Ay, sir! There she blows! there- there- thar she blows -bowes -bo-o-os!"
The title of this chapter
originates from a quote in the famous 1851 classical novel Moby Dick, or, The Whale, by Herman Melville, where it refers to
the eventual sighting of the famous and elusive white whale. Nowadays, the meaning is used on a number of diverse occasions,
but mainly relating to something that eventually has been found or an event that everyone is waiting for – the build
up and expectation after a tense period.
It is thus I use this
expression in this context of a sudden event, but one that has been anticipated for some time – an event that everyone
on this planet dreads to come about, yet all anticipate – that of a nuclear explosive incident.
This is an event we
all hope and pray will never materialise, apart from the devastating physical and psychological effects that one detonation
would produce, multiple detonations would undoubtedly witness the annihilation of our planet.
This subject area is
a complex one, and the information imparted here is merely an overview, with some basic tips and ideas on how to cope should
such an event occur.
To gain a deeper insight
into such an event and for more detailed information, it is advisable to check the links and references provided in the bibliography
section – the more you read and understand, the more prepared you will be.
There are few people
alive today who have witnessed such tragic events, most notably those of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan in World War 2 –
and it is with hand on heart that we hope will never witness again.
However, in our current
troubled world one never knows when such an event could materialise, no matter whom or what instigated the initial ‘strike’.
We must also consider the possibility of nuclear ‘accidents’ such as at Chernoble, Russia, in 1986, where even
today the levels of radiation in the area are still incredibly high.
No matter what your
take is on so called ‘terror’ events, self inflicted government and military strategies or accidents, the point
is when the ‘Tha she blows’ event occurs, all quarrels, arguments and discussions are out of the proverbial window
– it will all be academic –In addition, as we have seen from previous disasters, man made or natural, it will
be a case of every man, woman and child for himself.
Thus it is important
for you and your loved ones to know the basics and background of what type of nuclear detonation may be employed and importantly,
how do we survive both in the short, and long term.
'Now, I am
become Death, the destroyer of worlds
Dr. Robert Oppenheimer
– July 16th 1945
The effect of one single
bomb detonation would be dependent on a number of points;
- The explosive power of the bomb
- Where it exploded – high in the air or ground level
- Location of detonation – in a built up area or in open country
The explosive power
of atomic bombs is usually measured kilotons or megatons. A "megaton" is the explosive power of one million tons of TNT, while a "kiloton" is the power of one thousand tons of
TNT (tri-nitro-toluene, a high explosive)
To demonstrate the efficacy of such explosive power, the two bombs that were exploded over the cities of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki in 1945 were in the range ten to twenty kilotons.
The first nuclear bomb
detonation test was carried out on July 16th 1945 at the Alamogordo Test Range, Jornada del Muerto desert, in New Mexico,
yielding 20-22 kilotons. This was called the Trinity test, and was carried out under the directorship of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer
– later known as ‘the father of the Atomic bomb’
It was after they had
detonated the bomb that Oppenheimer quoted from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita, that now well known phrase….
'Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”
I mentioned above the
effects of such a detonation depends on how, where and what explosive power is used. For example, for the maximum destruction
a detonation at altitude would be the most effective, say at approximately 3000 metres.
The effects of such
a detonation even with the explosive power of ‘only’ one megaton would be devastating. The first sign would be
an intense flash of bright light, similar to lightening but immensely brighter. Immediately, there would be the accompanying
massive pulse of heat radiation, so strong it would extend out 15 kilometres, burning anything combustible in its path.
Anything in a radius
of 3 kilometres would have been evaporated.
Immediately, a fireball forms,
rising briefly accompanied by a blinding light, which may be visible for at least 80 kilometres. Anyone who looked at this
flash would certainly be blinded to some degree.
area directly under the explosion is termed ‘Ground Zero’ – anyone up to 15 kilometres from this point would
be affected by radiation burns – the nearer to Ground zero, the more severe the burns.
