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Post-Nuclear Disaster: Is It Worth It?
© 2006
An opinion from Rogue Turtle

Almost everyone I've talked to about a "Nuclear Disaster" has actually very little idea of what really happens when nuclear weapons, or nuclear power plants, explode. I worked a little in the military with this subject, and I'm still not exactly sure what is meant by the term "Nuclear Disaster". Any explosion is "bad". What level has to be reached to be a "disaster"?

If you think that a nuclear explosion will result in the end of life as we know it, the extinction of the human race, then you are wrong. If you think that a nuclear explosion, or even a series of nuclear explosions, will wipe out all humanity inside the United States, then that is also wrong.

If you think that a nuclear explosion, anywhere in the world, could possibly contaminate (to some degree) the entire surface of the earth, then you are correct. But, to what degree would this contamination be? First of all, it will NOT wipe out all life. The cockroaches will not inherit the world...not just yet.

Let's talk about what everyone is really thinking about. What happens if and when the middle-eastern crazies get their hands on sufficient nuclear material to build a serious nuclear weapon. Let's even assume that Osama-da-Bomba, hiding in his cave in the mountains, has enough money to purchase an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering this bomb to the United States (or more likely, Israel).

Let's again assume that Osama-da-Bomba sends this little weapon towards the United States. Let's assume that our early defense system is on "stand-by" that day and it sneaks in under the radar to hit the United States with a massive explosion.

Define: Massive?

Really, really big.

Could this bomb take out an entire city?


How big a city? Say, Chicago?

Parts of Chicago, sure. Play heck with the rest of the city too. But, destroy the whole city, no way. It's too big.


There are three types of blasts from any nuclear weapon. To get the "biggest bang for your buck, you need an AIR BURST that will spread out the damage to the largest geographical area possible. It's also the hardest type blast to control as it takes highly sophisticated triggering devices to get it to explode at the correct altitude over the target area. The air burst has relatively little fallout after the blast is over. The next two blasts, the SURFACE BURST and the SUB-SURFACE BURST, don't cover as large an area, but have a great deal more nuclear fallout after the explosion is over.

OK, what's that mean to me?

Well, assuming you lived in the Chicago area, you would have seen a HUGE bright light, followed shortly thereafter by a super-heated blast of hot air and fire. If you lived inside (approximately) a 10 mile circle around the exact point where the bomb exploded (known as "Ground Zero"), then you are most likely already dead. The further you move out away from Ground Zero, the higher the percentage of survivors will be, and the lower the percentage of property damage will be.

Basically, your safety depends on how far away you are from the epicenter of the blast.

Yeah, but I hear the fallout afterwards can kill everybody.

Again, distance, and time, are in your favor. Yes there will be fallout, no it does not kill everyone. Not even close. If you lived 25 miles away from the blast, you might have slept through the whole thing. The farther away you are, the safer you are.

You haven't answered my question.

When the mushroom cloud, pushed up by the huge blast of the bomb, reaches its final altitude, it will be carrying with it millions of tons of dirt, dust and debris. The really heavy dirt and debris cannot stay airborne long, and fall quickly back to earth. In the time it took the debris cloud to reach its zenith (highest point) and then start back down again, it will have actually moves in the direction that the upper elevation winds blow it. In the first hour after the blast, the radiation will move away from the blast in the direct the wind blows. The heaviest debris falls out first, and is the most heavily radiated and may stay that way for hundreds of years. The longer the dust stays airborne, the more diluted it becomes, and the less dense the radiation is packed. Yes, it is probable that the dust cloud will encircle the globe, but no, by the time it gets thousands of miles away, you won't even know it. It will take highly sensitive instruments to even tell its there.

But, what about the people around Chicago?

Basically, they are screwed. Those people who have survived the blast need to pick up their 6-P's and Bug Out kits and hit the road...away from the direction of the wind-blown fallout. If you are farther than 25 miles from the blast, you may not have to leave at all. What's going to determine this is the type of material that made up the bomb. Different radioactive materials produce more or less radioactive fallout. Only the government testing equipment can tell you this. Unfortunately, we will have to depend on Homeland Security for something really important. I hope they are up to it.

