A Nuclear Weapon Strikes. What Happens Next?

By ‘The Opinions’

Produced by Phoebe Lett and Alison Bruzek

What would it feel like to live through a nuclear attack? A scenario that might have once felt relegated to the Cold War era now feels less and less remote.

The world’s nine nuclear powers are believed to be modernizing their arsenals. Today’s generation of tactical nuclear weapons pose an unpredictable threat. And Vladimir Putin recently threatened the United States and Europe with nuclear retaliation if they become more involved in the war in Ukraine.

In this fictionalized audio scenario, Times Opinion imagines the aftermath of one nuclear strike, informed by leading research, hundreds of hours of interviews with experts and accounts from those who have survived nuclear fallout.

This is part of At the Brink, a series from New York Times Opinion about the growing threat of nuclear weapons in an unstable world.

(A full transcript of this audio essay will be available within 24 hours of publication in the audio player above.)

Credit…Illustration by Akshita Chandra/The New York Times; Photograph by Getty Images

This episode of “The Opinions” was produced by Phoebe Lett and Alison Bruzek. It was edited by Kaari Pitkin, Annie-Rose Strasser, Krista Mahr and Meeta Agrawal. The scenario was voiced by Jonah Kessel, and written by W.J. Hennigan. Fact-checking by Spencer Cohen, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair. Mixing, sound design and original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta, Kristina Samulewski and Derek Arthur. The executive producer of Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Katie Kingsbury.

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