Nuclear Weapons Effects Analysis

A properly adjusted improvised shelter can provide very good protection against the destructive effects of nuclear weapons. However, there might be a problem especially if such a shelter is located a shorter distance away from the centre of a nuclear burst. In the worse case, the building could be significantly damaged or completely destroyed and in the better case it could be “just” the windows and doors that would be blown out and the interior partitions and roof damaged. If the shelter is further away from the point of the burst, the damages could be manifested as mainly broken window glass. Window glass can mostly be expected to shatter in distances of several tens of kilometers (miles) away and in certain special cases even much further away than that.

Under normal circumstances broken windows are not really such a vital complication. If, however, there is a threat of arrival of radioactive fallout, of a chemical, biological or toxin attack, or if there is risk of some other type of dangerous air pollution (smoke from fires, chemical plant accident …) in the given region, it would be reasonable to try to seal the windows well as soon as possible. If window glass breaks at a time when there is a dangerous concentration of harmful chemical substances outside, it suffices to put on a protective mask with the appropriate filter and, if need be, also a protective suit, and seal the windows without rushing. The bad air that had entered the building as the windows were being sealed can then be rid of harmful substances with the help of filter and ventilation device – and the problem will have been dealt with! Our manual filter-ventilation device can be used for this purpose; it is not dependent on electrical power and will therefore be operable also in conditions following the use of nuclear weapons when permanent failure of grid electricity supplies would occur in large regions. A different situation would arise, however, the moment there is a great risk that radioactive fallout could occur in the given region. Here there is a substantial difference compared to the first case. All windows we should seal before its arrival yet to avoid exposure to ionizing radiation.

A much more serious problem may arise in the event of substantial damage to the roof, doors, windows, internal partitions and even the bearing walls. At the moment when it becomes evident that we could expect radioactive fallout in the given region, there may be relatively little time left to repair shielding barriers against gamma radiation, to seal windows and doors, etc. To continue adjusting shielding barriers at a time when radioactive particles have already started falling on the ground would mean exposure to certain health problems, especially in areas shorter distances away from the epicenter, even if we manage to complete the job within a couple of minutes from the beginning of the fallout.

We should bear in mind that after a nuclear strike also the people in areas further away from the center of the burst would be exposed to great stress. Some will run around in confusion, others will pursue less important activities, some will remain just sitting somewhere and will be completely useless for any work and those who will know exactly what to do will probably not be many. In areas shorter distances away from the center of the nuclear burst work may be obstructed by debris of buildings, fallen branches… At night everything would be even more complicated. On top of all this, there may also be different size fires in some areas. And we should not forget possible injuries, which will be more severe the shorter the distance from the center of the nuclear burst.

Most people live at distances to several tens of kilometers (miles) from an important target against which a nuclear weapon of corresponding force might be deployed to destroy, or at least damage it. Thus in the event of a nuclear war an essential part of people would have to contend in various degrees with the destructive factors of nuclear bursts. While in one area people could have the greatest problem with the blast wave, elsewhere they might be threatened for a change mainly by light and heat radiation, initial radiation or radiation from fallout. In some places, however, they might be forced to cope with a number of the destructive factors of a nuclear burst. People in regions at risk of radioactive fallout should complete all the necessary repairs before its arrival. If this or that area will be threatened by radioactive fallout, it cannot be predicted with great certainty in advance because it depends on the distance from the epicenter, the power and type of the burst, the composition of the bomb, wind direction and velocity from ground to the rise height of the upper margin of the radioactive cloud of the nuclear burst … It is thus always better to count on the less favorable variant, which is the presence of radioactive fallout in the area at issue. If in the end there is no fallout, then fine. But if there were and we had not been prepared, we might be in danger.

To evaluate the effects of nuclear bursts is a demanding task even for experts, let alone the general public. An absolute majority of people has not sufficient knowledge to be able to calculate, for a specific house that might serve as a possible improvised shelter, the safe length of time needed to do the necessary work before the fallout arrival; radiation level on the terrain at different time after the burst; the necessary thickness, height, material and placement of shielding barriers against gamma radiation; when the blast wave arrival can be expected; the probable impacts of the blast wave on the house in question; the risks presented to the house by light and heat radiation and how to reduce them as much as possible; when it is safe to go outside and for how long; the sequence of the execution of individual jobs from the time of the burst to the fallout arrival and what to do if any of the activities cannot be completed at the appointed time, … We therefore offer to make analyses evaluating the effects of both near and more distant nuclear bursts on the house which is supposed to serve as a shelter in case of necessity. With such information you should be able to adjust the improvised shelter for safe and long-term sheltering. The approach to the analyses is a practical one; they are drafted in plain language and can be of use to anybody who has completed at least basic education.

