On Nuclear War and Survival


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You open the top hatch to peak out a couple inches as you recon the surface. The Geiger counter is ticking but only slightly, you’re not threatened by the radiation. Off in the distance, you see the passing band of raiders who’d not noticed the well-camouflaged bunker sheltering limited MREs. You’re on the scout party tonight and your task is to search for a fresh water source, as the current stock is running dangerously low and your kid is recovering from a bad infection – it is critical to cover maximum ground tonight. You make your way by shadow into the night. You don’t know how your life got this way, but this is you surviving in a nuclear war.

The possibility of a nuclear war is a terrifying thought that many people fear. Unfortunately, the possibility of such an event cannot be ruled out completely. If this happens, it is crucial to know how to survive a nuclear war. This article will provide some guidelines on how to keep your family alive after a nuclear attack, whether it’s Russia, China, the United States or some other country which initiates the catastrophe.

Why do people fear nuclear war?

If you lived through the Cold War, you know the anxiety and potential horrors that nuclear war can bring. Duck and cover, which is still used to this day, was a famous tactic developed during the 1950s in case there was a nuclear attack.

We are scared to be in a nuclear war because it has the potential to cause widespread destruction, loss of life, and long-term environmental damage. The use of nuclear weapons can have catastrophic consequences, including the loss of human lives, destruction of infrastructure, and contamination of the environment with radioactive fallout. The destructive power of nuclear weapons is beyond anything that humanity has ever experienced before, and the fear of their use can be paralyzing.

Furthermore, the use of nuclear weapons is often associated with political tensions and conflicts between nations, which can increase the fear and uncertainty surrounding the issue. The fear of nuclear war has been present since the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and it has been a significant driver of global disarmament efforts and arms control agreements. Today, given the state of the world with heightened political tensions and various conflicts not just from country to country but even within countries themselves (looking at you, United States), the possibility of a nuclear war resurfaces naturally as a result.

Finally, the prospect of a nuclear war creates a sense of existential threat that can be deeply unsettling for individuals and societies. Nuclear war highlights the vulnerability of humanity and underscores the need for global cooperation and dialogue to prevent catastrophic events from occurring.

It is important to note that while the possibility of a nuclear war may not be as high as it was during the Cold War, there are still tensions and conflicts between countries with nuclear weapons, and the possibility of accidental or unintentional use of nuclear weapons cannot be completely eliminated. The international community, including governments and organizations such as the United Nations, work towards reducing the risk of nuclear war through diplomatic efforts and arms control agreements. I’d like to think that those entities created to dissipate tension would work 100% of the time, but as we know that is not always the case.

How likely is nuclear war in 2023?

It is widely recognized that the existence of nuclear weapons increases the risk of their use, either intentionally or accidentally. While that risk has decreased since the Cold War ended, given the escalation in global conflicts over the last several years, such as North Korea’s ballistic missile testing over the last couple years, China’s increasing hostility in claiming the South China Sea, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and other global events, the ante has been upped and can no longer be written off as fictitious.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has unleashed needless death upon tens of thousands

There have been several close calls in the past where the world has come dangerously close to nuclear war, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and there have been instances of accidental nuclear incidents, such as the false alarm that occurred in Hawaii in 2018.

Today many countries possess nuclear weapons, and tensions between some of these countries can be high. Additionally, there are concerns about non-state actors acquiring nuclear weapons or materials, which could pose a significant threat to global security.

While the risk of nuclear war may not be high, it is not zero. That is why it is essential for countries to engage in dialogue and diplomacy, promote disarmament efforts, and take measures to reduce the risk of accidental or intentional use of nuclear weapons.

History of nuclear bombs

There have been a total of two nuclear bombs that were used in warfare, both during World War II. The first atomic bomb, named “Little Boy,” was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, by the United States. The second atomic bomb, named “Fat Man,” was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, also by the United States.

In addition to these two bombs, there have been over 2,000 nuclear weapons tests conducted by various countries around the world, many of which took place during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. These tests involved the detonation of nuclear devices, either above or below ground, and resulted in significant environmental and health impacts.

Since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was adopted in 1996, the number of nuclear weapons tests has decreased significantly. Today, the focus is on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as the safe and secure management of existing nuclear materials and facilities.

Nuclear bomb testing

There have been over 2,000 nuclear weapons tests conducted by various countries around the world, many of which were conducted at test sites. These tests involved the detonation of nuclear devices, either above or below ground, and were conducted to test the capabilities of the weapons and to study the effects of nuclear explosions.

The majority of nuclear weapons tests have been conducted by the United States and the Soviet Union, with other countries including the United Kingdom, France, China, India, and Pakistan also conducting nuclear tests. Many of these tests were conducted in remote areas, such as deserts or uninhabited islands, in order to minimize the risk to human health and the environment.

