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CBRN Attacks: Radiation and Nuclear



CBRN attacks stand for Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear attacks.


Let’s take a look at past CBRN attacks, the most common weapons, and how to survive. Today we are delving into the world of radiation and nuclear attacks. In the UK nuclear is grouped under radiation, whilst America separates the two.


The UK has a sordid history with radiation, from the controversial storage of the trident nuclear submarines, to the Windscale disaster and coverup. Windscale was originally the UK’s nuclear research facility after WW2 before becoming a power station. In 1957 a fire broke out at the nuclear power plant which burnt for 3 days releasing radioactive caesium, iodine, and polonium across the UK. it has been found that this caused 240 cancer cases including thyroid cancer, breast cancer, and leukemia. 100 of these 240 cancer cases were fatal. The UK government tried to cover up the extent of the fallout for years.


When it comes to nuclear attacks we have only seen the devastation that the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima that ended WW2. Since then the hydrogen bomb has been developed which is 1000 times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan that killed 199,000 people. The hydrogen bomb is the basis for nuclear weapons today. There are nine counties that we know of that have nuclear weapons these are the USA, Russia, France, the UK, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea. These weapons have a range of around 3,400 miles.


In the 1970s during the cold war, the UK government issued this advice to surviving nuclear attacks. UK residents were to prepare a fall-out room where they needed to store enough food and water for 2 weeks. They were also advised to bring kitchen utensils, a portable radio, toilet paper, a bucket, and a first aid kit. This is all fine and well but what other tips are there to survive? It is calculated that if 100 megaton weapons were to hit the USA 20% of the population would die from the blast. If you survive a blast, you have 15 minutes before fallout begins, get inside as fast as possible. Concretes or thick-lined stone buildings are preferable, get down to a basement where possible. Once you are in wipe down the skin and remove clothes in case of contamination. Draw as much water as you can from the mains before fallout begins. The fatal dose for 50% of the population is 400-450 rems, 4-5 sieverts, or 4 Grays. This is the same dose as 40 chest X-rays at once. At this point, radiation sickness is guaranteed. Radiation exposure leads to cancer the most common types are leukemia and thyroid cancer. Iodine tablets can stop your body from uptaking radioactive iodine and protect against thyroid cancer, but nothing can be done for other radioactive elements.


Want to learn more about the effects of poisons on the human body? Get your tickets for The Post Mortem live here.

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