How To Survive A Nuclear War

The secrets to living through a real-life Fallout 4

It’s been an exciting week for gamers with the release of the highly-anticipated Fallout 4 video game which takes place decades after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization and only those in fallout shelters have survived.

But could humans really survive a nuclear apocalypse and spend years in a bunker? Scientists at the American Chemical Society (ACS) have tested the real-life challenges of living in a fallout shelter and say time, distance and shielding will determine who lives and who dies.

The key to survival is to minimise your exposure ionising radiation – the stream of alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays after a nuclear attack.

Those who are exposed for the shortest time, are the furthest distance away and have the most shelter are significantly more likely to survive.

[Image: U.S. Government – Federal Emergency Management Agency]

Once the initial explosion is over, the biggest health risk is nuclear fallout, the radiation that spreads from debris lifted into the fireball during the explosion. Experts suggest fleeing high population areas and locations close to military bases.

“NASA has developed radiation shielding for space flights which could be adapted for a fallout shelter,” says chemist Dr. Raychelle Burks.

“Current research suggests that carbon nanotubes provide protection from radiation and ounce for ounce are at least a hundred times stronger than steel.”

Scientists also suggest that water could be purified using graphene oxide and food could be grown using a complex aquaponics system which cycles nutrients between plants and fish.

Daniel Salisbury from King’s College London has recently completed research on nuclear attacks and survival strategies. He suggests a simple test to determine whether you’re in danger from radiation:

[Image: Centre for Science & Security Studies]

Discuss this article

Newsletter

Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
Submit