Every man, every man for himself

16 12 2010

I grew up with nuclear dreams.

Nightmares, actually: Watching as the bombs rained down, fleeing from bombs, living after the bombs fell, wondering how long before we were all gone.

I know that in real life that ‘bombs’ are unlikely—in most places, a single bomb would be enough—but these were nightmares, not journal articles. In real life, I studied nuclear history, nuclear weapons, nuclear tactics. I learned about throw-weights and multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) and ICBMs and SLBMs, tactical ‘backpack’ nukes, yields, and blast radii. I was drawn and horrified, thrilled and terrified at the technologies and policies that could end it all.

I was also convinced that any attempt to survive nuclear war was foolish, a waste of money, and, most damningly, likely to lower the threshold of MADness. Since deterrence was found in this balance of terror, any attempt to diminish that terror with songs of survivability was, itself, mad.

As regards all-out nuclear war, I think that assessment holds.

But what of smaller-scale nuclear war, of terrorist tactical nukes? The world won’t end if one or two or three bombs are exploded (see: the world after the Trinity test, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the numerous test explosions since 1945), so why not try to increase survivability?

Somewhat to my surprise, then, I am not opposed to federal guides on how to live after a nuclear explosion.

The New York Times notes that the Obama administration, following steps taken by the Bush administration, is distributing information on how to survive a nuclear bomb. This information is based on models which, unexpectedly, showed that casualties could be greatly reduced simply by taking shelter immediately after the blast, thereby reducing exposure to radioactive fallout.

Physicist Brooke Buddemeier spoke at a recent conference:

If people in Los Angeles a mile or more from ground zero of an attack took no shelter, Mr. Buddemeier said, there would be 285,000 casualties from fallout in that region.

Taking shelter in a place with minimal protection, like a car, would cut that figure to 125,000 deaths or injuries, he said. A shallow basement would further reduce it to 45,000 casualties. And the core of a big office building or an underground garage would provide the best shelter of all.

“We’d have no significant exposures,” Mr. Buddemeier told the conference, and thus virtually no casualties from fallout.

This is not nothing.

Government at all levels in the US is unreliable: it may come through in prevention before and care after, but, then again, maybe not. And, as these guides note, even a fully enabled government may not be able to respond immediately after.

For better and for worse, the government is telling us, we’re on our own. For better and for worse, we have to take care of ourselves.

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11 responses

16 12 2010
geekhiker

So, basically, duck and cover?

Apparently Mr. Buddemeier has never been to L.A. where he might be surprised to find out that there are, generally speaking, no basements to hide in!

In high school, it was common knowledge that the intersection our school was at was a Russian target. It was precisely between two Air Force bases (which have since been closed). We all figured if the bombs were coming down, we’d get beers from the 7-11 (would they really card us during the impending nuclear apocalypse), climb up on the shop roof, and watch the show…

16 12 2010
dmf

everything ok?

16 12 2010
Atomic Bomb Footage

[…] Huge atomic bomb explosion under the sea. The ships give you an idea on how huge the explosion is. Video Rating: 4 / 5 On the same subject: https://absurdbeats.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/every-man-every-man-for-himself/ […]

16 12 2010
absurdbeats

@gh: Actually, Buddemeier was speaking at a conference. . . in LA!

I do wonder about the duck-and-cover, tho’. Was it about surviving the explosive impact of the bomb, or somehow protecting oneself from radiation? I’d guess the first, but maybe it was both.

And, of course, what the Times article didn’t note was how far away one had to be from the blast site to have any shot at all of surviving, both in terms of impact and radiation.

@dmf: Bumping along as usual. This article simply piqued my interest.

16 12 2010
dmf

very good, i see now that you were just waxing apocalyptic but with a hopeful note of life after blast, party at ground zero a “b”movie starring you and the world will turn to flowing pink vapor stew…

16 12 2010
absurdbeats

Oh, darlin’, I live in New York City—I don’t expect to live after ANY apocalypse. . . .

17 12 2010
17 12 2010
dmf

ha, one of the final straws for my dad leaving civil engineering (to go into environmental science) was the lies being told about the evacuation plans for NYC by the nuke plants that he was doing some consulting on.

17 12 2010
dmf

speaking of dystopias welcome to the future:
http://www.studio360.org/episodes/2010/12/17

18 12 2010
27 12 2010
Effects, HighAltitude, Nuclear, Part, Weapon, atomic energy commission, audio visual aids, nuclear detonations, nuclear warhead, nuclear weapon effects, portion deals, radar devices, reentry vehicle

[…] 0800067 – High-Altitude Nuclear Weapon Effects Part Two – Systems Interference – 1963 – 16:29 – Color – Through past nuclear testing, the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission determined that a nuclear weapon exploded at high altitude with a sufficient yield would cause adverse effects on communication and radar devices. This technically oriented video, which uses many animated audio-visual aids to explain scientific points of interest and explores the weapons’ effects on military systems. The first portion deals with a hypothetical reentry vehicle armed with a nuclear warhead. The video explains how three different nuclear detonations might be required to track and destroy the incoming vehicle. The next portion explains how a nuclear explosion would more adversely affect the low-power downlink of radio transmissions to aircraft or satellites than the more powerful uplink. Other atmospheric chemistry and infrared systems problems are discussed in the video. -From DOE NNSA/NSO Historical Test Films http://www.nv.doe.gov Video Rating: 3 / 5 You may also find this relevant: http://himalman.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/himalaya-2010-climbing-season-explorersweb-2010-year-in-review/ You can also read the following related post: http://80days80nights.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/day-35-cashmere-chicken-spaghetti/ Nice related topic here: https://absurdbeats.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/every-man-every-man-for-himself/ […]

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