Current News

Could humans actually survive a nuclear war in a Fallout vault? A look at the science of Fallout

Fallout 4 easter eggs

The American Chemical Society took a closer look at the science of a Fallout vault. And surprisingly, they sort of hold up – in the most general sense.

If you take away all the cool game trappings, the world of Fallout is incredibly bleak. Radioactive waste is everywhere, mutated monsters roam the countryside, and super intelligent dogs have learned how to break into sealed rooms and steal stuff for their masters. The horror.

Thankfully for the sake of gamers everywhere, there isn’t a huge emphasis on science in Fallout. If there was, the main character – who was born before the nukes fell and was then cryogenically frozen – would probably die within seconds of waking up due to the background radiation that he wouldn’t have built up over time like the other survivors.

And that’s assuming the vault actually worked as advertised.

The American Chemical Society decided to take a closer look at the idea behind a fallout vault, and whether or not it could actually protect us during a nuclear war. And the answer is that yes, human could survive. At least in theory.

The Fallout series is set around 200 years after a nuclear war has turned the Earth into a wasteland. A few survivors managed to make a go of it on the surface, but many took to fallout shelters known as vaults, were they waited out the centuries for the radiation to dissipate.

The question of survival is then really two-fold: Could a fallout vault survive after a nuclear explosion, and could the vaults become self-sustaining deep underground?

The group in the video based their analysis on material taken from the game universe, including some details on how vaults are created, like how deep underground they are and the power they use. They then analyze some of the biggest challenges vault dwellers would face over two centuries to see if survival is possible.

Depending on your faith in humanity, the answer may surprise you.

One small detail the group doesn’t really mention is that while the games take place two hundred years after a nuclear war, the war in question was actually fought decades in our future, meaning the Fallout vault technology would be even better than it could be today.

In other words, we could totally survive a nuclear war and come out in awesome blue jump suits to fight monsters while obsessively collecting junk used to build settlements. Count on it.

Of course, the video only touches on some of the broader issues – there would be plenty of other problems beyond power, food, water, and radiation. One of the biggest issues might actually be the population. Over 200 years, the vault would need to monitor its growth to ensure sustainability.

Even putting aside things like food and water, assuming the ground surrounding the Vault is irradiated, that would make expansion unlikely, if not impossible. There just physically wouldn’t be enough room for heavy population growth. That’s a problem other post-apocalyptic fiction set in confined areas has recently grappled with, including Snowpiercer, which put forth some nightmarish solutions.

It’s still a pretty cool, and brief look at the science of Fallout. The American Chemical Society consists of science minded people from all walks of life, and they have found an interesting way to make science relatable to everyone through a series of videos posted under the banner “Reactions.”

Along with tackling the question of whether or not a Fallout Vault could work, they recently looked into the possibility of radiation giving people superpowers (spoiler: only if cancer is a super power), how to make Valyrian steel, and how to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Subscribe to their page, and check out the science of a Fallout Vault below.



Founder and DBP boss. Ryan likes the Kansas Jayhawks, long walks on the beach, and high fiving unsuspecting people.
1 Comment
  1. caroline bogart September 1, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Not only could humanity survive the fallout, humanity already has survivied it! Since 1945 the eight nuclear powers have detonated 2,045 nuclear bombs. Hundreds of those were aboveground nuclear detonations. Yet we’re still here! People survivied Hiroshima and Nagasaki, too. They’re STILL alive today. You can read more nuclear war myths and their scientific rebuttals here:


Leave a reply