I’m seeing quite a few ads promoting prepper products showing the dreaded bright mushroom cloud. Prepping is not a bad thing, one never knows what mother nature will throw at you, but you need to balance it out with a dose of reality; speaking quite frankly, no one is starting a nuclear war so if you’re voting in Atlanta tomorrow vote Republican. However, In the unlikely event that North Korea chooses to launch a nuclear strike, it will most likely be against South Korea or Japan but rest assured that South Korea and Japan have sufficient assets to destroy an incoming North Korean missile.
But what if?
A nuclear blast of varying proportions relies on immense heat and the shock wave to do most of the damage. Radiation is a byproduct of that detonation. There are two types of radiation emitted by rudimentary nuclear weapons; gamma radiation and alpha radiation. Gamma radiation comes from a very fast moving subatomic particle. It penetrates clothing and when you’re radiated by a sufficient amount it can be lethal or have lasting deleterious effect. There is no good news for gamma radiation, also called ionizing radiation, exposure and the best way to escape it is by shielding, usually lead, or find a body of water and submerge yourself – note that in the blast zone water will vaporize. However, gamma radiation is short-lived and does not extend beyond 2 to 3 miles from the blast point. An air blast (just above the atmosphere) will increase the effect of gamma radiation.
Alpha radiation comes from what we normally refer to as nuclear fallout. Alpha radiation is slow moving and will not penetrate skin or clothing. The danger with alpha radiation, which takes active decontamination to get rid off, is that it’s relatively persistent in the absence of decontamination and can readily be ingested through feeding and breathing. Wearing a surgical mask, latex gloves and washing everything that you come in contact with will keep you safe.
Should North Korea use an air blast, alpha contamination can be spread throughout the Pacific basin through prevailing winds that are generally westerly. Samoa, Guam, Philippines and the Hawaiian Islands are at risk of nuclear fallout. Depending on weapon size and how high the detonation occurs, the United States West Coast could see some amount of fallout.
I wouldn’t start building that underground bunker just yet!