If a nuclear bomb goes off, scientists say take shelter here immediately

WASHINGTON — If nuclear war breaks out, people should immediately take shelter in the corners of concrete buildings to have the best chance of survival. According to a team from Cyprus, it’s better than cowering in corridors or near windows and doors.

“People should stay away from these locations and immediately take shelter. Even in the front room facing the explosion, one can be safe from the high airspeeds if positioned at the corners of the wall facing the blast,” says lead author Dr. Ioannis Kokkinakis from the University of Nicosia in a media release.

The findings, based on computer simulations, are timely. Recently, propagandist Vladimir Solovyov urged Russia to launch a nuclear attack on Great Britain. Researchers used advanced modeling techniques to study how a nuclear blast wave speeds through a standing structure.

Image of the blast wave from a nuclear explosion
3D illustration of the simulated air blast and generated blast wave 10 seconds following the detonation of a 750 kT nuclear warhead above a typical metropolitan city; the radius of the shock bubble at ground level is 4.6 km. (CREDIT: I. Kokkinakis and D. Drikakis, University of Nicosia, Cyprus)

Their mock-up featured rooms, windows, doorways, and corridors to work out air speed following the blast wave — determining the best and worst places to be.

“Before our study, the danger to people inside a concrete-reinforced building that withstands the blast wave was unclear,” says study author Dimitris Drikakis. “Our study shows that high airspeeds remain a considerable hazard and can still result in severe injuries or even fatalities.”

Results show that simply being in a sturdy premises is not enough to avoid injury. Tight spaces actually increase air speed. The blast wave causes air to reflect off walls and bend around corners, producing a force equivalent to up to 18 times a human’s body weight.

“The most dangerous critical indoor locations to avoid are the windows, the corridors, and the doors,” says Kokkinakis.

Time between the explosion and the arrival of the blast wave is only a few seconds, so quickly getting to a safe place is critical.

“Additionally, there will be increased radiation levels, unsafe buildings, damaged power and gas lines, and fires,” adds Drikakis. “People should be concerned about all the above and seek immediate emergency assistance.”

Drawing of a nuclear fallout shelter
Contours of the maximum airspeed attained during the first 10 seconds after the blast wave enters the window; overpressure of 5 psi. (CREDIT: I. Kokkinakis and D. Drikakis, University of Nicosia, Cyprus)

There is no good place to be when a nuclear bomb goes off. Anything too close is instantly vaporized. Radiation also poses a serious health threat even at a distance. In between, there is another danger — the blast wave generated by the explosion, which can produce airspeeds strong enough to lift people into the air and cause serious injury.

The researchers simulated an atomic bomb explosion from a typical intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and the resulting blast wave to see how it would affect people sheltering indoors. Outside of the immediate blast zone, the force was enough to topple some buildings and injure people caught outdoors. However, concrete structures can remain standing.

The researchers, whose findings are published in the journal Physics of Fluids, hope their advice will never need to be followed. However, understanding the effects could help prevent deaths and guide rescue efforts.

Solovyov, who Vladimir Putin reportedly watches on state TV regularly, has called on the Kremlin to target the West for supplying tanks and other weapons to Ukraine.

“There is a full-scale Third World War. Britain made a decision. Therefore, any military target on the territory of Britain and France are legitimate for us to strike,” Solovyov claims, according to a statement from SWNS. “We need to make it official and if necessary, then we can use tactical nuclear weapons.”

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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