It's 2016, but for some reason, the Cold War never ended. You've been inspired by your (for some inexplicable reason) favorite movie, Indiana Jones 4, to start a new business: building refrigerators. However, the market is so saturated that in order to distinguish yourself with a nice marketing campaign, you decide to make them NUKEPROOF!

The refrigerator should be:

  1. Usable as a real refrigerator would be.
  2. No bigger than standard double door refrigerator, so no room-sized walk-in refrigerator. Though, you can add some additional size for additional armor, for example, in reasonable margins, so nothing like 10 meters of iron from one side.
  3. Protect one person from up to 1.2 megatonnes of a TNT nuke at a minimum distance of 2 km from the explosion.

How are you going to design it and what materials are you going to use?

  • 16
    $\begingroup$ I have an idea to protect from a nuke of any size - place the fridge outside of the blast radius!!! (In other words, distance from the explosion matters. What distance are you aiming for?) $\endgroup$
    – Rob Watts
    Sep 15, 2016 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ Add a photo of Indiana Jones on the door. Plus, design it so that the contents are easily throw-outable. $\endgroup$
    – user22613
    Sep 15, 2016 at 15:49
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Maybe a fridge/rocket that could detect a nuclear detonation and then outdistance the shockwave before it hits, because the only way I see a fridge surviving a nuclear explosion is not being there for the explosion $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2016 at 6:22
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ standard double-door fridge? European here — I have never seen a double-door fridge, so I would hesitate to call it standard. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Sep 16, 2016 at 12:58
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Contact the developers of the Tardis… $\endgroup$
    – Holger
    Sep 16, 2016 at 14:08

8 Answers 8


It's Not Possible

You have asked for a Science-Based answer, and it's just not going to happen. Despite what Indiana Jones says, it's impossible to build a nuke-proof fridge. Even if the fridge itself is basically OK, the concussive force it went under would jar it severely (and rattle anyone inside of it to death) - or the heat of the blast would cook you inside of it.

So to answer your question about what I would make it out of, since I'm selling snake oil anyway I would build it with the CHEAPEST things I could, put a basic lead plating around it all so people thought it was built in a sturdy fashion, then make profit. And shortly after selling a few I'd close up shop and drop the alias I was using.

If I were to try to answer this more to the spirit of your question than how it was asked, to survive the nuke you would want to build the fridge out of lead (obviously). Your trouble would come where you would want your fridge to have enough air to breathe for awhile (you know the nuke is coming, but not exactly when, so you would hide in there for a bit). At that point you can either make holes in your fridge - drastically reducing its efficacy as a food chiller and as a life saving device - or install some kind of oxygen tank and air scrubber. Those however are going to take up a lot of space.

Some other downsides:

The air tank may explode due to the concussive force of the blast. And when your house is on fire, opening a door and releasing a lot of oxygen into the room will result in you being lit on fire. Of course, not opening the door will ALSO result in your death because that fridge will heat up as the house burns. If your house collapses though, it's a bit of a moot point as you'll be trapped in your fridge and won't have to worry about picking one or there other.



Because the comments pointed out the OP updated the question with a specific distance a nuclear yield, let's make sure it's still impossible.

According to NUKEMAP a 1.2 Megaton nuke has the following effects at 2km:

Outside of Fireball Radius (1.04km)

Well, that's good!

Inside or Radiation Radius (2.56km)

Less good. 500rem (5 Sv) of radiation - that's lethal! We need to get that down to about 200rem (2 Sv; the "largest dose that does not cause illness severe enough to require medical care in over 90% of people" per previous link).

The best possible shielding wouldn't be Lead, it would actually be Tungsten. To be safe, we'll use two halving-factors, which would actually reduce radiation to ~125rem (1.25 Sv; a hair over the "Smallest dose causing loss of hair after 2 weeks in at least 10% of people").

Link: Half-Value Layers

If we used Lead, we would need to line the fridge with: 0.98" (24.9 mm; let's call it 1" or 25.4 mm to be safe).

If we used Tungsten, we would need to line the fridge with: 0.62" (15.8 mm; let's call it 0.7" or 17.8 mm to be safe).

Well, that's possible to accommodate - you're still alive!

Inside 20PSI (138 kPa) Air Blast Radius (3km)

Per NUKEMAP, at 20PSI (138 kPa) heavy concrete buildings are severely damaged or demolished. Unless you are living underground or in a very fortunate large concrete building, per FEMA, you are dead. You cannot expect the fridge to withstand this blast.

Inside 5PSI (34.5 kPa) Air Blast Radius (7.4km)

Per NUKEMAP, at 5PSI (34.5 kPa) residential buildings can be expected to collapse. If you are in your fridge and cannot escape due to the roof having collapsed in front of the door, you will be trapped and die.

Inside the Thermal Radiation Radius (13.6km)

Per NUKEMAP, within this radius 3rd degree burns can be expected. At this point your house has collapsed on you and spontaneously combusted. If you were lucky enough to survive the pressure (doubtful), you are now roasting alive in your Tungsten-lined tomb.

There is no such thing as being "safe" 2km from any instrument of mass thermonuclear war, least of all in a REFRIGERATOR.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Sep 17, 2016 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ Buy our fridge now on 432 834 203! Now only $666! Call us immediately and get a 0.7% discount! Best price guaranteed! - Indiana Fridges, co. 2 mins ago $\endgroup$
    – user22613
    Sep 18, 2016 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ Locating the fridge so it’s not trapped would be sensible. We can presumably add ~10cm of titanium to stop it being crushed by debris? That shockwave is still a killer though. What’s the best way to mitigate that? $\endgroup$
    – Dan W
    Nov 22, 2019 at 12:23

It's George Lucas's marketing manager here. We are now working on a new Indiana Jones movie: Indiana Jones and the Blastproof Fridge, where Indiana Jones goes for a quest to find the sacred Superfridge, made by God himself. We're now developing a new blastproof fridge, which will not only be used in our movie, but also put into sale. Here's how it looks like inside:



  • the water is accessible from the food storage

  • the oxygen is stored in liquid/solid state, at around 30K. This provides a cooling feature on top of all - cold air circulates from the tanks (if it melts from heat inside the fridge) to the fridge, and then back through the air filter.

