This guidance provides nuclear detonation information and context to enable planners, responders, and their leaders to leverage their existing capabilities. Specifically, this document describes the considerations, planning factors, and available resources to craft a successful nuclear detonation response plan. It focuses on the first 24 to 72 hours after a detonation, when early actions can save many lives. The primary audiences for this planning guidance are federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial (FSLTT) emergency response planners at all levels and their leadership.
This guidance also reflects evolving nuclear threats. The 2010 Planning Guidance focused on 10 kiloton (kT) and smaller-yield detonations consistent with the threat of nuclear terrorism, all occurring at the Earth’s surface. This 2021 Planning Guidance update addresses an expanded range of threat scenarios, including nation-state threats2 with much larger explosive yields. This guidance also considers nuclear devices delivered by ballistic missile or aircraft that can deliver detonations elevated above the surface. Low-altitude air bursts can increase the scale of the blast and thermal damage inflicted but may also significantly reduce local fallout impacts. Urban emergency planners should focus on surface and low-altitude detonations because these detonations will have the greatest effect on an urban environment.