The range of nuclear weapons effects depends especially on their type (fission or thermonuclear weapon), the composition of the bomb (ratio of fission and fussion part, …), power of burst (underground without ejection of soil, underground with ejection of soil, surface, low airburst, high airburst, high-altitude burst, underwater and on water surface), current weather conditions (precipitation and fog intensity, degree of cloud cover and cloud type and height, wind direction and speed from ground up to the top of the stabilized radioactive cloud, the amount of dust in the atmosphere, …), the shape of the landscape, the type of subsoil and its humidity (at an underground or surface burst), the number and type of barriers between our shelter and the burst (sizes and types of buildings, vegetation density, height, type and extent, etc.), ground surface between the burst and shelter (gravel, asphalt, water, grass, …), altitude above the sea level (of the target, burst and shelter), type of shelter and the angle of incidence of the blast wave, light and heat radiation affecting the shelter, character of the target (town, dam etc.), reflectance of the earth's surface (especially at a burst in air, on surface and on water surface), geographic latitude and, of course, distance from the center of the burst and the time that has passed since the explosion.

To be able to determine the effects of a nuclear burst on people it is also important to know, besides the details listed in the paragraph above, what is the time of the day (daytime, dusk or nighttime); where the person in question is at the time of the burst and shortly afterwards (near a wall, by the window, …); what is that person's position (prone, sideways facing the burst, …), skin color and physical constitution, age and health status; whether the person is looking towards the burst at the given moment; the type of clothes wears (summer, winter, the color, moisture, the material used and snugness to the body). If there is radioactive contamination of the surrounding terrain by local fallout, then it depends on the length of stay of that person in the given area; the time of entry into such area (the time that has passed since the burst and since the arrival of radioactive fallout); the quality of the shielding protecting her from ionizing radiation; whether suitable protective equipments are used; whether uncontaminated food and water is consumed; how well all the fresh injuries are treated; whether she had been irradiated before (for how long, to what radiation doses she was exposed, which part of the body was irradiated, what were the possible time intervals between individual exposures, …); and, of course, it depends also on her knowledge how to behave in the given situation and on the speed of reaction.

If, for example, at ten different locations we performed ten 100kt nuclear explosions, then the effects of each of these blasts at any given distance from the epicentre would, more or less, be different. Concerning nuclear weapons there is generally a widespread and propagated myth that following a thermonuclear war everything would be permanently contaminated with highly radioactive fallout. This myth is based on the absolute ignorance of nuclear weapons issue. In fact, radiation level from fallout initially decreases rapidly and sufficient knowledge allows the execution of the necessary outside jobs for a limited period of time even in more strongly contaminated areas as early as a couple of days after the burst without running the risk of contracting a mild degree of radiation sickness. Nonetheless, especially long-term stay in such an area requires suitable shielding against radioactive radiation, thus at least a suitably adapted improvised shelter is an absolute necessity.

Building a suitable improvised shelter is not often so demanding if we know exactly what to do. Unfortunately, most people have no idea what exactly they are supposed to protect themselves against. Protection against radioactive radiation from possible fallout is but one of the many things they have to deal with. The effects of the blast wave or light and heat radiation may often present a more serious threat than some radioactive fallout, especially within shorter distances from the centre of the nuclear burst. In some cases the greatest danger may come from initial radiation.

To elaborate a detailed study for a specific house or its part is a rather demanding task. Every such property is unique in a way, and the same applies also to its surroundings. In practice, it could occur even such a situation that also two exactly the same houses separated by a distance of not more than 100 m (110 yd.) could suffer completely different degrees of damage due to a nuclear burst. The difference in the damage could be so considerable that one of the buildings might be damaged slightly and the other might be beyond repair. As for the surrounging radioactive contamination of the terrain by local fallout, so the measured values in one building might be negligible, while in the second it may be necessary to build stronger shielding barriers against gamma radiation. It is clear that without rather extensive calculations it is not easy to determine the probable extent of damage to a specific building, nor the radiation level both inside the building and in its near surroundings. It is especially knowledge of the surroundings of the shelter that makes it possible to make more precise calculations and get the real expected values of the individual destructive factors of the nuclear burst.

Our calculations are based on a number of input parameters. We calculate with the worst possible conditions that could arise as a result of the presumed power of the given type of a nuclear burst. If the calculations are being done for some smaller targets against which it would be sufficient to use relatively “small” nuclear weapons, we take into account that during a war there is not always time to wait for delivery of the appropriate ammunition. This means that if the aggressor has no nuclear weapons of the optimal size at hand, he might use also more powerful nuclear weapons to destroy such targets. Fortunately, the age of large nuclear weapons that had been the domain of the Cold War is gone. It might not be obvious at first glance, but it is better to use several nuclear weapons of smaller power to destroy a large target than to use one very powerful weapon. If we were to use for example instead of a single 5 Mt nuclear weapon (one that releases the same amount of energy during a burst as ten 500 kt nuclear weapons of the same type and composition) three to four 500 kt nuclear weapons against a large city, it would not often be a big problem to cause also significantly greater damages with them.

