Forums: Index > Fallout world discussion > Why does everyone think 200 years would get rid of all the radiation?

I mean, sure, all the radiation from the bombs would've been pretty much gone by then, but I don't see why all those radiation disposal sites would be running dry though. I mean, the barrels of nuclear waste were so numerous they couldn't even bury them anymore, and just had to throw them on the ground. I know next to nothing about radiation, but that seems like a lot of waste. Although, not sure how it would reach the water, but I suppose some barrels might be planted near water, seeping out. Anyway, just a theory. -- 18:07, November 5, 2009 (UTC)

Actually, radiation takes millions of years to finally fade. At test sites in Nevada, there actually still people affected from it. Also, water get irradiated when radiation comes into contact with water. Duh.LW556DCJ 23:43, November 5, 2009 (UTC)

Actually, based on hard data and not Greenpeace scaremongering or some such, radiation rates deplete very quickly. Even if we had rampant (i.e. massively overlapping) surface nuclear detonations, the levels of radioactive fallout drop by 90% for every 7-fold increase in time, so if the level at 1 hour post-blast is 1000 rads/hour, then after 7 hours, it will be about 100 rads/hour, and after 2 days and an hour, 10 rads/hour. By 2 weeks and 7 hours, it's down to 1 rad/hour, and by 100 days, 1 hour, it's at 100 millirads/hour. After a little under years, it's at 10 millirads/hour. This level is about 3.5 times more than the natural background level in Ramsur, Iran, which doesn't have unusually high rates of cancer relative to nearby areas with low radiation, so this level should be at least habitable, if not healthy. By 13.4 years post-detonation, the levels would be down to 1 millirad/hour, which is about half what you get during a plane ride. By 94 years, the fallout is ESSENTIALLY HARMLESS. It is about 40% higher than U.S. background. But "millions" of years? No way. No how. After 1.6 million years, the fallout would be 1 nanorad/hour. This is ALMOST the dose you get..... from eating one Banana.... per year. Or sleeping next to someone, two nights a year. By comparison, living in, say, a big concrete bunker, gives you... 800 times that dose. If it's built on granite, then it gives you exponentially more due to Uranium ores decaying into Radon.

In any realistic situation, the fallout would have gotten rid of the overwhelming majority (99.999991%) of the the 1-hour radiation levels within 100 years. By 200 years, it's 1 part in 24.4 million what it was at 1 hour. It doesn't matter whether you had 10 rads an hour or 10000, that level is now only a few times background or less. And that's assuming no cleanup operations occurred. In reality, a cleanup operation would commence as soon as workers didn't literally die from the radiation exposure through their hazmat suits, which would likely mean that the levels of radioactive fallout would drop to essentially nothing within less than a year and many, many tonnes of radioactive debris would be shipped out to waste disposal sites. 15:43, November 28, 2015 (UTC)

In all honesty, given the scope of the nuclear war depicted, 200 years would not even begin to reduce the environmental radiation enough to be livable (if not annoying). For story purposes, the Fallout teams could not put humans crawling out of the Vaults, say, 100,000 years in the future. The buildings and rubble just wouldn't exist by then. In actuality, having seen Life After People there would be few if any recognizable buildings even 2 centuries from "the end." Again, storyline dictated science and reality be "fudged" a bit. Cars wouldn't just be rusted, they'd be piles of rust. Buildings wouldn't just be falling down, they'd be stones on the ground. And radiation levels would be the same as what is right in front of Vault 87 all over the planet, i.e. FATAL for THOUSANDS of years. Just like food that had been sitting around uneaten for 200 years is still edible? Yeah right. Even Spam doesn't last that long. Hell, even Twinkies don't last that long. Just some thoughts. Nightweaver20xx 05:36, November 9, 2009 (UTC)

Archaeologists have actually eaten honey stored in an Egyptian tomb over 3000 years. And it's not uncommon for native peoples of Siberia and the Yukon to cook and eat mammoth meat found in melting glaciers. Just saying...

