Chances of surviving a nuclear war ( Do you feel lucky? )

Luckily for us, the chance of nuclear war happening in our time is fairly slim, however that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen tomorrow. We have got enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire planet several times over, sooner or later somebody going to use them.

Your chances of surviving a nuclear war are fairly slim, as nuclear wars are not like any other wars where the effects are mostly local, even if your country is not being attacked you will still suffer the consequences of the nuclear war such as no electricity, no rule of law,  nuclear fallout, nuclear famine, and nuclear war.

Most likely a nuclear war will start with an EMP blast, in this case, most of the electrical grid and electronic devices will be destroyed, however, if you manage to save some electrical devices plus a recharging device you will have a massive advantage in terms of survivability. My recommendation is to start with a Faraday bag which is used by law enforcement and the military Click here to check it out on

During the nuclear detonations in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, there have been thousands of survivors even in close proximity to the nuclear explosion. However, the chances of surviving a nuclear war would be much slimmer, not just for the individual but also for the entirety of humankind. Luckily for us, the cold war era is over with the collapse of the Soviet Union, where the both USA and the USSR were in a nuclear arms race. In my article Can you survive a nuclear bomb in a fridge? ( Fact or Fiction? ) I take an in-depth look at if this is either an urban myth or an actual possibility?

During the cold war, thousands of nuclear bombs have been produced in a bid to outproduce the enemy, but this nuclear arms race almost resulted in a full-blown nuclear war at least two times. The entire humanity was at the fingertips of Stanislav Petrov who was a lieutenant colonel on a USSR submarine when due to false alarms soviet high command ordered him to fire his nuclear missiles, luckily he disobeyed these orders or else we probably would be living like in the stone age.

Not to mention the numerous accidents involving nuclear bombs occurred like the Goldsboro incident where two nuclear bombs were dropped on US soil by accident. While these were not armed thus posing any risk of exploding, but declassified documents released in 2013 confirmed that one of the nuclear bombs almost exploded. A few nuclear bombs going off would not affect humanity, but hundreds if not thousands of nuclear bombs will definitely alter our future for the worst.


Mutually Assured Destruction

This “system” has been created during the cold war nuclear arms race, but it is still relevant today. As there are no effective ways to stop a nuclear warhead approaching a sovereign country, the leaders have only one option, to launch their own nuclear missiles. This is called a nuclear deterrent, however, this comes with a lot of problems, as early warning systems are extremely unreliable and we should consider ourselves lucky we did not end up in a nuclear war till now.

The odds of probability dictate that the more times you roll the dice eventually you will get unlucky, in the case of a nuclear war we all get unlucky. As political climates frequently change, and politicians not seeing the big picture we could head towards a disaster that it is inevitable.

How will a nuclear war start

Currently, there is no evidence of a country actively trying to launch a nuclear attack against any other country. Countries with nuclear capabilities rely on the fact that their enemies know that if they launched a nuclear attack that they will retaliate with their own nuclear attack. One of the most popular theories on how will a nuclear war start is that it will be caused by a false alarm, this has happened numerous times during the past decades but leaders luckily have not acted upon them.

In case of two nations having similar nuclear capabilities if one of them wants to attack the other with nuclear bombs they do not have to launch hundreds of nuclear bombs at once, instead, there will be only one nuclear bomb at the beginning with its sole purpose is to destroy the electrical grid of the other nation. Detonating a nuclear bomb on a high altitude will have an EMP effect, which could black out an entire country. The probability of nuclear war is fairly low currently, however this can change extremely fast.

After the country which has started the attack will launch more nuclear missiles towards the enemy strategic locations. The logic is simple, they have the benefit of a surprise attack and once the electrical grid goes down, communications to launch a retaliatory attack will be harder if not possible. There will be no formal declaration of war, once the aggressor is committed and launched the first missile there is no coming back.

