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Essential Facts for Nuclear Survival

Updated on April 24, 2017
Lloyd Busch profile image

Lloyd Busch is the author of "Passive Resistance", a book on non-violent action, and has been published in the "Journal of Theoretics".

The Blinding Light

  • If are several miles away from a nuclear blast you may have 10-15 seconds before the heat wave strikes you.
  • The shock wave travels slower and will strike after the heat wave, timing depends on your distance from ground zero. The further away you are the longer the interval between the heat wave and shock wave.
  • At 15-20 miles away the heat wave still has enough energy to burn the skin off your body.
  • The nuclear fireball reaches temperatures similar to the center of the sun, several tens of millions of degrees.
  • The initial radiation will consist of gamma rays, neutrons, beta particles, and alpha particles.
  • Sky-Shine is radiation that originates from fallout particles on the ground, the radiation travels upward into the atmosphere striking air molecules which scatters the radiation back towards the ground many miles away.
  • Beta burns will occur on any exposed skin.
  • Radiation burns must be washed to remove radioactive particles.
  • Nuclear fallout consists of soil and debris drawn up into the mushroom cloud by the blast. Large particles will fall back to Earth first. Fine particles can take much longer and can travel for hundreds miles carried by prevailing winds.
  • Major fallout will start to arrive outside the blast area as soon half an hour after the blast.
  • Most major fallout will have been deposited within one day after the blast and may extend several hundred miles downwind.
  • The entire area covered in fallout may extend for thousands of square miles depending on bomb yield and prevailing winds.

Castle Romeo Nuclear Test



Not all radiation is the same, some rays will burn exposed skin but not penetrate the body while others can penetrate deep into the body and cause damage to internal organs. Some radiation is of minor concern externally but when ingested or when it enters the body or food supply it can cause cancer and other biological harm.

Different radioactive particles decay at different rates, the rate of decay is called half-life. A particles half-life is the time it takes for radioactive material to lose half it's radioactivity. Extended internal exposure from radioactive particles can be prevented. One radioactive isotope is iodine-131, this isotope will enter the body and collect in the thyroid gland. Potassium iodide pills can be taken in advance or quickly after a radiological incident, these will fill your thyroid with iodine causing any excess iodine subsequently ingested to pass quickly through your body.

Strontium-90 is another harmful radioactive isotope, this element is very similar chemically to calcium. When it enters the body it will collect in bones and cause long-term harm such as cancer. Calcium carbonate can be used in the same way that potassium iodide is used, it will cause any excess strontium to leave the body rather than be incorporated into bones, muscle, and teeth. It is important to note that ingestion is only one means of radiation entering the body, strontium dust once inhaled will mix with moisture in the lungs and will be quickly absorbed into the body.

  • Fallout and radioactive particles should be washed off your body immediately as they will continue to burn your skin when left.
  • Food and water are generally easy to decontaminate.
  • Food that has been exposed to fallout can be washed and peeled to remove the radioactive contamination. Packaged food that has been exposed should be removed from the packaging, the food inside is fine.
  • Buildings and paved roads can be decontaminated easily as well.
  • Fields, yards, and farmland are difficult to decontaminate and often requires removing the topsoil and disposing of the contaminated soil elsewhere

Potential Fallout Patterns


How long is fallout dangerous?

The first few days during and after the nuclear fallout are the most dangerous. The general rule of thumb for determining the decay is 7:10. For each 7 fold lapse in time there is 10 fold reduction in radioactivity.

The half-life of;

  • Cesium-134 is 2.06 years.
  • Iodide-131 is 8.02 days.
  • Cobalt-60 is 5.26 years.
  • Plutonium-241 is 14.4 years.
  • Strontium-90 is 28.8 years.
  • Cesium-137 is 30.17 years.
  • Americium-241 is 432.2 years.
  • Radium-226 is 1,600 years.

Potential Radiation Exposure


Protecting Livestock

Livestock should be housed in barns or other buildings, this will greatly increase their chances of survival and reduce their dose of radiation. If there is adequate warning livestock should be moved indoors before a radiological incident occurs. If the animals are exposed to fallout then wash them to remove any radioactive particles before moving them indoors. The more animals that are housed together will further decrease their radiation exposure as each animal acts as shielding to the other animals. Over-crowding in this circumstance will increase their chances of survival. Dairy cattle should be prioritized for protection before other livestock in order to keep their milk uncontaminated.

Use a tarp to cover animal feed to protect it from fallout. Feed stored in a covered bin or building are adequately protected, if feed is contaminated with fallout discard the outer layers. Keep livestock housed to prevent them from foraging in contaminated open fields. If livestock forage in contaminated areas they can be fed supplemental uncontaminated feed, this will reduce (dilute) their daily-dose of radioactivity materially. If contaminated feed must be used then do not consume the milk from these animals. Contaminated feed should be stored separately and used only as a last resort, given enough time the feed will be safe to use once the radioactivity has decayed to safe levels.

  • Use water from covered wells, cisterns, tanks, or freely running springs as these will be the safest option.
  • If river water or pond water must be used then allow several days after fallout has occurred for the radioactivity to subside.
  • If it rains then allow several more days after rainfall before using river water or pond water. The reason being that rain will carry suspended fallout particles from the atmosphere.

Shielding From Radiation

Gamma rays are the most powerful radiation that occur during a nuclear explosion and from some fallout particles. Their ability to penetrate through materials is profound, thus the goal of shielding from gamma rays should be reduction and not elimination.

  • Every 2.4 inches of concrete will cut in half the radiation dose from gamma rays.
  • Every 3.6 inches of packed earth will also cut in half your dose from gamma radiation.

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© 2016 Lloyd Busch

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