Damage Zones After a Nuclear Detonation &
"Zoned Approach" to the Response*

  • The pattern of damage caused by a nuclear detonation can be predicted by computer modeling
    • The closer to ground zero, the more severe the expected physical damage on the ground and the greater the expected levels of radiation.
    • Among the factors influencing the amount and pattern of damage and radiation include
      • Yield of the burst (kT)
      • Height of burst
      • Nature of the device
      • Topography of the land
      • Composition of structures on the ground
      • Weather
  • Three concentric physical Damage Zones have been described corresponding the amount and type of physical destruction
    • Severe Damage Zone (closest to ground zero)
    • Moderate Damage Zone
    • Light Damage Zone (farthest away from ground zero)

    See "idealized" maps of these 3 Damage Zones
  • It is important to note that
    • These zones describe anticipated physical damage
    • Actual damage zones are unlikely to be this symmetrical.
    • The transition between zones is likely to be more gradual
    • Radiation levels are also high within these zones
  • Two Radiation Zones have been also been described that will be important to responders and victims
    • Dangerous Fallout Zone: bounded by the >10 R/hour line.
    • The "0.01 R/h Boundary": also called the "Hot Zone" by NCRP 165 and others
    • These zones extend from inside the Damage Zones to many miles outside the zones, with a shape and area dependent on the yield of the detonation and the wind.
    • See illustration of the footprints of these zones with changes over 48 hours
  • Why are these zones important?
  • The Radiation Triage, Treat, Transport System (RTR) has been proposed for the organizing and locating venues for the medical response

* Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation, Second edition, 6/2010 (PDF - 2.62 MB) (National Security Staff, Interagency Policy Coordination Subcommittee for Preparedness & Response to Radiological and Nuclear Threats)