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US prepares for nuclear fallout

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Posters displaying information about radiological emergencies began appearing on PATH trains and stations in September amid ongoing discussions of an impending nuclear attack.

Posters displaying information about radiological emergencies began appearing on PATH trains and stations in September amid ongoing discussions of an impending nuclear attack.
Image: Kevin Hagen (Getty Images)

The potential for a nuclear armageddon apparently increased in recent months, much to the dismay and concern of part of the American public. This potential seems to crystallize into a legitimate concern for the US government, which recently announced the purchase of a drug used in radiological and nuclear emergencies.

The idea of ​​a nuclear war may conjure up images of the Cold War or even a distant dystopian future, but the threat of an imminent nuclear attack is being taken seriously by the US government as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine. The Department of Health and Human Services last week announced spending of $290 million on an anti-radiation drug called Nplate to be added to the country’s stock for “radiological and nuclear emergencies”. Nplate, also known as romiplostim, is used to treat low blood platelet count, with Food and Drug Administration approval in 2021 for the drug to be used as a treatment for people with acute radiation exposure.

This may sound alarming, especially given the warning of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who proposed that the world be “a miscalculation away” of nuclear annihilation at a UN review conference last August. A representative of the Department of Health and Social Services told Reuters that the purchase was part of an ongoing effort to prepare the country for a wide range of threats, including a nuclear attack.

“For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have a direct threat of the use of a nuclear weapon if, in fact, things continue on the path they are on,” President Joe Biden said during of a fundraiser in New York last week, as quoted by Politics. “We haven’t faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

Image from article titled US Preps for Nuclear Fallout

Image: Alice Bell Black

Whether the nuclear apocalypse is near or not, it is clear that a message campaign has begun to inform the American public of the potential for a radiological emergency, as well as what to do in the worst case. Posters began appearing on Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) trains and stations in September that depict exactly that. For the uninitiated, the PATH rail system is analogous to the New York City subway system, except that the subway connects the New Jersey cities of Hoboken, Jersey City, and Newark to New York. PATH sees on average 153,600 passengers every day of the weekaccording to Q2 2022 data, which creates a nice audience for a poster campaign like this.

Posters describe what to do when/if a radiological emergency occurs. Residents are asked to hide inside a basement or in the middle of a building, wait inside to reduce radiation exposure, and keep themselves informed by radio, television, computer or mobile device for further instructions. These instructions are standard procedures for what to do in a radiation emergency, and were recently reiterated a few months ago when New York City Emergency Management posted a viral public service announcement on the subject. According to the information listed at the bottom of the poster, this particular message was issued by the Department of Homeland Security.

The threat of nuclear attack is imminent and the message from the US government is not particularly comforting. While anxiety may be rumbling across the country, we’re not exactly looking down the barrel of a missile silo just yet. Some political analysts say Putin’s attitudes to a nuclear threat are “saber blow” (which the Russian politician would have a long history of) in order to stoke fear in the West. As the situation around the world continues to evolve, it’s best to stay informed.