Civil Rights / Cold War

Read more about radioactive fallout from a government pamphlet.

From Canada Emergency Measures Organization, Department of National Defence; Blueprint for Survival No. 4

“If a nuclear weapon is exploded on or near the ground, danger from radioactive fallout is greatest.

The force of the explosion may make a crater up to a mile wide and to a depth of one hundred feet. Millions of tons of pulverized earth, stones, buildings and other materials are drawn up into the fireball and become radioactive.

Some of the heavier particles spill out around the point of explosion. The rest are sucked up into the mushroom cloud. This radioactive material is then carried by winds until it settles to earth. This is called "Fallout".

Under some circumstances you may see the fallout; under others you may not. The radioactivity it gives off cannot be seen. You can't feel it. You can't smell it.

But fallout doesn't come out of the sky like a gas and seep into everything. It can best be described as a fine to coarse sand carried by the winds. Because the wind direction varies at different heights above the ground, it is not possible to judge from the ground where the fallout will settle. It can settle in irregular patterns hundreds of miles from the explosion.

The fallout from a 5-megaton explosion could affect seriously an area of 7,000 square miles. If nothing were done to gain protection during the period of high radioactivity, there would be a grave danger to life in that area.

Time
The radioactivity in fallout weakens rapidly in the first hours after an explosion. This weakening is called "decay". After seven hours, fallout has lost about 90% of the strength it had one hour after the explosion. After two days it has lost 99%; in two weeks 99.9% of its strength is gone. Nevertheless, if the radiation at the beginning were high enough, the remaining 0.1% could be dangerous.

Radiation must be measured by special instruments handled by people trained to use them. But, if you stay in a shelter during the first days following an explosion, you escape the strongest radiation. You should stay in the shelter until radiation has been measured and you have been told aver the radio that it is safe to come out.



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