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Encyclopedia > Fallout shelter
A sign pointing to an old fallout shelter in New York City.
A sign pointing to an old fallout shelter in New York City.

A fallout shelter is an enclosed space specially designed to protect occupants from radioactive debris or fallout resulting from a nuclear explosion. Many such shelters were constructed as civil defense measures during the Cold War. I took this image. ... I took this image. ... Nickname: Big Apple, Gotham, NYC Location in the state of New York Coordinates: Country United States State New York Boroughs The Bronx Brooklyn Manhattan Queens Staten Island Settled 1613  - Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) Area    - City 1,214. ... Fallout is the residual radiation hazard from a nuclear explosion, so named because it falls out of the atmosphere into which it is spread during the explosion. ... It has been suggested that Nuclear explosive be merged into this article or section. ... The old United States civil defense logo. ... For other uses, see Cold War (disambiguation). ...


After a nuclear explosion, matter vaporized in the resulting fireball is exposed to neutrons from the explosion, absorbs them, and becomes radioactive. When this material condenses in the cloud, it forms dust and light sandy material that resembles ground pumice. The fallout emits both beta particles and gamma rays. Much of this highly radioactive material then falls to earth, subjecting anything within the line of sight to radiation, a significant hazard. A fallout shelter is designed to allow its occupants to avoid exposure to harmful fallout until radioactivity has decayed to a safer level. Specimen of highly porous pumice from Teide volcano on Tenerife, Canary Islands. ... Beta particles are high-energy electrons emitted by certain types of radioactive nuclei such as potassium-40. ... This article is about electromagnetic radiation. ... The radiation warning symbol (trefoil). ...

Contents

History

Idealized American fallout shelter from around 1957.
Idealized American fallout shelter from around 1957.

Substantial numbers of fallout shelters were built in the 1950s in both the Eastern and Western blocs and in the United States. During the Cold War many countries built fallout shelters for high-ranking government officials and crucial military facilities. Plans were made, however, to use existing buildings with sturdy below-ground-level basements as makeshift fallout shelters. The initial blast of a nuclear attack might have rendered these basements either buried under many tons of rubble and thus impossible to leave, or removed their upper framework, thus leaving the basements unprotected. 1950s fallout shelter from http://www. ... 1950s fallout shelter from http://www. ... // Recovering from World War II and its aftermath, the economic miracle emerged in West Germany and Italy. ... For other uses, see Cold War (disambiguation). ...


Switzerland built an extensive network of fallout shelters (mainly through extra hardening of government buildings such as schools) of a scale to protect and feed the entire population for two years after a nuclear attack. This nation has the highest ratio of shelter space to national population of any country. All these shelters are capable of withstanding nuclear fallout and biological or chemical (NBC) attacks but the blast-proof requirement varies depending on the size of the building. The largest buildings usually have dedicated shelters tunneled into solid rock. The only other West-European nations to undertake a similar project have been Finland, which requires all buildings with area over 600 m² to have a NBC shelter, and Sweden.


Interest in fallout shelters has largely dropped, as the perceived threat of global nuclear war reduced after the end of the Cold War. In Switzerland, most residential shelters are no longer stocked with the food and water required for prolonged habitation and a large number have been converted by the owners to other uses (e.g. wine cellars, ski rooms, gyms). However, a renewed interest has been seen since terrorism has struck on American soil. These shelters also provide a safe haven from natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes, although Switzerland is not subject to such natural phenomena. For other uses, see Cold War (disambiguation). ... Modern indoor gymnasium with pull-down basketball hoops Gym is a shortened form of gymnasium and refers to facilities intended for indoor sports or exercise. ... Terrorist redirects here. ...


In popular culture, fallout shelters feature prominently in the Robert A. Heinlein novel Farnham's Freehold, Pulling Through by Dean Ing, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller and the David Brin novel Earth. The idealized fallout shelter can be seen in the motion picture Blast from the Past. Also noted would be Interplay's Fallout and Black Isle Studios Fallout 2. Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of hard science fiction. ... Farnhams Freehold is a science fiction tale set in the near future by Robert Heinlein. ... A Canticle for Leibowitz is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by Walter M. Miller, Jr. ... Walter M. Miller, Jr. ... David Brin Glen David Brin (born October 6, 1950) is a well-known American author of science fiction. ... Earth is a 1990 science fiction novel written by David Brin. ... Blast from the Past is a 1999 romantic comedy film starring Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Sissy Spacek, Christopher Walken, and Dave Foley. ... Interplay Entertainment Corporation was an American video game and computer game publisher and developer. ... Fallout may refer to: Nuclear fallout Half-Life Fallout a Half-Life fan site. ... Black Isle Studios was a division of the computer and video game developer and publisher Interplay Entertainment, created specifically for the development of computer role-playing games. ... Fallout 2 is a critically-acclaimed computer role-playing game published by Interplay in 1998. ...