It is said that
the actual detonation of such a blast in general, would consist of 50% as an actual blast, 35% as thermal radiation and 15%
nuclear radiation (gamma) emitted within the first minute, and the remaining 10% as residual radiation. This residual radiation
would be the main problem and danger experienced as fallout.
damage sustained in such an explosion would also depend on prevailing weather conditions and the time of day. In mist or dense
fog the effects would be hindered, due to the fact that the range of heat and light rays are reduced. However, if a detonation
took place at night, where the pupils of the eyes are dilated the resulting flash would increase the probability of severe
eye damage and blindness.
Immediately after the
initial detonation, the blast would be felt, which in effect is akin to a major hurricane, except that apart from the outward
wind, you also experience an inward blast to replace the air that was pushed out (pressure wave).
Within the radius of
the first four or five kilometres the winds would be of tornado force – approximately 600 km per hour – and certainly
anyone caught up within that radius would either be killed by the blast itself or by the accompanying debris.
At approximately eight
to ten kilometres radius, it has been suggested that 50% of the population would be killed.
In addition, a one-megaton
detonation causes a major firestorm that can cover up to over 100 kilometres.
Depending upon the altitude
of an atmospheric detonation, an additional problem would be an Electro magnetic pulse –EMP, which would obliterate
any electronic or electrical component, including such devices as heart pace makers. This is dealt with in more detail under
the ‘E’ bomb section.
ones will be the people who were vaporised immediately in the blast area; the unfortunate ones would be the longer-term survivors,
who would slowly die through that terrible affliction, radiation poisoning. The initial symptoms include a tingling or itching
sensation all over the body, within days or weeks’ blood begins to ooze painfully from every orifice on the body. Under
these circumstances, death is a welcome release.
Those who ‘survive’
the initial gamma radiation, have the unfortunate experience of suffering the post effects such as leukaemia and other associated genetic related disorders.
One-megaton detonation at ground level:
While the affected area may be smaller than an air burst, a huge crater would be formed several hundred
metres across and 50 – 80 metres deep, where the resulting excavated material would turn into radioactive dust. The
larger particles would descend in the immediate area, while the smaller and finer particles would be borne on the air and
carried downwind, ascending later.
The fallout would be lethal to anyone up to 100 kilometres downwind, unless they were suitably protected
in a fallout shelter. It is therefore imperative that protection be sought immediately after the blast, especially if you
are downwind of the explosion.
The areas affected would be uninhabitable for many months, even years, after detonation.
weakens rapidly in the first hours after an explosion this is called "decay". After seven or eight hours, fallout has lost
about 90% of the strength it had one hour after the explosion. After two days it has lost 99%; in two weeks 99.9%. However
the areas affected would be
uninhabitable for many months, even years, after detonation
Now that we have some basic background under our belt, how do we protect ourselves and what do we do should the unthinkable
Stay or evacuate?
This is one of the most common questions that everyone asks, and naturally there is no simple answer,
it depends entirely on the type of event that has occurred, your personal circumstances and how adequately prepared you are.
So, let us look at the options and the associated advantages and disadvantages.
If you decided to pack up and leave, then you must have a high confidence that the risk of leaving home
is worth it – e.g. you already have a well- prepared shelter or suitable location to move to. Once you have left your
home, there is a strong possibility of no turning back, and there is a danger of being delayed and caught up in military road
blocks and hoards of refugees etc.
Consider evacuation only if you have all the following points organised:
- You already have friends or family in
a country area with a prepared location
- That the roads are free from restrictions
and are clear
- That you have enough supplies and fuel
for the journey
- If you are in a major city or near a
- You can go immediately – get out
quick before the rush.
So you decided to stay?
Below are a few basic hints and points of guidance, remember, it will depend on your personal circumstances, type pf
explosion and where you are located and your personal.
Keep calm –
Think! This will be an event that is now out of your control, so you must keep a firm grip on the situation –
to lose complete control and panic will cause serious harm to you and your family.
You must remember you are not going to die – we humans are resourceful creatures, use your resources and think
rationally no matter how hard it may.
Think positively and get on with organising shelter, food, water and medical supplies.
Find shelter immediately:
Depending on your location at the time of the blast will depend on how you will go about seeking immediate shelter.
If you are caught out in the open – duck for cover in any of the following areas.
