With Iran and North Korea both working night and day to make nuclear weapons this might be a good time to talk about what it would take to actually survive the explosion of an Atomic Bomb.  Not that we face the imminent threat of one being launched at us here in the U.S., but what if you had traveled to Israel on vacation when Iran decided they were ready to wipe the place off the map as they have promised to do? While the last nuclear attack happened 76 years ago over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the possibility of it is still not zero. We are not trying to instill fear or unnecessary panic here, but as Howard Ruff reminded us, “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”

Is it possible at all to survive a nuclear attack?

Taking into account the testimony of Akiko Takakura, who survived the US atomic bombing, it is more than possible. That day, she was in the Bank of Hiroshima doing her usual morning routine, just 300 meters away from the epicenter.


“Thirsty woman catching black rain in her mouth” de Akiko Takakura. ©Thejk1994 via Wikimedia Commons

How to survive a nuclear blast?

Before we get there, let’s quickly dissect the six stages of the blast to understand the reasons behind the steps below better. You have to survive more than one thing when it comes to a nuclear weapon detonating in your area.

  1. Flash of light
  2. Wave of heat
  3. The radiation
  4. A fireball
  5. Blast of air
  6. Radioactive fallout

You might think it’s quite a lot and could probably give you ample time to protect yourself. Nope. All of these happen very quickly, usually within a few minutes or even seconds depending on how far away you are.  The gap between detection and the drop is pretty short, too. A ballistic missile, for instance, has 25 minutes between detection and impact; a hypersonic one has six.

According to Brooke Buddemeier, a Certified Health Physicist in the Global Security directorate of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, “Having a plan and knowing what to do can really help alleviate a lot of anxiety.”

So you have to deal with three main things.  An intense pressure wave from the explosion, accompanied by air so hot it combusts spontaneously and radiation.