Details of shelter construction

Door to a light fallout shelter

A basic fallout shelter consists of shields that reduce gamma ray exposure by a factor of 1000. Since the most dangerous fallout has the consistency of sand or finely ground pumice, a successful fallout shelter need not filter fine dust from air. The fine dust poses less risk because it emits relatively little radiation (the intensity of the radiation increases as the cube of the particle size), and because it does not settle to the earth, where the fallout shelter is. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1944x2592, 1036 KB) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Fallout shelter Blast shelter Metadata This file contains additional information, probably added from the digital camera or scanner... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1944x2592, 1036 KB) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Fallout shelter Blast shelter Metadata This file contains additional information, probably added from the digital camera or scanner...


The required shielding can be accomplished with 10 times the amount of any quantity of material capable of cutting gamma ray effects in half. Shields that reduce gamma ray intensity by 50% (1/2) include 1 cm (0.4 inch) of lead, 6 cm (2.4 inches) of concrete, 9 cm (3.6 inches) of packed dirt or 150 m (500 ft) of air. When multiple thicknesses are built, the shielding multiplies. Thus, a practical fallout shield is ten halving-thicknesses of packed dirt. This reduces gamma rays by a factor of 1024, which is 2 multiplied by itself ten times. This multiplies out to 90 cm (3 ft) of dirt.


Usually, an expedient purpose-built fallout shelter is a trench, with a strong roof buried by ~1 m (3 ft) of dirt. The two ends of the trench have ramps or entrances at right angles to the trench, so that gamma rays cannot enter (they behave like invisible light). To make the overburden waterproof (in case of rain), a plastic sheet should be buried a few inches below the surface and held down with rocks or bricks.


Earth is an excellent thermal insulator, and over several weeks of inhabitation, a shelter will be completely warmed by body heat. Without good ventilation, the inhabitants are likely to suffer heat exhaustion. The simplest form of effective fan to cool a shelter is a wide, heavy frame with flaps that swings in the shelter's doorway and can be swung from hinges on the ceiling. The flaps open in one direction and close in the other, pumping air. Attach a rope, and take turns swinging it. (This is a Kearny Air Pump, or KAP, named after the inventor.) Any exposure to fine dust is far less hazardous than exposure to the gamma from the fallout outside the shelter. Dust fine enough to pass the entrance will probably pass through the shelter. The Kearny Air Pump is an expedient air pump used to ventillate a shelter. ...


Effective public shelters can be the middle floors of some tall buildings or parking structures, or below ground level in most buildings with more than 10 floors. The thickness of the upper floors must form an effective shield, and the windows of the sheltered area must not view fallout-covered ground that is closer than 1.5 km (1 mi). Inhabitants should plan to remain sheltered for at least two weeks, then work outside for gradually increasing amounts of time, to four hours a day at three weeks. The normal work is to sweep or wash fallout into shallow trenches to decontaminate the area. They should sleep in a shelter for several months. Evacuation at three weeks is recommended by official authorities.


A battery-powered radio is very helpful to get reports of fallout patterns and clearance. In many countries (including the U.S.) civilian radio stations have emergency generators with enough fuel to operate for extended periods without commercial electricity. It is possible to construct an electrometer-type radiation meter called the Kearny Fallout Meter from plans with just a coffee can or pail, gypsum board, monofilament fishing line, and aluminum foil. Plans are in the reference "Nuclear War Survival Skills" by Cresson Kearny. The Kearny Fallout Meter or KFM is an expedient radiation meter designed to be able to be constructed immediately before or during a nuclear attack by someone with a normal mechanical ability and from common household items. ... Monofilament line is a thin string made from a single fiber. ... Cresson Henry Kearny was born on January 7, 1914 in San Antonio, Texas and died on December 18, 2003. ...


If available, inhabitants should take potassium iodide at the rate of 130 mg/day per adult (65 mg/day per child) as an additional measure to protect the human thyroid gland from the uptake of dangerous radioactive iodine, a component of most fallout and reactor waste. (for more info, including storage, and use of an inexpensive saturated solution, see potassium iodide) Potassium iodide is a white crystalline salt with chemical formula KI, used in photography and radiation treatment. ... Potassium iodide is a white crystalline salt with chemical formula KI, used in photography and radiation treatment. ...


