drugs to combat radiation sickness and software to predict the drift of fallout. There's been no response from the government to the panel's report yet, but Benjamin is hopeful that will come once they've had a chance to digest it:
This is hot off the press... We've literally just briefed them.
Is your city prepared for a home-made nuke? [New Scientist]