The number of nuclear tests conducted has decreased significantly since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was adopted in 1996, which prohibits all nuclear explosions, whether for military or civilian purposes. However, there are still some countries that have not ratified the treaty, and there have been reports of ongoing nuclear testing by some countries in recent years.

Breakdown of nuclear bomb testing by decade

If you notice below, the number of nuclear bomb tests peaked during the 1960s, with over 900 tests conducted in that decade alone. The number of tests decreased significantly during the 1970s and continued to decline in the following decades, with only a handful of tests conducted in the 2000s before the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty effectively halted all nuclear testing.

1945-1949: 2

1950-1959: 528

1960-1969: 941

1970-1979: 504

1980-1989: 267

1990-1999: 31

2000-2009: 4

2010-2021: 0

The United States has not conducted a nuclear test since 1992, more than 30 years ago.

Which country(ies) are most likely to drop a nuclear bomb?

The use of nuclear weapons is a grave matter that is governed by international law, treaties, and norms, and any use of such weapons would have significant consequences for global security and stability.

That said, the possession of nuclear weapons increases the risk of their use, and there are countries with large nuclear arsenals and ongoing conflicts or tensions that could lead to a nuclear exchange. The countries with the largest nuclear arsenals are the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom. These countries possess the majority of the world’s nuclear weapons, and they have significant political and military power. Especially with the war in Ukraine having prolonged for the past year and a half, in addition to heightened tensions between the United States and Russia/China, the ever so smoldering possibility of a nuclear war must keep us on watch.

It is important to note that all of these countries have committed to upholding international law and treaties governing the use and possession of nuclear weapons, and have pledged to work towards disarmament and non-proliferation. However, there are also concerns about non-state actors, such as terrorist organizations, acquiring nuclear weapons or materials and using them for destructive purposes.

Ultimately, preventing the use of nuclear weapons requires global cooperation, diplomacy, and disarmament efforts, as well as a strong commitment to upholding international law and norms.

Dangers of radiation exposure

Now that we’ve got all the background and context out of the way, let’s get to the actual dangerous bit of the nukes themselves. It comes down to two immediate dangers – radiation and the bomb blast itself.

Radiation is energy that is emitted in the form of waves or particles, and exposure to high levels of radiation can damage cells and tissues in the body. The effects of radiation exposure depend on several factors, including the type of radiation, the duration and intensity of exposure, and the age and health status of the person exposed.

Short-term exposure to high levels of radiation can cause immediate symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, skin burns, and even death. Long-term exposure to lower levels of radiation can increase the risk of cancer, genetic mutations, and other health problems.

The health effects of radiation exposure can vary depending on the type of radiation. For example, alpha particles, which are emitted by some radioactive materials, are relatively heavy and cannot penetrate the skin, but they can be harmful if inhaled or ingested. Beta particles and gamma rays, on the other hand, can penetrate the body and cause damage to cells and tissues.

It is important to note that radiation exposure can occur naturally, from sources such as cosmic radiation and radon gas, as well as from human-made sources such as nuclear power plants, medical imaging, and nuclear weapons.

To reduce the risk of radiation exposure, it is important to follow safety guidelines and regulations, such as using protective equipment and procedures during medical imaging and nuclear-related activities, and ensuring proper handling and disposal of radioactive materials.

Danger from a nuclear bomb blast

The actual bomb blast from a nuclear bomb can kill you, in addition to radiation exposure. A nuclear explosion creates an intense and immediate release of energy in the form of heat, pressure, and light. The blast wave can cause severe damage to structures and objects in its path, and can also cause injury or death to people who are within the blast radius.

The severity of the blast effects depends on several factors, including the size of the nuclear weapon, the distance from the point of detonation, and the terrain and weather conditions. In general, the closer one is to the point of detonation, the more severe the blast effects will be.

In addition to the blast effects, a nuclear explosion also produces significant amounts of ionizing radiation, which can cause damage to cells and tissues in the body. Radiation exposure can cause acute symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and skin burns, as well as long-term health effects such as an increased risk of cancer and genetic mutations.

Overall, the effects of a nuclear explosion are complex and can vary depending on several factors. However, it is clear that immediate and long-term consequences of a nuclear explosion can be severe and life-threatening.

General guidance in nuclear war survival

Immediate actions

The first and most crucial step for surviving a nuclear attack is to find shelter as soon as possible. A nuclear explosion creates a shock wave that can damage buildings and structures. Seek shelter in a building made of brick or concrete, preferably in the basement or in the center of the building away from the windows. The walls of the building will provide some protection against radiation.

If you are caught in the open, seek shelter in a ditch or a depression in the ground. Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from flying debris. Do not look at the blast, as the light can cause temporary blindness.

Radiation exposure

After a nuclear explosion, the radiation levels in the affected area will be high. Radiation can cause severe health problems, including radiation sickness and cancer. To reduce the risk of radiation exposure, stay indoors as much as possible, and keep windows and doors closed. If you have access to a Geiger counter, use it to monitor the radiation levels in your area.

