The potential for a nuclear armageddon has seemingly increased in recent months, much to the confusion and worry of some of the American public. That potential appears to be crystallizing into a legitimate concern for the U.S. government, which recently announced the purchase of a drug used in radiological and nuclear emergencies.
The thought of a nuclear war may conjure up images of the Cold War or even a distant dystopian future, but the threat of an impending nuclear attack is being taken seriously by the U.S. government as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine. The Department of Health and Human Services announced last week the spending of $290 million on an anti-radiation drug called Nplate to add to the country’s stockpile for “radiological and nuclear emergencies.” Nplate, also known as romiplostim, is used to treat low blood platelet counts, with approval from the Food and Drug Administration in 2021 for the drug to be used as a treatment for those acutely exposed to radiation.
This may sound like cause for alarm, especially considering the warning from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who proposed that the world is “one miscalculation away” from nuclear annihilation at a UN review conference this past August. A representative from the Department of Health and Human Services told Reuters that the purchase was part of an ongoing effort to prepare the country for a wide range of threats, which include 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 down the path they are going,” President Joe Biden said at a fundraiser in New York last week, as quoted by Politico. “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Whether or not the nuclear apocalypse is nigh, it’s clear that a messaging campaign has begun to inform the American public of the potential of a radiation emergency, as well as what to do in the worst case scenario. Posters began showing up in Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) trains and stations this September that describe just that. For the uninitiated, the PATH rail system is analogous to the New York subway system, except the metro connects the New Jersey cities of Hoboken, Jersey City, and Newark to New York City. The PATH sees an average of 153,600 riders every weekday, according to data from Q2 2022, which creates quite the audience for a poster campaign such as this one.
The posters describe what to do when/if a radiation emergency occurs. Residents are instructed to take cover inside a basement or the middle of a building, wait inside to reduce exposure to radiation, and keep informed via radio, television, computer, or mobile device for further instructions. These instructions are the standard procedures for what to do in the event of a radiation emergency, and were recently reiterated a few months ago when New York City Emergency Management released a viral PSA on the topic. According to information listed toward the bottom of the poster, this particular messaging was issued by the Department of Homeland Security.
The threat of a nuclear attack is a looming one, and the messaging from the U.S. government isn’t particularly comforting. While anxiety may be brewing across the country, we’re not exactly staring down the barrel of a missile silo just yet. Some political analysts argue that Putin’s attitudes toward a nuclear threat are “sabre-rattling” (which the Russian politician allegedly has a long history of) in order to stoke fear in the West. As the situation across the world continues to develop, it’s best to stay informed.