OK, say Homeland Security says it was a "super-fractional Quasi-moto Exponential Frambus" bomb?
What is that?

I don't know either...I just made it up. But what I will need to know is how wide-spread the fallout is and in what direction it's traveling.


Because if the fallout is moving east, then me and the Turtle Clan are moving South, or North, or West, but NOT east.

OK, that makes sense. What do we do now?

Wait. Radiation and fallout will go away, eventually, all by itself. Again, depending on the stuff that the original bomb was made of, the half-lives of the fallout will be different. Only those pesky government meters will be able to tell us. As much as I hate being dependant on Uncle Sam's Homeless Security, only they can afford that kind of testing equipment. And provide the men trained to detect this stuff. Homeland Security and its FEMA personnel will do the testing and pass on the results. I hope they know what they are doing.

What is Fallout?

Fallout is dirt that has been exposed to nuclear radiation. By itself, radiation has no weight. It's only when it attaches itself to dirt, or debris, or my body, that it becomes dangerous.

Pure water that has no dirt or debris, will not have any radiation. If you clean the dirt off of your body, your car, your house, and everything else, then you have no radiation danger. But, the muddy flow of the washed off (irradiated) dirt is now jammed together in one highly irradiated spot that you need to avoid.

These will be known as "hot spots".

But, how will my life change?

It probably won't, particularly if you live in Cleveland. You won't even know it happened until you watch CNN and see it on TV. Don't get me wrong. There will be a terrible loss of life, but it will be strictly limited to the area immediately around the blast site, and later on down-wind from the most severe fallout. You will have to drive around the city of Chicago for many years. You can expect to hear heroic and tragic tales of survival for generations. But, life in America will go on. We will be sad, followed by mad. We will vow revenge for this deed, and possibly even get it.

The real reason people panic when they think about a "nuclear disaster" is that they are still thinking about the massive exchange of weaponry that the United States and Russia faced off with during the cold war. Estimates ran wild with "overkill" being mentioned loud and clear. Supposedly, the two of us had enough bombs to kill every man, woman and child in the world, two or three times over.

I have been asked many times about the type of civilization that will follow a "Nuclear Disaster". I really don't see that it will change much from what we have now. We may lose a few more civil rights, or bomb some other third world country back into the dark ages, but not much will really change.

We will still have families and raise children in local schools. Commerce will continue because we have nothing else we can do. Oil may be in short supply so there may be a few years of belt-tightening that may hurt a little. But, will life still be worth living? You bet. Today's challenges are not tomorrow's challenges. Life today is just as important as it ever was and I for one will not let one small group of radical religious fanatics change my life one little bit.

I prepare for disasters, but not because of Osama-da-bomba. I'm much more worried that Hurricane Tilly will blow my huge oak tree over onto my house. That will hurt me personally; I love that tree.

For those of us who worry about such things, the sabre-rattling of both North Korea and Iran appear (as of right now) to be just that. Threats without substance. Both countries watched with interest how fast the American Military disposed of Saddam Hussein and Iraq's highly regarded army. Neither country wants that to happen to them. If nothing else, it shows that these third world countries are trying (however wrong) to show that they are "just as good as us and that we should pay more attention to them." OK, they've got my attention. Now what do they do? What is their next logical step? Making nuclear weapons to the condemnation of the entire world, doesn't seem to be a good way to go.

If Hitler had "the bomb" would he have used it?

Good question, isn't it. He was certifiably insane, but I don't think he would have because of his ignorance and superstition. Thank goodness we never had to find out.

Remember the cockroaches? What circumstances could arise that WOULD wipe out all life on earth?

I think that most scientists would agree that there no longer are enough man-made nuclear missiles and bombs to do this. So the only thing left is what we saw on TV when the Shoemaker-Levy 9 asteroids impacted Jupiter in July, 1994. Some of the debris clouds coming up through Jupiter's atmosphere were larger than our earth itself. This kind of energy will be fatal to all life, probably to the cockroaches too. Until then, have a happy life. Keep an eye on the sky. If you are a mathematician, you may already know that the odds are way, way in our favor. Go to sleep. Forget about it. Worry about driving to work tomorrow. It's more dangerous.

As Spock would say - Live Long and Prosper. RT