Protection offered by the solid walls and roof of a structure

rightThe contributions made by the different isotopes to the dose (in air) caused in the contaminated area in the time shortly after the accident with 30 cm of concrete shielding.
rightThe contributions made by the different isotopes to the dose (in air) caused in the contaminated area in the time shortly after the accident with 30 cm of concrete shielding. [1]
The contributions made by the different isotopes to the dose (in air) caused in the contaminated area in the time shortly after the accident.
The contributions made by the different isotopes to the dose (in air) caused in the contaminated area in the time shortly after the accident. [1]
The contributions made by the different isotopes to the dose (in air) caused in the contaminated area in the time shortly after the accident with 10 cm of concrete shielding.
The contributions made by the different isotopes to the dose (in air) caused in the contaminated area in the time shortly after the accident with 10 cm of concrete shielding. [1]
The protection factor provided by 10 cm of concrete sheilding where the source is the idealised Chernobyl fallout.
The protection factor provided by 10 cm of concrete sheilding where the source is the idealised Chernobyl fallout. [1]
The contributions made by the different isotopes to the dose (in air) caused in the contaminated area in the time shortly after the accident with 20 cm of concrete shielding.
The contributions made by the different isotopes to the dose (in air) caused in the contaminated area in the time shortly after the accident with 20 cm of concrete shielding. [1]
rightThe protection factor provided by 20 cm of concrete shielding where the source is the idealised Chernobyl fallout.
rightThe protection factor provided by 20 cm of concrete shielding where the source is the idealised Chernobyl fallout. [1]
The protection factor provided by 30 cm of concrete shielding where the source is the idealised Chernobyl fallout.
The protection factor provided by 30 cm of concrete shielding where the source is the idealised Chernobyl fallout. [1]

The fallout from either a weapon or an accident is a complex mixture of many radioisotopes. For weapons fallout the photon energy is assumed to be the same as the gamma rays from 60Co. Data collected after the Chernobyl accident can serve in a simulation of fallout shelter efficacy, reconstructing the contribution of different radioisotopes to the radiation dose over time. The simulation detailed below assumes that no chemical separation occurred during the transport of radioactivity to the site where the fallout fell (this in real life is not true), and that no decontamination or removal of fallout (e.g. weathering) occurs. Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 20 KB) Other versions w:Image:Isotopeshareofgammadosewith30cmconcreteatchernobyl. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 20 KB) Other versions w:Image:Isotopeshareofgammadosewith30cmconcreteatchernobyl. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 22 KB) Other versions w:Image:Airdosechernobyl2. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 22 KB) Other versions w:Image:Airdosechernobyl2. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 20 KB) Other versions w:Image:Isotopeshareofgammadosewith10cmconcreteatchernobyl. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 20 KB) Other versions w:Image:Isotopeshareofgammadosewith10cmconcreteatchernobyl. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 1 KB) Other versions w:Image:Protectionfactorchernobyl10cm. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 1 KB) Other versions w:Image:Protectionfactorchernobyl10cm. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 21 KB) Other versions w:Image:Isotopeshareofgammadosewith20cmconcreteatchernobyl. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 21 KB) Other versions w:Image:Isotopeshareofgammadosewith20cmconcreteatchernobyl. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 2 KB) Other versions w:Image:Protectionfactorchernobyl20cm. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 2 KB) Other versions w:Image:Protectionfactorchernobyl20cm. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 2 KB) Other versions w:Image:Protectionfactorchernobyl30cm. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (911x623, 2 KB) Other versions w:Image:Protectionfactorchernobyl30cm. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Chernobyl area. ...


No shielding

Using the data for the source term (radioactive release) from Chernobyl, and other literature data it is possible to estimate how much protection a wall of concrete will offer in the event of a Chernobyl like accident. These calculations are for a room with no windows or doors. The radioactive dust on the roof, and the windows and doors will make the estimation of the protection factor more difficult.


10 cm concrete shielding

These graphs show that thicker walls increase the protection factor. The protection factor is the ratio of the dose rate suffered by a person inside the shelter divided by the dose rate in the open. The protection factor changes as a function of time. This is because some of the short-lived isotopes such as 95Zr and 95Nb generate very high energy gamma photons, while the longer lived 137Cs have a lower photon energy.


