San Francisco Example: Recovery

In this simulated accident we have assumed that there is nothing to prevent state and federal resources from concentrating on the devastated area. Though the rescue work would be hampered by radioactivity, much in the way of immediate aid would be available that would not be if this were a full scale nuclear attack.


Both the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges would likely be damaged and unusable in any rescue effort. At the least there would be debris and damaged vehicles that would have to be cleared before any aid could be transported. Access to San Francisco would be limited to the highways that run up the peninsula. It is likely that these highways would be the only way into or out of the city. San Francisco International Airport is located well outside the 1 psi ring and is shielded by hills. Aid and equipment could likely be flown into the airport after the initially high radiation levels from early fallout had subsided.

Medical Effects

With 175,000 people injured to varying degrees the medical system will be unable to give care to all but the most severely injured. There will be relatively few burn victims from the thermal pulse, but still more than the immediate area is capable of caring for at once. More importantly, the area covered by total dose of 300 rads of fallout over the first 18 hours is quite large (almost 2000 square miles). People who don't evacuate the area or seek shelter from the radiation in the early fallout will likely come down with radiation sickness. For the long term, the incidence of various forms of cancer will increase for the general population up to 50 miles distant from the blast.


Most of San Francisco will be without utilities at least out to the 2 psi ring. However, most people will need to evacuate the area, at least temporarily, out much farther than the edge of the 1 psi ring. Restoration of utilities will happen as they are required for rescue and evacuation.

Rescue and Recovery

Hundreds of thousands of people will likely have to evacuate; some permanently, others for weeks or months. California's disaster planning for major earthquakes may help in the effort to find shelter and food for all those evacuating. It is unlikely that San Francisco will be habitable for many years to come. Decontamination and cleanup after the initially high radiation levels have subsided will take years, if even attempted - the cost will be incredibly high.

Distance from
ground zero (mi.)
Population Fatalities Injuries Uninjured
0 - 1.4 45,000 45,000 0 0
1.4 - 2.7 150,000 120,000 30,000 0
2.7 - 3.5 90,000 25,000 40,000 25,000
3.5 - 5.8 225,000 35,000 75,000 115,000
5.8 - 9.0 500,000 0 30,000 470,000
Totals 1,010,000 225,000 175,000 610,000
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