What you have to survive during a nuclear war

A nuclear war will probably be if not the shortest but definitely the deadliest wars in human history. There will be no going back to normal life after a nuclear war, in fact, life after the nuclear war will be extremely hard. A full-blown nuclear war would probably last only a couple of days at best, as countries affected by them will lose most of their electrical infrastructure thus preventing them from launching more retaliatory strikes. If you are wondering how to survive a nuclear bomb, then you might be surprised but it will take you a lot of luck to survive one.

Capital cities and large cities will be the first targets in case of a nuclear war, people living in these areas have a fairly small chance to survive the nuclear attack. Any nuclear attack would cripple a country and there will be limited response for search and rescue as most of these once they realize that there is a nuclear attack would rather try and protect their families than anybody else.

Nuclear Blast

There are people who have survived nuclear blasts which were in close proximity but this is mostly due to luck than any preparation. As technology advances, so does the arms race and current ballistical missiles will take only a few minutes to reach the other side of the planet. While there are early warning systems used for military intelligence there are no warning systems for the civilian population.

As most people in urban areas live in high rise buildings this could be a potential death trap for many. These buildings are not designed to resist the massive shockwave of a nuclear blast and miles around the point of impact ost buildings would be leveled down.

Thermal pulse

The thermal pulse is so hot that it instantly ignites anything flammable in its path and that includes humans as well. Survivors of the thermal pulse also have to face the numerous fires caused by it, in some cases, the thermal pulse can be so powerful that it will burn off most of the oxygen in a split second in indoor areas where there is limited access to outdoor air.


Dying from radiation is slower than from the initial blast or thermal pulse, depending on the dose of radiation to which a person was exposed there is a fairly low chance of surviving. The further from the initial blast the lower the radiation it is, most people who do survive develop various forms of cancers in the long run.


There is no telling what will people do during the initial phases of a nuclear war, but after the initial shock the grim reality will kick in. We have a primal instinct to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, however, our most basic instinct is to keep ourselves safe first. This is why the right-hand side seat in a car is commonly considered as the window seat, in case of an impending accident the driver will steer left to protect himself.

While this might be considered something a coward would do this is by no means intentional and most people do not even realize what they are doing. It is the same instinct when you close your eyes when someone throws something towards your face. Heard mentality could be also potentially deadly in a nuclear war scenario, once people know that they can no longer rely on anybody there is no telling who would they see as an enemy in order to protect their families.


Will you survive after the nuclear war?

Believe it or not, this is when hard times will actually start, and some might even wish they would have died in the nuclear attacks. The entire humanity will be at peril at this point, most of the technology on which we rely on today will be gone. In addition to battling the nuclear fallout, hunger, and nuclear winter, people will have to face their own worst enemies which are other people. After the nuclear war, there will be chaos and the survival of the fittest scenario will prevail, most likely more aggressive people who are not afraid of violence.

No electricity

Nuclear bombs will cause an EMP effect, destroying most of the electrical components in a wide radius. Not only these will destroy the electrical devices but also the electrical grid, once there is no more electricity every industry will collapse. Once there is no more industry, there will be no jobs with which you could feed and shelter your family. You will also be broke in an instant as most money is on electronic devices which will also be destroyed by the EMP.

Odds are that money will probably be useless as the interest in resources has also shifted, everybody’s main goal will be to find food, water, and shelter.

Martial law

There is a high probability that martial law will be enforced, although this will be extremely difficult without modern communication devices. But still, there will be areas of the country where martial law would rule, although this period would be rather limited to the rations and supplies provided to the local martial law enforcing personnel. Under normal circumstances, people under martial law would be safer than the rest of the people.

The problem is that these people will expect help in the form of food and water from the government, and even under normal circumstances government leaders are unable to do so mostly due to incompetence.

