Nuclear Destruction

Hector Santana
7 min readJan 30


Can We Survive it?

The one thing we know about nuclear war is that we don’t know much about nuclear war. Thats because the only time a nuclear device was used in combat was during World War II, when Japan became the first country to experience the use of such a destructive device.

Since then, the US Military has generated most of what we know about surviving such an event. Many of the materials you see in the old US Military manuals are based on “scientific assumptions”. Now, actually surviving a nuclear explosion, that’s another ball of wax.

To begin with, the destructive power of a nuclear explosion is based on the yield of the device expressed in tons of TNT. The explosive power of a device is measured in kilotons, one kiloton is equal to 1000 tons of TNT. The more kilotons, the stronger the explosion. The bombs dropped over Japan were 15 and 20 Kilotons respectively. Never mind their destructive power, both are considered “low yield” by today’s standards. Today’s weapons are far more powerful. In fact, the strongest explosion on record is the 50 Megaton Russian bomb exploded in 1961 known as the Tsar Bomba. To give you an idea of their power, one megaton is equal to one million tons of TNT. See where we’re going with this?

Remember these signs? The basements in these buildings are supposed to withstand a nuclear explosion.

Ok now that we got that out of the way, let's see how we survive this thing. Remember those shelter signs we used to see indicating a fallout shelter in a building, school, or government facility? Bet you always asked yourself, are they any good? Well, they are but remember the strength of those shelters was based on the nuclear bombs of that period in time. Not much has been said about whether or not they would be functional in a nuclear attack today. Yes, it’s better than nothing, but we need to be in the shelter before detonation not after. Nearly every survival manual, military or civilian urges us to get underground prior to a nuclear detonation. That leaves a lot of people out in the “cold”.

Fact is only a small number of people will be able to get to a shelter prior to an explosion, leaving the rest of us out in the open. Can we survive? There are some manuals that would have you believe that its possible simply by diving in a culvert, hiding in a sewer, or jumping in a cave. While it is true that it’s better to be in one of those spaces than to be out in the open, the jury is still out on whether that action will be enough to save your life. A nuclear detonation is followed by an intense wave of heat, light, air pressure, and radiation. All of which, we must survive after the initial explosion. The explosion sucks air inward only to blast it back outward, destroying everything in its path. Therefore, that culvert, sewer, or cave, better be very deep, the deeper the better. Thats not to say that the scathingly hot air or radiation won’t reach the depths or your hideout, but it’s your best bet in terms of initial survival. It will take 10 minutes or more for the fallout to reach you. Find shelter immediately, ideally behind the walls of an enclosed brick or concrete building.

The effects of a one megaton bomb would devastate a large area.

Of course, various factors including the time of day, size of the bomb, weather conditions, altitude of the explosion and typography, all determine the effects of a nuclear explosion on the population. Your proximity to the explosion is perhaps the best indicator of whether or not you can survive. Thus, the best protection from a nuclear explosion is distance. A one kiloton bomb would cause 50% mortality within a 300-yard radius. That would increase to 0.3 miles for a 10-kiloton bomb. While a 1000 kiloton blast would cause third degree burns up to 5 miles away, second degree burns up to 6 miles, and first degree up to 7 miles away. People as far away as 50 miles could be temporarily blinded by the flash of the explosion. Sadly, anyone within half-mile away of a 300-kiloton bomb would be killed instantly.

Remember those school classroom drills where students would practice getting under their tables to simulate a nuclear attack? Yea, none of us would have survived as the blast would have literally blown our school into rubble. How about those videos urging us to dig a hasty foxhole to avoid the flash and initial heat and pressure exerted by a nuclear blast. That would not have saved us either. The fact is a nuclear explosion in the near distance would more than likely kill us. The truth is a sad but real testament to the power of the nuclear bombs in today’s day and age. There are things we can do that improve our chances of survival, but they involve being able to react very early to geopolitical tensions that give rise to the possibility of a nuclear attack.

If you hate politics and pay little attention to the nightly news, you are less likely to sense the suttle nuances associated with geopolitical strife. Pay mind to the saber rattling is what I am saying. If you sense something is brewing, go away for the weekend. Getting far away from urban centers that are likely to be attacked is your best chance for survival. You may have many false alarms in doing so but exercising this policy of reacting to global tensions will give you a fighting chance in the event of an attack. Where do you go? Well, that depends on where you live. It is preferrable to get as far as 50–100 miles from the urban areas to a place protected by typographical land formations. Yes, mountains would be good. Learning what to do in the event you are far enough away to survive but are still affected by the bomb's aftereffects, is also a good idea.

Being outside the blast radius is your best bet for survival. Getty/KREMLL

So, what do you learn? Aside from treating burns, radiation is perhaps the greatest danger facing you and your family. It lingers and clings to everything and causes lasting health effects, including death depending on degree and length of exposure. Learn how to avoid and treat radiation as best you could. If you can get inside, do so and tape off all windows and doorways to prevent seepage into the location. Take off and bag all your clothing that was exposed to radiation immediately. Sanitize your body as regularly as you can. If you have them, take some iodine potassium pills to ward off the effects of the radiation. But you will have to take steps to prevent additional contamination into your shelter. Water will be contaminated so you will have to seek bottles or sources of water in the area. This will be hard to do because you may have to remain inside for some time depending on the fallout and radiation from the blast. It could be 72 hours or longer.

Thats why having a bug-out location complete with an NBC mask and suit, stored water, radio and goods is your best option. By the way, you should keep some of this gear in your car, just in case. There is no point in surviving only to die of starvation or lack of water. Take the same steps you would to prepare for any other emergency. Store water and freeze-dried foods, enough for several months for each person. This will give you a fighting chance to stay alive beyond the initial blast and the ensuing chaos of a nuclear attack. The short answer is yes, you can survive a nuclear explosion. However, it will take careful planning, consideration, and attention to geopolitical nuances. Have a carefully prepared bug-out location far from the urban areas. Have a plan your family knows and understands. Lastly, do not be afraid to execute that plan at the first sign of trouble, before an attack and with absolute discipline, during an attack. To recap our survival plan, remember to find shelter in a concrete building, sanitize your body, secure all doors and windows, prepare supplies, choose an appropriate space, and stay put for 72 hours or more.

Can we avoid nuclear war? With geopolitical competition heating up between China, Russia, and the United States, the threat is real. The best way to avoid a nuclear war is to avoid geopolitical competition. But with the way things are going in the world right now, that's not going to happen anytime soon. Until then, all we can do is stay prepared. Take the time to research incidents like the WW2 Japanese attack, Chyrnobyl or the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, also in Japan. Find out what happened and why and what could have been done differently. Survival is based on preparation, so remember proper preparation prevents piss poor performance. In this case, that's really, really true. Safe trails out there…



Hector Santana

*Top Writer-Camping and Survival. I love to write about the great outdoors, survival and foreign policy. An avid outdoorsman and survival instructor.