How to protect yourself from a nuclear explosion

How to protect yourself from a nuclear explosion

3D illustration of the simulated airburst and blast wave generated 10 seconds after the detonation of a 750 kT nuclear warhead over a typical metropolitan city; the radius of the shock bubble at ground level is 4.6 km. Credit: I. Kokkinakis and D. Drikakis, University of Nicosia, Cyprus

There is no good place to be when a nuclear bomb goes off. Anything too close is instantly vaporized, and the radiation can pose a serious health threat even at a distance. Meanwhile, there is another danger: the blast wave generated by the explosion, which can produce velocities strong enough to lift people into the air and cause serious injury.

In the diary Physics of fluidsresearchers at the University of Nicosia simulated an atomic bomb explosion from a typical intercontinental ballistic missile and the resulting blast wave to see how it would affect people sheltering inside.

In the moderate damage zone, the blast wave is enough to topple some buildings and injure people trapped outdoors. However, sturdier buildings such as concrete structures may remain standing.

The team used advanced computer modeling to study how a nuclear blast wave travels through a standing structure. Their simulated structure featured rooms, windows, doors and corridors and allowed them to calculate the air speed in the wake of the blast wave and determine the best and worst places to be.

“Prior to our study, the danger to people inside a reinforced concrete building that resists the blast wave was unclear,” said lead author Dimitris Drikakis. “Our study shows that high speeds remain a considerable danger and can still lead to serious injury or even death.”

According to their results, simply being in a sturdy building is not enough to avoid risk. Narrow spaces can increase air speed, and blast wave involvement causes air to reflect off walls and bend around corners. In the worst cases, it can produce a force equivalent to 18 times the body weight of a human.

“The most dangerous critical interior locations to avoid are windows, corridors and doors,” said author Ioannis Kokkinakis. “People should stay away from these locations and take shelter immediately. Even in the front room facing the blast, one can be protected from high velocities if positioned at the corners of the wall facing the blast.”

How to protect yourself from a nuclear explosion

Contours of the maximum velocity reached in the first 10 seconds after the blast wave entered the window; 5 psi overpressure. Credit: I. Kokkinakis and D. Drikakis, University of Nicosia, Cyprus

The authors point out that the time between the explosion and the arrival of the blast wave is only a few seconds, so getting to a safe place quickly is essential.

“Additionally, there will be increased levels of radiation, unsafe buildings, damaged power and gas lines, and fires,” Drikakis said. “People should be concerned about all of the above and seek emergency assistance immediately.”

While the authors hope that their advice will never have to be followed, they believe that understanding the effects of a nuclear explosion can help prevent injuries and guide rescue efforts.

The article “The impact of the nuclear explosion on the people inside” is by Ioannis William Kokkinakis and Dimitris Drikakis. The article will appear in Physics of fluids it’s jan 17, 2023.

More information:
The impact of the nuclear explosion on the people inside, Physics of fluids (2023). DOI: 10.1063/5.0132565

Provided by the American Institute of Physics

Citation: How to shelter from a nuclear explosion (2023, January 17) retrieved January 17, 2023 from

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