No rule of law

Without electricity there will be no rule of law, current law enforcement agencies rely on communication, without electricity most of the communication devices would either not work or have already been destroyed by the EMP. This also includes search and rescue agencies which even if they wanted to help will find it almost impossible. At first, most looters will target electronic devices, not everybody will become a looter but the herd mentality and the fear of missing out is very powerful in people.

On the other side, there will be people who will stay at home, as for how viable this is I have already written an article Staying home during SHTF ( Can you? ). If you have already read that you already know that in the long run, this is not the best option. In case of a nuclear war, the SHTF situation will probably last at least a few years if not decades.

Nuclear fallout

Nuclear fallout can last from 1-5 years, but this estimation is for only one nuclear weapon. In the case of a nuclear war where hundreds if not thousands of nuclear bombs will detonate odds are that the fallout will last at least 20-30 years. Nuclear fallout is highly radioactive and once a nuclear bomb has been detonated it will take only a few minutes for the nuclear fallout to start dropping on the surface.

The major problem with nuclear fallout is that it can and it will affect places far from the detonation, as these radioactive particles will travel with the wind. This in turn also causes clouds filled with radioactive particles to create radioactive rain, this in addition to the nuclear fallout will contaminate large areas. Some places might be lucky and have limited fallout, but the ones that do have fallout will have the water supplies contaminated and once nuclear fallout settles on the ground there will be no more crops growing in that area.

Generally speaking the closer to the nuclear detonation the higher the levels of radiation you will be exposed to, while small levels are radiation are normal, higher levels of radiation will eventually destroy DNA which in turn will lead to several types of cancers. FEMA does recommend for people to have food and water for at least 2 weeks as after two weeks the major part of the radioactive particles has already decayed, but this will probably not be the case in a full-blown nuclear war, where radioactive particle could circle the globe with the air currents.

Nuclear winter

Nuclear winter will probably cause more casualties than the nuclear detonations and the fallout combined. Once the nuclear bombs have detonated these will create massive dust clouds and the fires following the nuclear detonations will also produce a lot of dust and ash which will travel high in the atmosphere. The dust and ash will block out the sun, eventually, temperatures will drop off as the eath is not heated well enough as the dust and ash are blocking the sun out.

This dust and ash will also cause the Ozone layer to be much smaller which in turn will not be able to protect us from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Colder temperatures and limited crop growing time will eventually lead to massive food shortages and famine. This will also affect wildlife on a global scale, with colder temperatures and less rain due to the nuclear winter plants will grow much slower and most of them won’t even have the ability to grow.

Once the plants start dying off so will the ecosystem around them, herbivores will have no food and predators will also starve as their pray is also dead. This will affect people’s ability to hunt, forage and even grow crops.

Nuclear Famine

Famine will be on a global scale, countries where even without a nuclear war there is a food shortage that will suffer the most. I have recently written an article Can you eat dirt to survive? ( What are Mud Cakes? ) and in the case of a nuclear war, a lot of people will have nothing to eat but dirt. While even today in our modern era people in Haiti eat “mud cakes“, while it is not the best idea as you expose yourself to a lot of parasites and bacteria, it is even a wore idea once the earth is full of radioactive particles.

People would eat anything provided they are desperate enough, the once who are picky or try to take the moral high ground will probably die first. Once people realize there is no more food and their family could potentially starve to death they will start looking for “alternative” sources of foods, at first their pets and this will eventually lead to full-blown cannibalism. The big problem with famine after a nuclear war is that there is no help coming, while the government does have several food stockpiles this will not be enough for everybody.

In this case, the US government will try to keep its power and it most likely will as the president’s line of succession is fairly large, and most likely they will use their food stockpiles for people in the government and for essential personnel, like doctors, scientists and military personnel. If you are curious about what will the US government do in the case of a nuclear war check out my article on US government SHTF plans.