Our analysis apart of other things involves also the fireball rise velocity; the expected horizontal deviation of the warhead with nuclear charge from the planned centre of the burst; the decrease of energy from blast wave caused by destruction of barriers; natural barriers (vegetation, shape of the landscape) as well as artificial barriers (buildings); the size of the light and thermal impulse – separately for each side of the building facing the burst; change in the size of the light and thermal impulse caused by the reflection of light and thermal radiation from the neighboring environment of the building and possibly also from clouds; the possibility of burns suffered by people inside the house and in its close surroundings; radiation level on the terrain from local fallout with regard to the surrounding terrain and built-up areas where we take into account also the extent of damage caused by the possible destructive effect of a blast wave, light and thermal radiation. We solve also problems relating to multiple nuclear attacks. We, of course, provide recommendation on how to minimize the extent of possible injuries of the persons caused by the effect of the blast wave, light and thermal radiation. If we find any risk of ignition of the furnishings of the house, we add advice on how to prevent it. We also provide information on how to reduce as much as possible the risk of contracting a mild degree of radiation sickness during the stay in the given shelter and its close surroundings.

Nuclear weapons are the most destructive of the weapons of mass destruction. We are therefore very well aware of the responsibility we are taking upon ourselves when doing each analysis. That is why each analysis is unique. As it is important the analysis to help you survive in case of need and prevent unnecessary injuries, it is necessary to pay great attention to the distance of your home from centers of such nuclear bursts that could present certain threat for you. If we come to the conclusion that damage to the house caused by a blast wave could be such that the house would no longer be habitable, we will refuse to elaborate the analysis. It would be a pointless waste of your money. In such a case we will recommend you participation in our specialized courses (Protection against WMD and Special Training against WMD) where you will learn, besides other things, how is possible to appropriately improvise under field conditions even at distances just several kilometers (miles) away from the epicenter not only at the time of the burst but primarily after it.

In the following table are given the approximate minimal distances of various types of buildings from the geometrical center of an assumed target of a nuclear attack, which are needed for elaboration of an analysis. In the case of a large city you should calculate the distance from its margins. We then modify it. The distances in the table have been set with respect to the overpressure size at the front of the blast wave of a 500 kt nuclear burst. By brick building is here understood a full brick house. Houses built from new lightweight materials have a similar resistance to wooden structures.

Type of building Minimal distance
Brick 6–8 km (3.7–5 mi.)
Wooden 9–13 km (5.6–8.1 mi.)

In certain cases an analysis can be done also for shorter distances than those in the table. It depends on the shape of the terrain, on the number and type of obstacles between your house and the target of the attack, on the type of the target (town, military base etc.) and on whether there is a cellar in your house or not. The main criterion for elaboration of an analysis in such a case is a high probability of your survival without serious health complications and the preservation of substantial parts of the house required for gamma radiation shielding from possible radioactive fallout.

No attendance at any prior course on nuclear weapons or reading any literature on this subject is necessary to be able to understand and use the information contained in the analysis, because the latter contains a brief explanation of their individual effects. The analysis is written in plain language, allowing anybody who has completed at least elementary school education to be able to apply the information it contains.

What the analysis will tell you

Possible targets of the attack: important industrial centers, larger towns (approx. > 100,000 inhabitants), military bases, air defense systems, radar stations, command centers, airports (including those out of use), military underground shelters, major dams, fuel depots, refineries, power plants, rocket silos, ports, etc.

Delivery method: standardly by e-mail in pdf format.

Delivery time: the analyses are elaborated according to a waiting list; when it is your turn, you will be asked for payment and after this has been credited to our account we will have the analysis delivered to you within 7 to 10 days.

Language of the document: English (other languages on request).

Size: approx. 20–40 standard pages.

Required information: more detailed information enables more accurate calculations to be made, therefore it is not very sensible only to send a photo of a house or similar, as with that a lot cannot really be done, (calculations then must be undertaken on a more general level, which is quite a shame considering the fact that the analysis should serve towards the long-term protection of the health and lives of sheltered persons.)

Price: CZK 9,800 (approx. USD 420 or EUR 380, depending on the current rate of exchange of the Czech crown on the date of payment).

Method of payment: by bank transfer or in cash – before the elaboration of the analysis

If for any reason you do not wish to send the information needed for the analysis elaboration electronically, it is possible to send them by ordinary mail or submit them in person.

To learn how to assess the radiation situation outside the house by yourself (without the use of any instruments), to prepare drinking water, to pass through contaminated area as safely as possible, to work in a contaminated area, …, we recommend our courses Protection against WMD and Special Training against WMD.