Scientists simulated a nuclear explosion about 37 times more powerful than that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The simulation helped them identify safe and unsafe indoor locations to shelter during a nuclear attack.
This is the first study to show how nuclear shock waves might affect people indoors.
If a nuclear bomb were dropped on your city tomorrow, would you know where to take cover? Nuclear war is a terrifying thought, but it tops the list for a team of researchers from the University of Nicosia in Cyprus.
In a recent study, researchers calculated how the explosion of a nuclear blast might affect people indoors and found that even when you are a safe distance from the blast, you are still around the blast to survive are still in imminent danger.
“It is important to understand the impact on people indoors in order to make recommendations to protect people and assets,” said co-author Dimitri Drikakis. “For example, we can design structures that offer more protection.”
Avoid hallways and doorways. Look for corners of windowless rooms.
When a nuclear bomb explodes, it not only produces radiation in the form of a bright, blinding light and searing heat, but also powerful shock waves that can travel tens of kilometers.
It is these shock waves that are potentially fatal to people within a safe enough distance from the fireball.
The team simulated a nuclear explosion from a 750-kiloton atomic bomb. For reference, the bombs that the US dropped on Hiroshima were 15 kilotons and on Nagasaki 25 kilotons. So that’s on average about 37 times smaller than the bomb in the researchers’ simulation.
A warhead of this magnitude would likely wipe out everything within 2.5 miles, but people outside of that radius might stand a chance if they sheltered in the right spot of a stable structure.
Where that correct location is, however, is where the researchers’ findings get interesting.
“The explosion was simulated using high-resolution and computational higher-order fluid dynamics,” Drikakis told Insider, based on three decades of experimentation and theory.
Using these models, they calculated how the shock wave would travel through buildings — including rooms, walls, corners, doors, corridors, windows, and passageways — at distances of 2.5 miles to 30 miles from the detonation site.
They reported that narrow pockets in buildings such as doorways and hallways could act like a wind tunnel, accelerating the shockwave to dangerous pressures of up to 18 times a person’s body weight – light enough to crush bones.
“The most dangerous critical indoor locations to avoid are the windows, the corridors, and the doors,” said co-author Ioannis William Kokkinakis.
The best location is in the half of the building farthest from the explosion, in a room with no windows. But “even in the front room facing the blast, you can be safe from the high airspeeds by positioning yourself on the corners of the blast-facing wall,” Kokkinakis told Insider.
It is also worth noting that the building itself is important. They don’t want to hide in a log cabin, for example.
“As the paper noted, if you’re too close to the blast, there’s not much that can be done. At a distance, however, building structures, particularly stone or concrete or other stable non-combustible materials, can provide some degree of protection from the blast. said Kathryn Higley, a professor of radiation biology at Oregon State University, who was not involved with the study.
Prepare for an uncertain future
The researchers said they modeled the detonation of a 750-kiloton bomb after Russia’s Sarmat, an ICBM that the Kremlin test-launched last April.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raised concerns that we may be approaching nuclear war, and one of their main motivations for the study was “the growing rhetoric about the use of nuclear weapons,” Drikakis said.
“Nuclear war is a serious matter that will result in widespread destruction. For several decades, the international community has assumed that such a possibility will not materialize. However, the rhetoric around the world has changed,” said Drikakis.
The authors believe these findings could help nuclear safety experts develop better strategies to mitigate the damage from nuclear explosions and radiation leaks. They hope that the results of the study could also guide the development of nuclear explosion-proof buildings in the future.
“The broader implication of this research is that it can help understand how best to protect yourself in the event of a nuclear blast,” Higley said.
Forget the nuclear fallout and apocalyptic lifestyle you’ll be confronted with in hindsight. Surviving that is a whole different kind of study.
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