Nuclear bomb radius

This will depend on how the nuclear bomb is manufactured and how powerful it is, generally speaking, the nuclear bomb radius is around 6 miles. If you re within 6 miles of a nuclear blast the odds of surviving are fairly slim, although there are no data on how the stock will behave in a modern city but if you are beneath ground level your odds of surviving are much higher. Once the initial nuclear blast has resided the thermal pulse will follow which will create massive fires and incinerate anything flammable this extends the radius of the nuclear bomb to around 30 miles.

The amount of radiation to which a person will be exposed depends on its proximity to the detonation, the further you are from the nuclear bomb the less radiation you will be exposed to. If we also take into consideration the nuclear fallout the radius of the nuclear bomb is increased from hundreds to even thousands of miles. These radioactive particles will travel by the air currents and most of them will fall as radioactive rain.

In case of a nuclear war, the bomb’s radius doesn’t really matter that much as long as you are not in close proximity as after detonating hundreds of bombs the entire planet will probably be affected by the fallout, nuclear winter, and nuclear famine.


Likelihood of nuclear war

Most scientists agree that the likelihood of a nuclear war is fairly low, although there are over 50 000 nuclear bombs in the world and all you need for a nuclear war is the detonation of only one of these. While most nuclear weapons are under tight security there are still several hundred nuclear bombs missing from the former USSR nuclear arsenal. After the collapse of the USSR general and military personnel simply stole these weapons during the no rule of law period.

Most nuclear weapons most likely ended up in the hands of foreign countries which did not have nuclear capabilities, but there is still a possibility that some of these nuclear weapons lay in some rural sheds as the owner has no clue what they are. You might find this improbable but I recently heard of a case where a person stole a large filter made of platinum which has a worth of over $100 000 and used it as a net against mosquitoes, some people are just so stupid that it doesn’t even matter what they steal as long as they can.

After the USSR collapsed a lot of nuclear scientists emigrated to other countries, no matter in which country they ended up they still continued their work in the nuclear field. False alarms do also increase the likelihood of nuclear war as I mentioned above there have been plenty of false alarms during the past decades and one of them almost resulted in a full-blown nuclear war.

We should also take into consideration the human stupidity factor, as this has not only to cause the loss of lives but also started the first world war. Taking into consideration that there are over 50 000 known nuclear bombs, hundreds of missing nuclear bombs, countries with no nuclear capabilities might still have nuclear weapons, false alarms and human stupidity the question is not if it will happen but when.

Some scientists also claim that any intelligent civilization with nuclear capabilities has already wiped itself out and this is why we are not picking any radio signals from intelligent life across the galaxy.

Nuclear attack survival kit

There are a lot of nuclear attack survival kits on the market, most of these are fairly expensive and come with useless gadgets. If you want a good nuclear attack survival kit you need to make it yourself, and the most important factor to take in consideration is that there will be no electricity after the bombs fell. No point in buying fancy equipment if they either get destroyed by the EMP blast or they become useless if you can not charge them.

Although you should make your nuclear attack  survival kit so that it fits the need of your own family, here are some basic essentials with which you should start:

  • Water for at least 2 weeks
  • Food for at least 2 weeks
  • Geiger counter
  • Solar-powered charger
  • Faraday bag
  • Water purification system
  • Iodine capsules
  • Winter clothes ( no matter how hot your environment currently is as after a nuclear war a nuclear winter is highly probable )
  • Self-defense weapons
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Knife
  • Hatchet
  • Saw
  • Bug out bag
  • Fuel
  • Hand-cranked radio
  • Hand-cranked flashlight
  • Well insulated tent
  • Whistles
  • Flares
  • Documents
  • First aid kit

In conclusion

Chances of surviving the initial nuclear war will be fairly high if you are not living in a large urban area where a nuclear bomb would be detonated. In case you live in a large city that is targeted by a nuclear bomb your odds of surviving are fairly slim. However, people who have not been affected directly by the nuclear blast will have to face the nuclear fallout, nuclear winter, and the inevitable famine, not to mention trying to survive in a world with no electricity.

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