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How to survive the radioactive fallout from a nuclear bomb



President Trump on Wednesday described the strength of the U.S. nuclear arsenal on Twitter amid growing tensions between America and North Korea.

"My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal," Trump wrote while vacationing at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

"Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!"

A customary review of US nuclear weapons usually occurs every eight years. The inventory inspection is required by Congress and conducted by the Pentagon.

Trump vowed Tuesday to unleash "fire and fury" against North Korea if they threatened the U.S., raising the stakes in the war of words between the two countries.

Though Trump's focus is currently North Korea, the Pentagon's top military officer has said it's Russia, not North Korea, that poses the greatest nuclear threat to the US.

Defense Secretary James Mattis identified Russia as the "principal threat" for the U.S. in January, but in June he called North Korea the "most urgent and dangerous threat" to national security overall.

Mattis added in a written statement Wednesday that North Korea must "cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."

Though the number of nuclear weapons in the world has been reduced greatly since the days of the Cold War, dropping from about 70,300 in 1986 to an estimated 14,900 in 2017, the capabilities of today's weapons are far more devastating.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, Russia currently has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, with approximately 7,000 nuclear warheads, and the U.S. stockpile comes in second with 6,800.

North Korea has the tenth largest nuclear arsenal, but it's difficult to determine just how many weapons they possess.

The intelligence community has recently updated its estimates on North Korea's nuclear inventory, increasing its projections from 10 to 60 warheads.

The increasingly heated rheotric involving the U.S. and North Korea has many Americans ruminating over what living through a nuclear fallout would entail.

Depending on the strength of the blast, Damage Zones would be designated ranging from Light, to Moderate, to Severe.

In a Severe Damage Zone, most buildings will be leveled and survivors are likely to exist only in sub-level areas, such as tunnels and basement parking garages. In a Light Damage Zone, destruction is more varied, with shattered windows prominent and injuries sustained mostly from flying glass and debris.


There would also be a Dangerous Fallout Zone, which indicates the areas where fallout is swept by the wind. Fallout is a dust composed of vaporized and radioactive bomb material, soil, and debris.

These generally visible ashes are at the highest level closest to the burst, but descend to the surrounding area within 24 hours. Fallout decays, but it remains dangerous for long after the bomb has detonated.


Rescue and response plans base their calculations on low-yield nuclear detonation, between 0.1 and 10 kilotons. The bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima was 15kT, and the strongest weapon in the current US stockpile is 50kT, with the flexibility to dial down to 0.3kT.

A fallout shelter in Washington, DC.

Surviving an attack requires fast acting, and taking shelter is critical in the first 15 minutes of a blast when fallout is most hazardous.

Deeper hideouts are safest, and the more brick or cement separating a shelter from the outside world, the better.

Windows can account for a high number of injuries from flying debris, and in the wake of a nuclear bomb the direct opening to the outside world leaves increased exposure to fallout. Staying in a sub-level fallout shelter for at least 8 days is recommended, but it is imperative for survivors to stay in place for at least the first 48 hours to decrease the risk of radiation sickness.

CNN contributed to this report.

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