Wow, that's hardcore. I guess all those Fallout 1 and 2 fans who hate 3 won't be able to claim "unrealistic" anymore. Just kidding. -- 13:06, November 9, 2009 (UTC)

Intelligent people would first check what Fallout is based on, namely, 1950s science!, something stated time and again by the original developers. As such, the physics model, chemistry, biology and setting is more akin to science fiction novels of the time, rather than 2000s documentaries. But, since you don't seem to be able to do your research, I have to provide a few clues. First, Fallout is realistic in the sense that it makes internal sense. Versimilitude - it's consistent and in-character with itself (at least the first two games, Fallout 3 is an amusement park, not a game world). Second, the problem with radiation is that it's illogical in Fallout 3. Unless the Potomac has an automated facility dumping radioactive waste into the river, after 200 years it would be pretty safe to drink from. It's also murky and dirty - radiated water (as stated by Tycho) would be pure and clear, simply because it's radiated and all micro organisms living within would be sterile. Third, radiation is easy to remove, as long as you're not a moron and don't smear irradiated dirt all over yourself. Fourth, Chernobyl is a pretty good example of how long it takes for radiation to die out. Hint: twenty years and most of the Zone is perfectly safe. 11px-Naglowaa_se.gif Tagaziel (call!) 00:18, November 13, 2009 (UTC)

Okay, there are a few things wrong with what you just said. First, you again dragged your hatred of Fallout 3 into a topic where it is completely inappropriate. Second, you forgot the sheer amount of barrels in these waste disposal sites. Not only ware there hundreds of barrels on the surface for each disposal site, but there are likely hundreds more buried underground. There are some sites which are close enough to the Potomac to have been seeping out for at least 200 years, and that's not counting the possibility that there are barrels buried right near the river, which are not marked as disposal sites. The dirt you are right about, however, Fallout follows Science! as you said, and therefore it's not really an issue. Third, Radiation is pretty easy to remove in Fallout, not sure about real life though. However, the few attempts at purifying the water rarely work, due to the lack of technology available, and the sheer volume needed to be cleaned all at once in order to make a dent. Fourth, Chernobyl was not bombed by hundreds of nuclear warheads. Both USA and China were trying to completely wipe each other out, so it is not impossible for them to have created a bomb which had extra radiation. Anyway, hopefully I said this respectfully enough, and sorry for any misunderstandings. --Toast 18:06, November 13, 2009

Nuclear warheads don't produce enough radiation to blanket an entire area. Chernobyl is an example of an explosion in which 100% of the radioactive material was sent into the atmosphere, which doesn't happen with nuclear weapons, where the uranium/plutonium breaking down reaction is the source of all the energy involved in the blast. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are perfectly habitable, whereas Pripyat is not. Which is funny, considering the former were bombed with nukes and the latter suffered an explosion of a nuclear reactor and tons of radioactive fallout.
Also, handwave "there might be disposal sites next to the river"? Um, really? Unless Americans of the Fallout world are severely retarded, that didn't happen. Personal_Sig_Image.gif Tagaziel (call!) 07:43, February 26, 2010 (UTC)

One of the two most prominent elements that make a nuclear bomb has a half life of 300 year! That means every 300 years that element is half of what it was before. The other element has a half life of 3,000 years! So even after 200 years you would still need another 100 years before the first element goes through a half life and another 2,800 years before the second element meets its half life. I am also surprize as how intact the Capital Wasteland is. D.C. should be a radioactive swamp with most of the buildings being leveled of at least one story tall piles of rubble.-Zachattak471 17:16, February 25, 2010

Frankly, the radioactive isotopes found commonly in the Fallout universe are not the same as our own. A terminal in the Nuka-Cola plant mentions impossible isotopes of cadmium, strontium, and uranium both used in soft drinks, and cleared by the FDA. The increased use of nuclear weapons more than likely caused a revolution in fissionable materials, with major power players looking for the destruction of an atomic bomb, but without the deadly fallout later. The portable nukes used by Liberty Prime and the Fat Man have a half-life that's nowhere near the 300 years you mentioned. Nitty Tok. 02:59, February 26, 2010 (UTC)
Nukes don't leave nearly as much fallout as you think. Again, compare Chernobyl and Hiroshima/Nagasaki. Personal_Sig_Image.gif Tagaziel (call!) 07:43, February 26, 2010 (UTC)