As the wall is made thicker the average gamma photon energy for those photons which pass through the wall becomes higher. So each additional layer of concrete has a smaller effect on the dose rate.


20 and 30 cm concrete shielding

(Refer to charts, at right) As the shield becomes thicker the very high photon energy emitters such as 140Ba/140La and 95Zr/95Nb become more and more important.


Other matters and simple improvements

In the long term it is important to consider the protection which is offered by a person's home in the months and years after an event such as the Chernobyl accident. While the person's home may not be a purpose-made shelter, it can be thought of as a shelter if any action is taken to improve the degree of protection. The nuclear power plant at Chernobyl prior to the completion of the sarcophagus. ...


Measures to lower the beta dose

The main threat from beta emitters is from a hot particle which is in contact or close to the skin of the person. Also a swallowed or inhaled hot particle could cause beta burns. As it is important to avoid bringing hot particles into the shelter, one option is to remove one's outer clothing on entry.


Measures to lower the gamma dose rate

It is likely that the gamma dose rate due to the contamination brought into the shelter on the clothing of a person will be insignificant unless the shelter has very good shielding on the walls and roof (or if the person was very badly contaminated).

  • Roofs and gutters should be cleaned to lower the dose rate in the house.
  • The top inch of soil in the area near the house should be either removed or dug up and mixed with the deeper layers of soil. This reduces the dose rate as the gamma photons have to pass through the soil before they can irradiate a person.
  • Nearby roads can be rinsed and washed down to remove dust and debris; the contaminated materials would collect in the sewers and gutters for easier disposal. In Kiev after the Chernobyl accident a program of road washing was used to control the spread of radioactivity.
  • Windows can be bricked up, or the sill raised to reduce the hole in the shielding formed by the wall.
  • Gaps in the shielding can be blocked using water cans, such as bottles of water. While water only has a density which is one tenth that of lead, it is still able to absorb gamma rays.
  • Earth can be heaped up against the exposed walls of the building, this forces the gamma rays to pass through a thicker layer of shielding before entering the house.
  • Nearby trees can be removed to reduce the dose due to fallout which is on the branches and leaves. It has been suggested by the US government that a fallout shelter should not be dug close to trees for this reason.

Location Map of Ukraine with Kiev highlighted. ...

Different types of radiation emitted by fallout

Alpha

In the vast majority of accidents and in all atomic bombs the threat due to beta and gamma emitters is far greater than that posed by the small amount of alpha emitters in the fallout. Alpha radiation can be very harmful, but only if radioactive materials are ingested or inhaled. Alpha particles can be blocked easily by a sheet of paper. The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, 1945, rose some 18 km (11 mi) above the epicenter. ...


Recently a fatal case af alpha toxicity has occurred: A Russian emigre to the United Kingdom, Alexander Litvinenko, died from Polonium-210 poisoning, possibly via food or drink. He became ill, showing the classical signs of radiation sickness, and died in three weeks. The government of Russia has been blamed for his death, which is widely regarded as voluntary homicide or even murder. Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko (Russian: ) (4 December 1962[1] or 30 August 1962[2] – 23 November 2006) was a lieutenant-colonel in the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation and later a Russian dissident and writer. ... Radiation poisoning, also called radiation sickness, is a form of damage to organic tissue due to excessive exposure to ionizing radiation. ...

Beta

It is likely that even a light structure will give good protection against most beta emitters, but small particles of fallout can cause localised radiation injuries known as beta burns. It is thought that if a person entering a fallout shelter was to change their footwear and leave their outer clothing outside the main area then the persons inside will be protected from these beta burns. Beta rays are more penetrating than alpha rays, but internal exposure will tend to do less damage because the LET is lower. A radiation burn is damage to the skin or other biological tissue caused by exposure to ionizing radiation. ... shoe for right foot A shoe is a piece of footwear for humans, less than a boot and more than a slipper. ... Linear Energy Transfer (LET) is a measure of the energy transferred to material as an ionizing particle travels through it. ...


Three centimeters of aluminum can block the beta emissions from even a high energy beta emitter such as 90Sr, while a lower energy beta emitter such as tritium or 14C will be stopped by thinner objects. Tritium (symbol T or 3H) is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. ...