· Road/storm culverts
· Abandoned stone/brick buildings (basement areas)
· Please be aware of underground or low level parking areas, these may collapse
· In your car
· Cave or tunnel
· Dig a foxhole if you are able, at least 4 feet deep.
· Use any material to cover your face to minimise intake of any fallout
If you are at home:
- If you have a basement/cellar, head for it and take only emergency supplies
– cover doorway with blankets for the initial surge of the detonation
- If you have no basement, improvise.
- Use internal doors to prop up against walls or under stairs to make a temporary
- The more material you have surrounding you the more effective
Example – 99% of radiation will be prevented by the following thickness of material
inches of solid brick
- 16 inches of hollow concrete blocks filled
with mortar or sand
- 2 feet of packed earth Ä 3 feet if loose
- 5 inches of steel
- 3 inches of lead
- 3 feet of water
It may be a good idea to store wooden ply panels (half inch or 12 mm thick) which have already been cut
to fit your window openings, that can be instantly fitted should the need arise. If you do not have storage space or are unable
to organise such additional items, there are a number of alternatives, such as internal doors, or cupboard doors, which will
be useful in leaning against walls for an inner ‘sanctum’ etc.
You could also use a heavy table in an emergency, push the table to the corner of the room where you know
that provides the most protection outside, such as built up soil or an extension like a garage etc.
Remember to keep to hand a supply of nails, screws, hammer and selection of screwdrivers in your tool
An alternative to covering windows and doors etc. would be the use of heavy industrial plastic sheeting
or tarpaulin (canvas etc), which can be taped on using duct tape or similar taping.
If you feel the need to be totally prepared and you have the time and the space, then there are various
methods available in order to build your own outside fallout shelter.
One of the most easiest and popular is to dig either a long trench, at least 7 feet deep, four feet wide
and 15 feet long – depending upon the number in your family. Once you have dug out the trench, bear in mind the safety
aspect to ensure the sides do not collapse you can cover the open roof area with suitable timber poles. If you have constructed
a four feet wide trench, then the poles should extend at least another four feet either side, thus you should use 12 feet
poles and so on.
Once the poles have been laid across the gap and pushed tightly together, a layer of earth at least 18
inches should be laid on top. In addition it is a good idea to cover this earth with a plastic membrane, and more earth placed
on top. This membrane will provide a waterproof cover, and when it rains, the water will run off the slope.
The entrance to the shelter should be as small as possible in order to avoid any incoming contamination,
approximately 22 inches wide is a good average.
You can alter your shelter to suit by constructing banks of earth, especially at the sites of entrance.
There are many ways to safely construct these shelters, thus it is advisable to refer to the section in the bibliography.
Should I invest in a radiation monitor?
Yet again using the example of our fictional
‘Jericho’ event, it appeared from the inset that the population of the town was not only ill prepared for such
an event, but the authorities did not have adequate knowledge in radiation fallout effects and protection.
The problem with radiation is that you cannot
see it, feel it or smell it, and the only method open to you for an ‘early warning’ system is to acquire a radiation
detector. However, a major caveat must be borne in mind. There are no ground rules or advice from any authority on what is
the best monitor to possess. To add insult to injury, there are many instruments on the market, many of which do not come
up to scratch in accuracy or measuring high dosage levels – be warned!
On checking many instruments and asking advice
from colleagues, it appears that the only instrument I would suggest at time of writing would be the ‘Nuke alert’.
Designed by a team of Civil Defence experts, it has been tested, and in use, by military organisations and civil authorities.
Details of this instrument may be found in appendix
Preparation is always the key word, and it is without doubt that if the fictional
town of Jericho had been prepared, such as implementing a well-rehearsed civil defence plan, and practised in emergency procedures,
a more confident outcome would have been assured.
In the chapter on ‘The challenges –
Trials and Tribulations – Psychological trauma’ we look at the problems of coping with the after affects of such
In Appendix B you will find a list of essential supplies to maintain and keep to hand for preparation under a number
of disasters and emergencies. Please ensure you have read the lists and have obtained the items in readiness. You can always
‘recycle’ and use the items on the list as long as you remember to restock as necessary.