The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were little guys, though. We're talkin' kilotons. A bomb that contains, say, several nine-megaton warheads, would probably leave a lot more radioactive material floating around for a lot longer. Sure... Not 100,000 years, but things would be really nasty for a long while. Metalfrenchtoast 14:18, February 27, 2010 (UTC)

Except nukes in the Fallout world were numerous kiloton warheads, not a handful of megaton ones. Read the manual for Fallout 1. Personal_Sig_Image.gif Tagaziel (call!) 14:28, February 27, 2010 (UTC)

I don't have it, but that's interesting. Some of the biggest ones (Fusion) were made in the 50's. Was there a yield-cap at some point in the Fallout history? At any rate, a whole bunch of Hiroshima and Nagasaki-equivelant weapons in a full-on, all out Defcon 1 situation, would (Just guessing here) still blast a lot of nasty shit into the air. Not to mention, wide-scale nuclear war and the subsequent crazy-ass weather effects would probably blow it all over the place. A lower yield weapon isn't going to take as long to fall out, because the material doesn't get blasted so high in the air, there isn't as much material (Per warhead), and everything settles down sooner, but then again, the compounded amount of material from all the bombs detonated would leave quite a mess, and just because it leaves the atmosphere sooner doesn't mean it becomes much less of a problem sooner. Metalfrenchtoast 04:27, March 1, 2010 (UTC)

The megaton class weapons have been largely retired, being replaced with much smaller yield warheads. The yield of a modern strategic warhead is, with few exceptions, now typically in the range of 200-750 kT. Recent work with sophisticated climate models has shown that this reduction in yield results in a much larger proportion of the fallout being deposited in the lower atmosphere, and a much faster and more intense deposition of fallout than had been assumed in studies made during the sixties and seventies. The reduction in aggregate strategic arsenal yield that occurred when high yield weapons were retired in favour of more numerous lower yield weapons has actually increased the fallout risk.
Page 1-7 of the Fallout manual. Increased fallout risk, but due to the smaller power, it stays in the lower atmosphere and falls out sooner. Fallout isn't a magical stick-to-all-and-never-be-removed substance. In the two centuries that followed most of it would be washed away or carried away by the elements. The only place it would stay would be buildings (case in point: Pripyat, Chernobyl), as they provide cover from wind and other elements. Ergo, in Fallout 3, the only places that should have a radiation count should be buildings and concrete structures, not random ditches in the desert or the Potomac. Personal_Sig_Image.gif Tagaziel (call!) 07:54, March 1, 2010 (UTC)
I'm not really sure of the canonocity(?) of that partof the manual. My understanding is that it was borrowed from a real world source so I always viewed it as something parallel - ie: the sciencey (I'm really adding new words to the language today) bits are canon, but the bits that talk about size of nukes is referring to the real world. Agent c 01:15, January 10, 2011 (UTC)
What? If it's in the manual, then it's entirely canon, no doubt about it. Personal_Sig_Image.gif Tagaziel (call!) 10:05, January 10, 2011 (UTC)

Well, in school, we were teached about that nuclear explosion in Chernobyl, and the teacher said that it would take 400 years for the radiation to go away. In Fallout its been 200 years since the bombs fell so it's likely that most of the radiation has started to fade Tezzla 19:54, March 23, 2010 (UTC)

Well, you have the Internet and Google, so how about you ignore your teacher and look up the facts yourself? Personal_Sig_Image.gif Tagaziel (call!) 06:54, March 24, 2010 (UTC)

Radioactive particles have things called a half-life, which states how long the particle will keep emitting radiation. Some of the nukes might have used a few elements that might not have had an extremely long half-life. Nukey (Tok) (Blag)

After 200 years, the rain/snow seasons would have washed the vast majority of the radioactive fallout into the Potomac, then carried it on downstream. By 2277, most of it would bei n the Atlandic. The Wasteland is perfectly in line with real life science, amazingly enough, as far as general radioactivity. Then again, if we look at Vault 87's entrance, we find it to be immensely irradiated 200 years after a direct hit. We look at Hiroshima/Nagasaki, and they're still quite inhabitable. Rebuilt completely, except for one or two structures intentionally left damage as monuments to the fallen. So in that respect it diverges from real life science. All in all it's a game, and honestly I don't care either way because I have a mod that yanks those pesky rads out of the Potomac(And the water surrounding Point Lookout). TestECull 14:49, April 11, 2010 (UTC)

