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Apocalypse & Armageddon

Radiation is not the main thing: what is the real danger of a nuclear bomb

Radiation is not the main thing: what is the real danger of a nuclear bomb 1

The threat of a global nuclear war has been circulating in the world for decades. There are many international agreements on the non-use of such weapons and the destruction of existing bombs, but nevertheless, they are still located on the military bases of some countries. How dangerous a nuclear explosion is, many people do not even know.

Shock wave

A nuclear explosion has several damaging factors. The first is the shock wave which in a nuclear bomb, it spreads over considerable distances. Its movement exceeds the speed of sound in this medium, which leads to significant damage. There is a strong compression of the air, which spreads very quickly in all directions from the center of the explosion.

The wave breaks everything in its path, scattering fragments of buildings, glass fragments, pieces of trees and parts of equipment in different directions. People can be hit by multiple fragments and debris. And since at the time of the explosion a vacuum forms in its center, after the shock wave stops, everything that flew from it in different directions will begin to return back at the same speed. The affected area depends on the power of the charge and the place where the bomb was detonated. The most dangerous is an explosion in the air, and the most benign – underground.

Light emission

At the time of the explosion of a nuclear bomb, thermal radiation is formed, which is directed energy in the form of rays of the visible spectrum, ultraviolet and infrared waves. Depending on the power of the warhead, the effect of light radiation varies from fractions of a second to several tens of seconds. 

But even during this short time, any living creature that finds itself in the radius of damage will have its tissues instantly charred and melted. Even if a person is so far from the epicenter of the explosion that he will not suffer from the subsequent shock wave, he is still guaranteed blindness and skin burns of varying severity.


Together with light radiation, penetrating radiation arises. These are streams of gamma-ray components capable of ionizing any substance, including living flesh. While entering into the cells of the tissues of the human body, they have a negative effect on the atoms of which they are composed. This leads to rapid death and further non-viability of entire organs and systems, which entails a painful death. But even if a person is at a sufficiently remote distance from the epicenter of the explosion and penetrating radiation, he will still be in a place where nuclear contamination will spread.

In the book by Kai Manne Börje Siegbahn, “Alpha, Beta and Gamma -Rays Spectroscopy. Methods of nuclear spectrometry”, it is said that induced radioactivity can be used in some warheads. That is, after the impact of a nuclear bomb, substances capable of emitting radiation are specially formed in the soil. 

But the main danger for people and animals, who find themselves very far from the epicenter of such an explosion, is the formation of radioactive clouds, which are carried by the wind for a considerable distance. As a result, radioactive particles then fall out with precipitation, polluting the land, lakes and rivers. 

Well, then, along with breathing and the use of plant crops and water, radiation penetrates into a living organism and causes radiation sickness of varying severity.

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Electromagnetic pulse

During a nuclear explosion, as a result of a flash of light radiation and ionized radiation in the air, a strong alternating electromagnetic field, called an electromagnetic pulse, arises. 

Although it is believed that such a phenomenon does not affect humans, in the report of the Committee on Defense and Security of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly entitled “A new era of nuclear deterrence?” it is indicated that people, even those who are far from the epicenter of a nuclear explosion, due to the action of an electromagnetic field, may experience sensorimotor disturbances, inappropriate behavior, hallucinations, and even disability.

But the worst thing for people who are so far from the impact of a nuclear bomb that they will hardly be affected by radiation is the final effect of an electromagnetic pulse. It not only damages electronic equipment, electrical appliances and power lines, the impulse destroys the electronic ignition systems of internal combustion engines and permanently stops them from working. 

In a high-altitude nuclear explosion, gamma quanta interact with the atmosphere and, depending on the power of the warhead, are capable of traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles.

That is, theoretically, after the exchange of a couple of nuclear strikes, people who escaped in a remote corner of the planet will be deprived of electricity and their electronic devices and vehicles will cease to function. Even new equipment stored in warehouses, machines that have not yet been connected and machines that have not been assembled will also become unusable. 

The Aftermath

With more than 20000 nuclear warheads between Russia, the USA and China, the potential density of the lesion will be different, more saturated. It will even cause the calderas of six mega volcanoes to be broken with a catastrophic chain reaction. 

One black ash will circle in the wind and dosimeters will go off scale. But the grass will still turn green over our white bones, and a little white birch will make its way through the asphalt at the crossroads.

Surviving people will be technologically discarded in the Middle Ages, will be forced to live indoors by candlelight, manually cultivate the land and sew clothes from animal skins. Cultural and technological progress will be stopped for at least 100-200 years but most likely forever.

Primitive two-stroke and four-stroke internal combustion engines will not suffer since they have no semiconductors, which from ionization will become just conductors, from which they will burn themselves with a direct current. As long as there is at least some gasoline (solvent, turpentine, acetone) and it can be obtained at least somewhere.

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