Sometime in the mid-1970s, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory decided to study the likelihood of continued survival of human beings in a North America hit by a large scale nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. The group’s 226 page report, Survival of the Relocated Population of the U.S. After a Nuclear Attack, predicts 180 million or so survivors (assuming pre-attack evacuation plans are carried out, which seems doubtful) whom are all in danger of mass starvation within a few weeks without some sort of coordination from a surviving central government.
One of the interesting things about the report is how the technology of the 1970s may have been better suited in some ways to coordinating the post-attack delivery of food. Specifically, the report envisions that civilian communications will be maintained through the use of Citizens Band (CB) radios. CB radios, of course, were all the rage in the late 1970s, with up to 4 million of the radios in use in 1976, when this report was published. Today, CB radios are generally used only by truck drivers in the United States.
One of the things that replaced it, the Family Radio Service system does have a range of 5-6 miles, but I’m skeptical that these are as widely deployed as CBs were in the 1970s.
Abstract of the 1976 report is below,
The feasibility of continued survival after a hypothetical nuclear attack is evaluated for people relocated from high-risk areas during the crisis period before the attack. The attack consists of 6559 MT, of which 5951 MT are ground bursts, on military, industrial, and urban targets. Relocated people are assumed to be adequately protected from fallout radiation by shelters of various kinds. The major problems in the postattack situation will be the control of exposure to fallout radiation, and prevention of severe food shortages to several tens of millions of people. A reserve of several million additional dosimeters is recommended to provide control of radiation exposure. Written instructions should be provided with each on their use and the evaluation of the hazard. Adequate food reserve exists in the U.S. in the form of grain stocks, but a vigorous shipping program would have to be initiated within two or three weeks after the attack to avoid large scale starvation in some areas. If the attack occurred in June when crops on the average are the most vulnerable to fallout radiation, the crop yield could be reduced by about one-third to one-half, and the effects on crops of possible increased ultraviolet radiation resulting from ozone layer depletion by nuclear detonations may further increase the loss. About 80% of the U.S. crude refining capacity and nearly all oil pipelines would be either destroyed or inoperative during the first several weeks after an attack. However, a few billion gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline would survive in tank storage throughout the country, more than enough for trains and trucks to accomplish the grain shipments required for survival. Results of a computer program to minimize the ton-miles of shipments of grain between Business Economic Areas (BEAs) indicate that less than 2% of the 1970 rail shipping capacity, or less than 6% of the 1970 truck shipping capacity would be adequate to carry out the necessary grain shipments. The continuity of a strong federal government throughout the attack and postattack period is essential to coordinate the wide-scale interstate survival activities.