The nuclear bombs used during the Great War were not as powerful as a real nuclear bomb would be. The National Guard Depot was hit by SEVERAL nuclear bombs and it is still mostly standing over 200 years later. Either that, or the Chinese were only pretending to use nuclear bombs and were instead using "dirty" bombs. --MadDawg2552 20:52, April 22, 2010 (UTC)

In the "Life after People" It doesent accout for the fact that a nuclear war would wipe out most things living outside for a few decades, so buildings wouldnt be eaten away by plants, cars wouldn't corrode because the relative humidity would be very low (Thermo-Nuclear weapons will emmit alot of heat, so the atmosphere would have been extremley hot after the Great War), the weapons would create a "Nuclear Winter" (lots and lots of particles in the air, no sunlight would get trough to evaporate water, meanwhile the sun would heat these particles to rise to the stratosphere so rain wouldn't wash them out).
In the end i would expect that for a few decades, only the toughest bacteria and animals would survive (plants would probably die off)

Nuclear Winter isn't a given, some experts in nuclear warfare dismiss it as a myth, suggesting a maximum drop of 11c for a few days. Guess its one of those things we can only be sure of if/when a practical experiment is inadvertantly performed. Agent c 00:42, December 5, 2010 (UTC)

I think that the bombs used by the chinese were probably more like the "thin man" type or simply a tactical nuke because its cheaper to make a bunch of little bombs than 1 great big bomb its also safer and i bet that the chinese used a "gun" type of nuke to ensure that the bombs went off (the one in megaton is a 1 in a million fluke) well what that means is it would be more like using the type of bombs dropped on hiroshima and nagasaki so it would be gone by now i think of fallout as radioactive ash it can be "washed" away but it would take a while and if its in something that isnt exsposed to the elements say a crack in a building it would be a lot longer before it went away 16:55, August 10, 2010 (UTC)

Guys actually radiation doesn't need to fully go away for it to be safe. Its a common myth that after a nuke hits it take thousand of year for the radiation levels to drop. Reality is that in the case of a indirect hit like Vegas in about a month the land would be safe for a adult to walk the wastes without getting radiation sickness. In maybe 2 years the radiation at lower ground levels would be safe for smaller children to safely walk around and in about 5 year most fallout in water would have sunk and so it would be relatively clean (THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS IRRADIATED WATER, its only the fallout which is DUST with radioactive particles stuck to it).True the most sheety stuff has a half life of about 30 year and likes to screw us from under the ground making vegetation grown radioactive which can build up and get you killed. SO in a hundred year the world would be ready for recolonization. These numbers don't take into account other factors but generally after 200 years water, soil and well the air would be safe again and dependent on the location still good(areas such as hills and higher ground with a thin soil and thick stone under layer closer to coastal areas would infact have the best growing conditions...and i live in a area like that!)

Herax 19:40, December 1, 2010 (UTC)

Thousands of people every day enter a building with a "high" level of radiation, with no ill effects. Its called Grand Central Station/Terminus in New York City. Naturally occurring radiation from Granite. British nuclear survival documents here: talk about weeks, not years, where the risk lies from fallout.Agent c 00:37, December 5, 2010 (UTC)

Just in reference to everybody above the bombs that were dropped on hiroshima and nagasaki were only a very small megaton yieldage such as half a megaton which is very small compared to modern nuclear weapons. You must also consider that the war happened in 2077 and there for the yieldage used would have increased both by the USA and China from 1945 when the original nuclear weapons were dropped. The larger yieldage would therefore have irraditated a larger area due to the larger area of the explosion and possible leaving greater amounts of radiation. However i must state that tests with larger megaton yieldages have not been done due to the Nuclear proliferation and Nuclear test-ban treaties. Slothtastic 22:55, January 9, 2011 (UTC)

In the Games: Buildings are intact, The Potomac is irradiated unless the purifier is running, the food is eatable, Some water is dirty and irradiated, some is clear and non-irradiated, When you fire a mini-nuke the fallout dissipates quickly, The Game is Based off of 50s science but that does not mean that we may speculate on how it all works, What is in the games are the Truth. Everything that the Creators of the universe say is true until retracted, every thing we see in the games is true until retracted. Deal with it. EDIT- I'mma just bold this... Exosion 01:27, January 10, 2011 (UTC)