If you must go outside, wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a hat. Cover your nose and mouth with a mask or cloth to prevent inhaling radioactive dust. Avoid touching contaminated surfaces, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water.

For more tips on what to do during a radiation emergency, check the Center for Disease Control page here.

Water and food

After a nuclear attack, the water supply may be contaminated with radioactive particles. Boiling water will not remove radiation. Store water in airtight containers, and use water purification tablets or a water filter to remove any radioactive particles.

Avoid eating food that has been exposed to radiation. Radiation can penetrate food and contaminate it, making it unsafe to eat. Stock up on non-perishable food items, such as canned goods and dried fruits and vegetables.

The concept of cooking will go back to its earliest roots. You’ll likely never be able to prepare the types of meals you’d be able to cook while during the soft days of old (such as these); meaning no fancy Traeger, natural gas stove, or sous vide, so you’ll likely be forced to return to the days of rudimentary fire cooking.

Medical supplies

In the event of a nuclear attack, medical services may be limited. Stock up on the needful provisions like bandages, antiseptics, painkillers, penicillin, etc. Keep a first-aid kit in your shelter and better yet in your bug out bag, and make sure everyone in your family knows how to use it.


After a nuclear attack, communication systems will be disrupted. Have a battery-powered radio and extra batteries on hand to receive emergency broadcasts. Smart phones will be out the window – we’re so dependent on internet technology that it’ll be nothing more than a cumbersome timekeeper, assuming you’ll be able to charge the battery at all. Have a list of emergency phone numbers, including the police, fire department, and hospital.

Mental health

Surviving a nuclear attack can be a traumatic experience. It is essential to take care of your mental health and that of your family. Talk to your loved ones, and provide comfort and emotional support. Try to maintain a sense of normalcy by sticking to your daily routines as much as possible. It may also be valuable to keep yourself from ever getting too comfortable (not like that’ll be difficult during nuclear fallout) by keeping your body guessing and leveraging Misogi, even at a micro level, to keep yourself hardened and prepared for nuclear war survival.

Mental health is critical to manage in 2023 and it’ll be even more so in the event of nuclear fallout

Specific tips for surviving a nuclear war

Below are some general tips that could help minimize the risk of harm to your family:

  1. Be informed: Stay up-to-date with the news and information about the current political climate, especially in countries that have nuclear weapons. Understanding the risks can help you make more informed decisions about what actions to take.
  2. Have a plan: Create a plan with your family in case of a nuclear attack. Identify safe zones in your home, schools, and workplaces, and practice drills regularly. Also, have an emergency kit with essential supplies, such as water, food, first aid kit, and a battery-powered radio.
  3. Monitor radiation levels: Invest in a radiation detector and keep it in your emergency kit. If radiation levels increase, evacuate to a safer area.
  4. Stay indoors: If you’re caught in a nuclear attack, seek shelter immediately. Stay inside, close windows and doors, and turn off ventilation systems. Radiation levels decrease over time, so it’s best to stay indoors for at least 48 hours before venturing outside.
  5. Protect yourself: If you must go outside, cover your nose and mouth with a mask or cloth, wear long sleeves and pants, and remove all clothing and wash exposed skin as soon as possible.
  6. Stick together: Make sure that you and your spouse have a plan to stay together during a nuclear attack. This may involve identifying a designated meeting place or making arrangements to stay together at home or work.
  7. Check for updates: Keep up-to-date on news and information about the current situation. Be aware of any official warnings or recommendations regarding nuclear attacks, and follow them.
  8. Take shelter: Seek shelter in a safe location as soon as possible. If you are in a high-rise building, move to the basement or a lower level. If you are driving, pull over and seek shelter in a sturdy building or other protected location. If there is no shelter available, seek the best available cover, such as lying down in a ditch or covering yourself with thick blankets.
  9. Protect against radiation: If you are exposed to radiation, remove your clothing and wash exposed skin as soon as possible. Use soap and water, not abrasives, to avoid damaging your skin. Seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of radiation sickness.
  10. Be prepared: Have an emergency kit with essential supplies, such as food, water, first aid supplies, and a battery-powered radio. Make sure that your spouse knows where the emergency kit is located and how to use it.

Remember, protecting yourself and/or your children in a nuclear war requires a great deal of preparation and vigilance. While it’s not possible to guarantee their safety, taking these steps can help minimize risk of harm.

While nuclear fallout is often what is romanticized by TV shows and movies these days, surviving a nuclear attack is not easy. It is possible to survive a nuclear war with the right preparation and knowledge. Remember to seek shelter immediately after a nuclear explosion, and stay indoors as much as possible to reduce radiation exposure. Stock up on non-perishable food items, medical supplies, and communication devices. Finally, take care of your mental health and that of your loved ones. With these guidelines, you can increase your chances of nuclear war survival.

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