Why An Urban Nuclear Explosion Is "Not Hopeless"

Illustration for article titled Why An Urban Nuclear Explosion Is Not Hopeless

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]


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These articles consistently fail to view such events in light of social and political realities. That we now have better treatments for radiation poisoning; improved mapping of radiation fallout and so on means nothing in the aftermath and chaos of such an event.

It takes an extremely short time to receive a lethal dose of radiation. Even worse, as the article points out, most people don't know what to do after such an attack; like many of the worst dangers in our world, radiation is invisible and deadly.

Should I be outside for a short twenty minutes after such a nearby attack, I would need to spend a good hour in the shower scrubbing myself practically until my skin bled to make sure I was clean of all radioactive contamination. Ever seen the movie Silkwood? There's a reason they scrub you down like that. Getting "most of" or "sort of" the contaminiaton off equals: death.

For most people, the water system will probably not going to be working anyway - and it may also have been contaminated.

Nuclear attack equals tremendous suffering and death. I don't know where these articles about "maybe it won't be so bad" are coming from.