Not really. Inonsistent design, illogical additions etc. aren't really canon if they don't make a lick of sense. Personal_Sig_Image.gif Tagaziel (call!) 10:05, January 10, 2011 (UTC)
At severe risk to life and limb, I'm think going to have to disagree with you, Tagaziel. See below. Hal10k (Leonard Bernstein!) 23:18, January 10, 2011 (UTC)
Key difference: Fallout's laws of nature work a little different and in a generally consistent way. Personal_Sig_Image.gif Tagaziel (call!) 23:35, January 10, 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps, but I'm just pointing out that the franchise's relation to pulp Sci-Fi gives it a built in escape clause for physics that the newer games are only starting to use in full force. If something claims to be based on something ridiculous, you can't blame it for getting a little ridiculous. That's sort of like complaining that an adaptation of a Dostoevsky novel is too "talky". Hal10k (Leonard Bernstein!) 00:20, January 11, 2011 (UTC)

To make things simple, I'll just state it depends on the concentration of elements composed in a nuke. Nitty, what you said about fallout is absolutely incorrect. Almost all nuclear physists will agree that only 40-20% of the damage is caused by the blast, the rest is caused by the fallout. This was proven true in Hiroshima. It was calculated that only close to 10,000 people died because of the blast. The other 90,000 died because of the fallout. Nukes that a have a higher concentration of plutonium tend to have a higher amount of fallout emitted. This is the reason why after the 50s-60s, they used more of it. It was also cheaper than uranium and easier to obtain, so they incoorperated more of it into the shells surrounding the core.Also, to say fallout will last thousands of years absolutely makes since.Uranium 235, the main ingerdiant in nukes, have a half life life of 700 million years. The chain reaction of a greatly excites the uranium atoms and decreaes their half life to a fraction of a micro-second, hense the strong explosion. The particles of uranium that remain in the fallout can still have long half lifes. --{{SUBST:User:AFGHAN PSYCHO/Sig}} 02:36, January 10, 2011 (UTC)

Do remember that Japanese citizens had no forewarning nor knowledge of what a nuclear weapon does or what fallout is. Practically no one had. In the Fallout world, with its awareness of the threats posed by nuclear warfare, the number of people dying from fallout would be significantly lower, as they'd have adequate knowledge and shelter to survive the bombardment. It's the chaos that follows that would claim the most lives. Personal_Sig_Image.gif Tagaziel (call!) 10:05, January 10, 2011 (UTC)

I'm prepared to give the games a lot of leeway when it comes to anything concerning physics. It's no secret that the games are mainly inspired by pulp Science Fiction- that's stories and novellas published in regular magazines from the 30's to the late 50's, for those of you out there that don't know- as well as 1950's Sci-Fi B-movies, and draws mainly from the "soft" end of the spectrum.

I can tell you from personal experience that if a story of this sort didn't contradict its set of physics by the end, it was just waiting for the sequel. I don't want to tell you how many stories I've read where a "Scientist" concludes that some scheme wouldn't work because it violates, say, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, despite the fact the fact that we've already seen some spectacular feat of engineering earlier in the story that patently violates this law. Sometimes the "Scientist" comes to this conclusion using this same device.

Either way, considering the number of head-scratchers in its source material, I'm willing to give the franchise a lot of legroom when it comes to physics. Hal10k (Leonard Bernstein!) 23:18, January 10, 2011 (UTC)

The US Army Survival Guide states that around2 weeks after a megaton-level (city killer) burst, you can leave your shelter and as long as you have proper NBC gear, stay outside for HOURS. You can even make 1/2 hour trips outside after only 2 days. Granted, the physics of Fallout are different than real-world physics, but in the real world, the only way the Potomac would be "irradiated" was if the aquifer or groundwater got contaminated, and even then, the radioactive particles would settle out eventually. --NCRandproud123 23:11, October 20, 2011 (UTC)

But, as for the waste dumping sites located close to the Potomac, they would most definitely be leaking radioactive leachate into the groundwater, just not the river itself. It hit me after posting what I did above.

