Nuking some place or something is considered akin to complete annihilation and destruction. But a study has just surfaced showing there is one thing that can withstand even a nuclear bomb and not be affected by its radioactivity – the humble beer!
While the buildings turn into rubble and cities evaporate into oblivion, you can still burrow through the bodies to find and drink that refreshing can of your favorite beer without any substantial risk of radioactivity, or at least that’s what an NPR blog post by Robert Krulwich says.
These results derived from the above-ground nuclear tests conducted by the US government through 1945 till the late 1960s in the Nevada desert. A part of this series in 1955, called Operation Teapot, detonated 14 nuclear bombs to test their nuclear weapons.
During these tests, the researchers placed a stack of sodas of beers to test whether they would survive the blasts and the significant radioactivity. The experiment details are in a 1957 study titled, “The effect of nuclear explosions on commercially packaged beverages.”
As Krulwich writes in his post:
“[I]n 1956, the Atomic Energy Commission exploded two bombs, one ‘with an energy release equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT,’ the other 30 kilotons, a test site in Nevada. Bottles and cans were carefully placed various distances from ground zero. …
“The closest containers were placed ‘less than a quarter mile away,’ says Alex [Wellerstein, a science historian], ‘a mere 1,056 feet (322 metres)’, the outliers a couple of miles off. Some were buried, some left in batches, others were placed side by side.”
Below is a slow motion video showing how the Operation Teapot explosions looked like;
The study concluded that the beer cans closest to the blast were slightly radioactive but still drinkable and safe in the short term. Naturally, drinks placed further away were even less dangerous to consume. Scientists even drank the beverages themselves and found most of them good except the ones nearest the blast.
This illustration from FEMA depicts how nuclear blasts varying in sizes can generate different amounts of fallout. Besides the bomb material itself, the soil, rocks, trees, etc. that are close to the ground zero also get incinerated and irradiated into fallout. These materials when carried by the wind then spread the radiation over a large area. But oddly enough, the drinks didn’t show the same effects.
Better start stacking up those beer cans, if you already haven’t of course!