1. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nuclear explosion question

    Discussion in 'Research' started by DefinitelyMaybe, Nov 28, 2015.

    I would like to place a character in a situation where they are in a forest outside a city. An H-bomb hits the city, and they are knocked out by the shock wave. This is a big weapon as in ICBM missile, not a terrorist attack which almost certainly would be a very small weapon.

    I would like him to regain consciousness, and see that the fallout cloud has spread to such a point that he has no reasonable prospect of escaping lethal radiation poisoning.

    Plausible?
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2015
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Apparently if you get in a fridge you are fine. Yes Spielberg is a tool, but he said it could happen, so true.
     
  3. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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  4. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've done some research for my SF and even fantasy novels, but I'm no expert.

    You're right. The nuclear weapon that is mounted on an ICBM is likely going to be larger and more devastating than one detonated by a terrorist based upon the megatons and location of detonation. Although one placed in a large van and parked at the top of a large parking garage...

    The ones detonated above a city are going to be more devastating with respect to the heat and shockwave produced. I am not so sure about the spread of radiation.

    The three danger factors are the light and heat blast (which will have a specific radius) which will be very intense at the point of detonation and spread out, but begin to fall off precipitously. It will go from immediate vaporization to where everything will catch fire (walls, buildings, curtains, trees, people's hair and clothes and skin) to only scorching and bubbling pain and doing third degree down to second degree and first degree burns, and then only a mild heat wave.

    Then there is the shockwave of the explosion that will knock down everything in it's path, but again fall off precipitously. Many who caught fire will be killed by the shockwave within seconds, either directly or by having debris strike of fall on them. The human body is able to endure a shockwave slightly better than a standing structure, to my understanding. But trees outside of a city will likely be knocked down, depending on the distance from ground zero, where it was detonated.

    Radiation will follow. As the fires spread and all, air will be drawn in and a mushroom cloud will form. The characters won't necessarily see the radiation but the dust coming down, especially down wind may be a clue. That is unless they have some form of radiation detection device or equipment.

    There are websites out there that discuss this...blast radius and the distances of various effects based upon the size of the H-Bomb and altitude/height of detonation. There was even one where you could type it in and get an estimate, that I used.

    There is a novel I read a long time ago called, The Third World War: August 1985 by General Sir John Winthrop Hackett which has a description of the effects I discussed of a Soviet ICBM detonating over Birmingham, England. It was a quite popular novel and you could probably get a copy at a library or a used book store. I think it would have exactly what you're looking for. I still have my copy.
     
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  6. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I would suggest reading "Sadako wants to live". If you get hit by the shock wave it is unlikely that you will not sustain injuries, nevermind the radioactive particles which can cause cellular damage or cancer later on.
     
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  7. Genghis McCann
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    Genghis McCann Member

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    TOO plausible DM!

    Recently "leaked" from Russia:
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34797252
    Article describes a long-range Russian nuclear torpedo that would be fired from a submarine and avoid detection by traditional defence mechanisms. It would cause a nuclear explosion like an H bomb but also spread the coastal area with cobalt 60 radiation so that no-one would survive - not even in bunkers. The military tactic would prevent any retaliatory response from the area affected because of the deadly radiation. It would cause a shock wave but would also cause a tsunami, so your character would have to survive both.

    If you intend to create a scary scenario you are succeeding already!!
    Good luck.
    Genghis
     
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  8. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks all. I've done some research, but I'm not sure whether the fallout cloud would be inescapable. I've read that many explosions are survivable from even just a few miles away (unless it's a Tsar Bomba), except for fallout. Wind direction may send the fallout cloud in one particular direction, which means that those that escape the effects of the blast (thermal radiation, shock wave either death through overpressure or by having buildings fall on you, initial radiation) should be able to avoid fallout by moving in the correct direction.

    I have seen it said that a lot of people may die by trying to escape by car, getting stuck, and being caught by fallout in their cars.

    The shock wave will radiate out and the force should follow an inverse square law. I don't need the shock wave to directly knock the MC out. It could be that he is knocked over and falls, or even just falls off a rock face he's climbing in surprise when the distant explosion happens. I do want to get the distance from the bomb right, and also that he realises that while he's still relatively healthy, he's doomed.

    Fallout will be minimal if it's an airburst explosion, but I'm assuming that the bomb hits the ground, creating a massive mushroom cloud and large amounts of fallout.

    I was very surprised to see that the smallest nuclear bombs ever made may be survivable from 250 metres away.

    @TWErvin2: General Hackett's book appears to be very expensive, going for up to £250. However, this edition of what I presume is the same book is available cheaper:



    Is this the book you recommended?

    @Genghis McCann - Colbalt 60 is scary. Most nuclear fallout has a half-life of hours. So that even ground zero would be safe to visit within weeks, and sheltering for a few days would be enough for most people in most situations. Colbalt 60 has a half life of 5.26 years! It could make areas uninhabitable for decades.

    @Lifeline - I can't find "Sadako Lives". Is this the same book:
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2015
  9. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    He wouldn't need to be knocked down by the pressure wave to be irradiated. The fallout cloud extends much farther than the over pressure wave. In fact, the thermal radiation radii would extend much farther than the fireball.

    http://nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap3d/?&clat=42.720141434123256&clng=-87.92564415242968&calt=19050.182670316935&chdg=-0.012897252358341833&ctlt=59.85604987449132&crll=-0.07132686868900348&mlat=43.0388889&mlng=-87.90638890000002&mtyp=2&malt=187.2904052734375&kt=2300

    This is a 2.3 MT warhead on my city.

    The thermal radiation radius extends 9.5 - 12 miles, depending on which NUKEMAP I use.
     
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  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @DefinitelyMaybe , this is the book I meant:
     
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  11. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wanted him to be knocked out so that the story can start with him waking up.
     

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