Leachate is a problem even today in landfills. We use liners and such to capture it, and dispose of radioactive waste in a specified manner (as in, not just throw it anywhere, and certainly not anywhere that it can get to groundwater). However, you can see in FO3 that drums of radioactive waste are just tossed everywhere. Leachate would be a definite problem. So, I posted a rebuttal then a rebuttal to that rebuttal :P--NCRandproud123 23:16, October 20, 2011 (UTC)

Do remember we are talking about a fictional universe in which American technology and science went off at a tangent to our own. The in game understanding about radiation and nuclear elements would be much different; the nuclear weapons they possessed would most likely be different to real world ones. And remember, this is a game. A game series of this scope with changing producers and such will be sure to have inconsistencies. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Nomad of the Wastes (talkcontribs). Please sign your posts with ~~~~!

In the fallout universe there is probably more radiation than there should be. In our own time line there as been 521 recorded above ground nuclear blasts by 1979. Most of these occurred in New Mexico and Nevada. There is speculation that that some countries did above ground tests in the 1980's. Today we don't have a chronic ground water problem and rivers are radiation free. Most of Pripyat has been declared habitable and people live in nagasaki and hiroshima. lastly nuclear wast is actually a metal and could only contaminate water by being broken into tiny pieces and released in to it. Areas were water can pool or were wind can not blow might have elevated levels of radiation.

         If you read up on the history of the fallout universe, there timeline pretty much ends in our universes equivalent of the fifties.  The microchip was never invented which is why all the technology is so large (our technology has shrunk over the decades with increased power).  As such, massive fuck all nukes could not exist in the fallout universe, and after 200 years life could pretty much start over.

I wonder if most of you guys realize that chernobyl won't be habitable by humans for close to 20,000 years, also a tactic in nuclear war is to blow the bomb up close to or below a mile above the target allowing for more explosive damage but also decreasing the amount of radiation being absorbed into the ground and water in the vicinity. Thus being said I think it's perfectly plausible that the radiation in the fallout games would be perfectly within habitable levels considering the tactics that are normally employed during nuclear strikes (no one would blow a nuke up on the ground because it'd cause lesser damage and range of effect from the original explosion) so 200 years after the nukes I'd say they could probably be outside plus ngl there'd be crazy plant life everywheres (unlike in the games) and lots of moose and deer because moose and deer have chambered stomachs capable of filtering radiation. Honestly the only places I think that would be messed up and too radioactive would be places where old nuclear reactors used to sit...considering they need to be maintained or they meltdown and when they go off a reactor does more damage than a nuke because of the fallout soaking into the ground unlike bombs which don't normally do that. Yours truly: Mangoduckins

There's no such thing as a long-term highly radioactive substance. There's substances with low radioactivity that stay radioactive for millennia or millions of years and there's highly radioactive substances that fade within seconds, minutes, days, years. Radioactivity is a function of nuclear decay. Fast decay - high radioactivity. Slow decay - low radioactivity. Nuclear waste, for example, remains radioactive for eons. But after about 3000-20000 years (depending on the type of reactor) nuclear waste is only as radioactive as naturally occurring uranium ore. The rule for nuclear explosions is 7 times 7 times 7. After 7 hours, 90% of the radioactivity is gone. After 49 hours, 99%. After 2 weeks, 99.9%.

That's why people can live in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even Chernobyl is livable again today, aside from some hotspots. And there would be an increased cancer risk.

  • Because of a video by Shoddycast. Guy doesn't understand anything about science. Gives us people who actually think about this stuff a bad name.The Reincarnation Of Akatosh (talk) 05:32, April 26, 2016 (UTC)

Don't know why people reference Chernobyl with in regards to lingering radiation, not the same situation as a bomb dropping, Chernobyl was a nuclear meltdown from a poorly made nuclear power plant (essentially a reactor with pretty much a hut surrounding it). Radiation from a Nuclear bomb will disperse to almost harmless levels far more quickly, where with a meltdown you have nuclear material around for much longer contaminating the area with radiation. People in the Fallout Universe should of been fine to leave after 60 days conservatively. Vault 111 was fine to leave after their 180 days, minus dealing with all the raiders and such. -Masternetra

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