What Should I Know About Nuclear Fallout?

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  • Written By: A.E. Jaquith
  • Edited By: Jay Garcia
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  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2019
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Nuclear fallout is the term used when, after a nuclear explosion occurs, dust particles and other debris receive a dangerous dose of nuclear radiation. Although not immediately deadly in most circumstances, and not nearly as dangerous as being within a nuclear blast radius, nuclear fallout can be fatal. In the event that one is exposed to nuclear fallout, there are several steps that can increase safety.

Although there are numerous fallout maps available that attempt to project a pattern that nuclear fallout is likely to travel, there is no perfect system. This is due to the fact that fallout travels on wind currents. Simply speaking, if you happen to be down wind during a nuclear emergency you can expect to receive some degree of nuclear fallout.


Those within 30 miles (48 km) of a nuclear emergency who are not shielded will likely receive a lethal dose of radiation, which can be fatal after several hours of exposure. Within 90 miles (145 km), exposure to nuclear fallout is still powerful enough to cause death within two weeks of exposure that has not been treated. After 160 miles (258 km), exposure to fallout can cause severe internal damage with a loss of white blood cells (lowered immune system), although death is less likely. Those who are 250 miles (402 km) away from a nuclear emergency will experience a loss of white blood cells, but will not suffer from immediate symptoms. This does not, however, take all factors into consideration, and it can be extremely difficult to predict the effects of nuclear fallout in a specific area.

There are numerous steps that can be taken prior to a nuclear fallout emergency to increase safety and chance of survival. First, determine if there are any buildings in your area that have been designated as a fallout shelter. Be sure to share this information with your family. Also, prepare a disaster survival kit with food, clean water, medical supplies, relevant literature, a radio, and anything else you or your family may need for at least two weeks. Finally, determine your communities evacuation methods.

If you find yourself in the midst of a nuclear emergency, all hope is not lost. The most important step to follow in this situation is to take cover . Try to hide behind anything that might offer good protection from a blast wave, such as brick or concrete structures. If possible, seek sanctuary in a secure, underground location.

After a nuclear emergency, it is important to stay sheltered until officials say that it is safe. It is also extremely important to keep your environment, and person, sanitary. By washing with soap and water you can remove any irradiated dust particles from your body. It might be necessary to ration food and medical supplies, but pay attention to the special needs of children and the elderly.

This is not a definitive guide to protection from nuclear fallout. There is a near endless supply of information available from credible sources online and in print, published in nearly all languages. In the event of a nuclear emergency, no one is one hundred percent safe, but by following correct safety procedures your chances of survival are increased.


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Post 3

@Chicada- I am pretty sure that he NRC or one of those nuclear agencies publishes a nuclear fallout map for the United States that gives a rough idea of where fallout will occur should a nuclear accident occur. these maps are only predictions, and are very dependent on weather conditions and prevailing winds.

If you are worried about fallout, which I would like to point out is a low possibility, you can find maps of fallout shelters in your city. You can also make a emergency plan that you go over with your family. decide on procedures to take should a nuclear action occur, plan where to meet, and have an ample supply of food and a first aid kit.

Post 2

@chicada- I honestly think it all depends on the extent of the meltdown. The Chernobyl meltdown, the worst on record, released five percent of all the radioactive material in its core to the environment, causing nuclear fallout across large swaths of Europe and Asia.

This type of reactor is much different from the reactors we have in the states though. Chernobyl was an RMBK reactor, a boiling water graphite moderated reactor that was designed to produce electricity and enriched weapons grade Pu239. This type of reactor has no outer containment structure, and becomes very volatile under low power.

This reactor is also highly radioactive and contains everything from radioactive iodine to radioactive plutonium. The fall out from this reactor spread

for thousands of miles, and resulted in the permanent displacement of over 130,000 people. It also caused the cancer deaths of thousands, and it is predicted that it will cause almost 50,000 more cancer deaths in the next 50 years.
Post 1

How much nuclear fallout would occur from a full meltdown of a nuclear reactor? How far would the nuclear fallout effects reach from a reactor meltdown? What happens to the radioactive materials as they hit water like oceans?

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