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Surviving Nuclear Fallout Is A Lot Harder Than Video Games Would Have You Believe

NOVEMBER 30, 2015  —  By Mike Cahill  
Mike Cahill

Mike Cahill

Mike is ViralNova's resident Editor of the Weird. If it makes you say "OMG! That's terrible!!!" then Mike probably wrote it. Despite the subject of his articles Mike is surprisingly well adjusted. When he's not writing, he's making music, performing, and producing podcasts.

When it comes to absolutely nightmarish doomsday scenarios, nuclear war is probably the worst. It's just plausible enough to be terrifying, and most of us would be woefully unprepared. This is a fear that the popular video game series Fallout exploits to wonderful effect. The result is a game that's both addicting and heartbreaking.

Still, playing through the game makes you wonder if you really could survive a nuclear apocalypse if it came down to it. And even if you could, would you want to?

In response to all the excitement around the release of Fallout 4, the American Chemical Society decided to take a look at the science behind the game, and what exactly it would take to survive a nuclear war.

According to the organization, there are three main factors that determine your likelihood of surviving a nuclear attack: time, distance, and shelter.

Essentially, the farther away from the blasts you are and the stronger the shelter you have, the more likely it is that you'll survive. But that's the easy part. Things start to get complicated (and a little bit gross) once you start planning for the long haul.

Assuming you have machines that can purify water and produce oxygen, how exactly do you power them while living in a shelter that's 200 feet below the surface?

Gasoline is out because of ventilation limitations. So is solar power, since you're underground and all. The best bet, according to researchers, would be using small power cells. While you wouldn't be able to recharge them underground, they'd last for quite a long time.

So let's just assume that you have power. Are you hungry yet?

Another major challenge to long-term survival after a nuclear attack is food. You can stockpile a boatload of canned goods, but they still might not last the 30 years it'd take for radiation levels to come down. You'll probably have to start farming, which presents a whole new set of challenges. The most efficient way to do it in a confined space is to build yourself a small aquaponics system. This could also be used to raise fish.

That all sounds good, but it's a little premature if you're not able to survive the bomb's blast in the first place.

Assuming you're not in a major city (and you're relatively uninjured), the first thing you have do is head away from the epicenter. After the initial explosion, you have to worry about radiation. In a pinch, the best way to check if you're at a safe distance from a nuclear blast is to use your thumb. Close one eye and try to cover the mushroom cloud with your thumb. If you can't cover it completely, you're still in the danger zone.

Even after all of that suffering and struggle, you still might die.

In an airtight underground fallout shelter, one small thing can set off a disastrous chain reaction.

(via The Daily Mail)

My personal stance on the issue is to run toward the flash in the event of nuclear war. While I enjoy the concept of fighting for survival in a radioactive wasteland, I don't think I'd be any good at it.