In addition it is a good idea, as explained in the chapter Are you prepared?
to delegate certain responsibilities and tasks to members of your family - which should be practised on ‘dry runs’
whenever feasible. When the crunch comes, not only will they will know exactly what to do their minds will be occupied, thus
(temporarily at least) minimising the initial psychological drama.
Potassium Iodide – KI
information below is offered as a general guide, please contact a medical specialist or your pharmacist if you decide to purchase
Potassium iodide for the correct dosages and procedures.
Radioactive Iodine (Radioiodine)
is a major radioisotope constituent of both nuclear power plant accidents and nuclear bomb explosions and can travel hundreds
of miles on the winds.
Even very small amounts
of inhaled or ingested radioiodine can cause grave damage, as it will always concentrate and be retained in the small space
of the thyroid gland. Eventually a large radiation dose is seeped into the thyroid cells, and it is here that abnormalities
are likely to result, such as loss of thyroid function, nodules in the thyroid, or thyroid cancer.
Taking either Potassium
Iodide (KI) or Potassium Iodate (KIO3) before exposure will saturate the thyroid gland with safe stable iodine to such a situation
that there is no room for further uptake of radioactive iodine. Once the thyroid is saturated, any additional iodine (radioactive
or stable) that is later inhaled or ingested is quickly eliminated via the kidneys.
Radioactive Iodine is
only produced by a fission or fusion weapon detonation, or in a Nuclear Power Plant as a by- product, while a ‘dirty
bomb’ or Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD) merely spreads around existing radioactive material. Therefore KI or KIO3
would likely not be required under these circumstances.
A salt of the elements
potassium and iodine, taken orally even in very small quantities 1/2 hour to 1 day before radioactive iodines are swallowed
or inhaled, prevents about 99% of the damage to the thyroid gland that otherwise would result.
If you must go out,
cover your mouth and nose with a damp towel or cloth.
Use your stored food
and drinking water.
Clean and cover any
Planning is THE key
element – being prepared is half the battle – coping with an event of this nature is the other half!
reading and links
Study details catastrophic impact of nuclear attack on U.S.
Writer: Sam Fahmy, 706/542-5361, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Cham Dallas, 706/542-5412, email@example.com;
William Bell, 706/542-6480, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mar 20, 2000
– A new study by researchers at the Center for Mass Destruction Defense (CMADD) at the University of Georgia details
the catastrophic impact a nuclear attack would have on American cities.
- A 20-kiloton detonation would leave debris tens of feet thick in downtown areas with buildings 10-stories or higher.
Roughly half of the population in downtown areas would be killed, mainly from collapsing buildings. Most of those surviving
the initial blast in downtown areas would be exposed to a fatal dose of radiation.
- While the main effects from a 20-kiloton explosion would be from the blast and the radiation it releases, a 550-kiloton
explosion would create additional and substantial casualties from burns. Such an explosion would superheat the blast zone,
causing buildings to spontaneously combust. Mass fires would consume cities, reaching out nearly four miles (6.3 km) in all
directions from the detonation site.
- A 550 kiloton detonation in New York would result in a fallout plume extending the length of Long Island, resulting
in more than 5 million deaths.
- A 550 kiloton detonation in Washington, D.C. would destroy hospitals in the District, but its fallout plume would also
incapacitate hospitals in Baltimore, nearly 40 miles away.
What to do if a nuclear disaster is imminent –
Biography of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer
Effects of a Nuclear
'Nuke Alert' radiation monitor
Regional nuclear war could devastate global climate:
“Even a small-scale, regional nuclear war could
produce as many direct fatalities as all of World War II and disrupt the global climate for a decade or more, with environmental
effects that could be devastating for everyone on Earth, university researchers have found.”
These powerful conclusions were presented December 11 2006 during
a press conference and a special technical session at the annual meeting of American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The
research also appeared in twin papers posted on Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, an online journal.
“A cooling of several degrees would occur over
large areas of North America and Eurasia, including most of the grain-growing regions," Robock said. "As in the case with
earlier nuclear winter calculations, large climatic effects would occur in regions far removed from the target areas or the
countries involved in the conflict."