Gamma

These are not a charged particle, and are thus more able to pass through objects and may pose a large threat to a person in a fallout shelter. Most of the design of a fallout shelter is intended to protect against gamma rays. The rays' intensity can be reduced by dense materials such as lead, steel, concrete or packed earth. For PB or pb as an abbreviation, see PB. General Name, Symbol, Number lead, Pb, 82 Chemical series poor metals Group, Period, Block 14, 6, p Appearance bluish gray Atomic mass 207. ... The old steel cable of a colliery winding tower Steel is an alloy whose major component is iron, with carbon content between 0. ... Concrete being poured, raked and vibrated into place in residential construction in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. ...


Weapons fallout

The bulk of the radioactivity in nuclear accident fallout is more long-lived than that in weapons fallout. A good table of the nuclides such as that provided by the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute includes the fission yields of the different nuclides. From this data it is possible to calculate the isotopic mixture in the fallout (due to fission products in bomb fallout). The mixture of radioisotopes present in used power reactor fuel can be more complex because neutron activation of fission products is possible, a good example of this is the cesium isotropic signature. In terms of activity (becquerels or curies) it is the case that the activity in a power reactor fuel one hour after shutdown tends to be more long lived because the majority of the short lived fission products will have had time to decay. Radioactivity may mean: Look up radioactivity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Isotopes are atoms of a chemical element whose nuclei have the same atomic number, Z, but different atomic weights, A. The word isotope, meaning at the same place, comes from the fact that isotopes are located at the same place on the periodic table. ... For the generation of electrical power by fission, see Nuclear power plant An induced nuclear fission event. ... Fission products are the residues of fission processes. ... General Name, Symbol, Number Caesium, Cs, 55 Series Alkali metals Group, Period, Block 1(IA), 6, s Density, Hardness 1879 kg/m3, 0. ... The becquerel (symbol Bq) is the SI derived unit of radioactivity, defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second. ... The curie (symbol Ci) is a former unit of radioactivity, defined as 3. ...


For example, imagine that some fissile material is used in a bomb, and that in 1012 fissions an equal number of 131I and 137Cs atoms are formed. Because the 131I has such a short half life when compared with the 137Cs, the activity ratio of 131I to 137Cs will be very much in favour of the 131I one hour after the fission event. This article or section should include material from Fissile material In nuclear engineering, a fissile material is one that is capable of sustaining a chain reaction of nuclear fission. ... The Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb produced in the United States. ...


If, on the other hand, a lump of fuel in a power reactor undergoes 1012 fissions, which will generate a given amount of 131I, if the reactor was run at a constant power for one year then the majority of the 131I will have had time to decay. However the vast majority of the 137Cs atoms will not have had time to decay. So the 131I to 137Cs ratio is more in favour of 137Cs than the mixture formed.


See also

Bunkers in Albania A bunker is a defensive military fortification. ... A blast shelter is a place where people can go to protect themselves from bomb blasts. ... A Diefenbunker is the nickname Canadian federal opposition politicians of the early 1960s coined for seven nuclear fallout shelters built across the country at the height of the Cold War during the infancy of the ICBM threat. ... Cover of Fallout Protection, 1961 Fallout Protection - What To Know And Do About Nuclear Attack, was an official government booklet released in December of 1961 by the United States Department of Defense and The Office of Civil Defense. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... A survivalist is a person who anticipates and prepares for a future disruption in local, regional or worldwide social or political order. ... Copy of Survival Under Atomic Attack issued by the Cleveland office of Civil Defense. ... An urban explorer stands near the outfall of a muffin shaped brick and concrete storm drain, under Saint Paul, Minnesota. ... There are very few or no other articles that link to this one. ...

Reference and external links

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Note that this image was drawn using data from the OECD report and the second edition of The Radiochemical Manual
  • SurvivalRing.orgThis website offers dozens of free downloadable digitized documents on fallout shelter plans, regulations, standards, technical specifications, and more, as well as US targeting info as provided by FEMA.
  • Oregon Institute of Science and MedicineThis website offers the entire online version of Nuclear War Survival Skills with full graphics and web navigation, created with the permission of the author Cresson Kearny. This manual has proven technical info on expedient fallout shelter, shelter habitation, and assorted shelter system needs that can be created from common household items. OISM also offers free downloads of other civil defense and shelter information as well.
  • RadShelters4u Hosts information on shelters and topics related to Civil Defense, especially radiation related.
  • SurvivalBlog.com A daily web log devoted to survival and preparedness topics. Has articles that describe the construction and stocking of fallout shelters, storm shelters, and panic rooms.
  • NuclearCover.com Locate user-submitted nuclear fallout shelter sites near your address. Lets you search within specified distances from an address.

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