Friday, April 15, 2022

Stucco Houses As Radiation Shielding

If you in the Southwest this is quite applicable.   We live in an oddball stucco house which is profoundly weird looking in our subdivision.

From "Experimental Evaluation of the Fallout-Radiation Protection Afforded by a Southwestern Residence" (1962):

"An experimental study was conducted to determine the fallout-radiation protection afforded by a residence representative of a type of construction much in favor in the Southwest a single-story stucco and frame house with a heavy shake roof and no basement....

"The protection factors within the house ratio of exposure dose rate in the open field to exposure dose rate in the structure ranged from 2.8 to 4.4, depending on the location. The results compare favorably with those found in previous exercises under similar conditions."

This report from 1975 for a single story rambler shows a reduction that seems to be 2.0.  (This report shows a radiation reduction of 0.5 which would be 2.0 on the above report.)  They also distinguish between a small structure 20'x30' and a large structure 40'x90' which is a more typical house size today.  The larger structure has a much better radiation reduction because the smaller structure gets 3x more radiation from the outside than from the roof.  I think this means the 40'x90' rambler will have a radiation reduction more like 4.  

Both are encouraging.  I was surprised to find that the U.S. actually has an operational ballistic and cruise missile defense system although primarily of value against SLBMs, IRBMs, and cruise missiles.   ICBMs remain a problem because of reentry speeds being so high 

When I lived in San Jose in the early1980s, a guy from church whose NQ (Nerd Quotient) was very high was writing ballistic missile defense software.  He was writing software that solved six equations, six unknowns for real-time intercepts.  These are hard problems, probably easier as processing power has improved.

I get the impression that even if some Russian or Chinese missiles were better maintained than Russian Army vehicles, a fair number might not get through although likely spreading a fair amount of plutonium dust on destruction.  I hate to see the BMD systems combat-tested but the actual fallout hazard might be less than the apocalyptic fictional versions.  We can thank Reagan for that.

Preparing for improvised shelter in place is looking more and more plausible.   

The next question to study is how much radiation shielding case lots of chili and corned beef provide.  The steel itself provides some direct shielding and refraction off the cans will direct some to the sides of your edible shelter walls.


  1. I wouldn't worry too much about a few kg of Pu dust widely dispersed. There was a team of young technicians in the Manhattan Project whose job was to collect all the metal scraps and flecks resulting from manufacturing things from Pu, such as the implodable "pit" of a bomb. As it was 1944-1945, protections were primitive and all of them ingested or inhaled small amounts of Pu.

    After the Project was over, the AEC monitored these men to observe the health effect. Their urine was regularly tested for the presence of residual Pu. They dubbed themselves "the UPPU Society" (there was detectable Pu for the rest of their lives).

    None of them showed any health effects. One died in a car crash in the 1950s; the others all lived to be at least 60.

  2. Russia's current ICBMs do include the capability of including countermeasures. The Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles can be configured in several ways including some payloads that are electronic counter measures. That plus the speed makes intercepting ICBMs a problem after reentry