  • The cushioning would be ideally made from polystyren, because it also isolates the inside (but that's for a 10% surcharge)

How it looks on the outside (source):


Hope this helped will get us some money!

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Did you photoshop this image yourself?? $\endgroup$
    – Fiksdal
    Sep 16, 2016 at 7:13
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @Fiksdal I made the first on, but not the second. And it's not Photoshopped, it's GIMPed :) $\endgroup$
    – user22613
    Sep 16, 2016 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Fiksdal Oops, I forgot to put a link! $\endgroup$
    – user22613
    Sep 16, 2016 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, I was actually talking about the second one. Good to know that you also bring out the GIMP. :) And thanks for the link. $\endgroup$
    – Fiksdal
    Sep 16, 2016 at 17:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RudolfL.Jelínek Yeah, it's nice. FOSS old-timers tend to be. $\endgroup$
    – Fiksdal
    Sep 16, 2016 at 17:18

Well, I'm going to say, my refrigerator is a SpaceX dragon launch abort system with a baggy of ice inside.

The total volume of the capsule is 25 cubic meters, which is the equivalent of a 2.9m x 2.9m x 3.0m cube, or a refrigerated room, as seen in grocery stores.

According to the spaceX website, the capsule can move a crew (of 3) vertically upwards about 5000 feet (0.9 miles, or 1.5km), which means that it could travel about 7070 feet (2.15km) laterally. This would carry you out from 2km off the blast range to 4.15km. While most buildings would still be completely demolished, you, being in the air, would be perfectly fine with no debris to fall on you. Maybe a bit toasty, but hey, why do you think it has a bag of Ice?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ He he, I was just about to answer "put a rocket in the lower half of that fridge". Because seriously, getting out of there is the only option to survive.. $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2016 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ What about the opposite direction? Could the fridge melt itself into the ground with shaped charges or thermite? Could it melt itself into the ground before the explosion ? $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Sep 16, 2016 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ Could you design a rocket without a propulsion system (or a minor one) that simply lets you "ride" the blast wave? $\endgroup$
    – mirhagk
    Sep 16, 2016 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ @mirhagk yes, but you'd be inside the wave. $\endgroup$
    – user23110
    Sep 16, 2016 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ "you, being in the air, would be perfectly fine with no debris to fall on you" If I recall correctly, nuclear weapons are typically designed to be detonated well above the ground. This actually maximizes the damage caused by the shockwave. $\endgroup$
    – jpmc26
    Sep 17, 2016 at 1:21

GrinningX has quite a good answer but I would like to amend it slightly. The stats quoted appear to refer to a ground burst. Ground bursts are not thought to be targeted against cities because air bursts are more damaging to them. Ground bursts are expected to be used against hardened targets like ICBM silos.

However, if a 1.2MT ground burst did occur in your city it the fridge owner would die for sure. Ground bursts generate enormous quantities of fallout. (Air bursts generate almost no fallout.) Fallout is created when energetic neutrons in the fireball touch heavy matter, converting it into unstable isotopes. Air burst neutrons interact with gasses, and the radioactive isotopes they make from this gas tends to stay aloft.

The fallout from such a ground burst would be lethal for weeks to months - far too long to be hiding inside a refrigerator.

On the other hand, an air burst produces almost no radiation on the ground (neither prompt nor fallout) so the radiation shielding would be largely unneeded. The most important need would be (in this following order of events) 1) protection from the flash (just being inside your house and away from windows is probably good enough), 2) protection from blast (sturdy steel construction and being securely bolted to a sturdy foundation would keep you alive), 3) protection from the heat and fumes from your house burning down, and 4) a mechanism to allow you to exit the fridge even though it has been buried by the debris of your house. Numbers 3 and 4 are quite a bit more difficult and complicated than 1 and 2.

For surviving the fire, maybe some kind of hand-cranked air pump which pulled air in from outside and percolated it through a container of water (to cool the air and remove smoke)? That would help, but would not do anything to reduce carbon monoxide or lethal carbon dioxide levels. Heat would be less of a problem. Fridges are designed to be insulated, so just make sure the gaskets are fire resistant and increase the R value enough to survive.

I'm honestly not sure how to handle egress. It's hard to guess what debris will be on the fridge and how it will be shaped. I don't have any good ideas for this one.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The main issue with egress is debris blocking the door... If you're in a large building your screwed, but a common 1 to 2 level house that debris greatly lessened you can probably get out since their should be more than says a foot of debris blocking your way that should be easily movable supposing you can get leverage or push hard enough. That being the case there are 3 mechanisms you could install to help make it easier, a flipthat lift and pushes it on the side, an pressurize ram of some sort, and small explosives just enough to blow the door off. also A basement may help ^.^ $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Sep 16, 2016 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Durakken -- have you ever tried to move a foot deep pile of concrete rubble (which is likely to be at least a major constituent)? I think you'd need a lot of leverage, which isn't going to happen from inside the confines of a fridge. Emergency exits on at least 3 sides might help (to ensure that one of them always lands facing up). Or a sliding door. $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2016 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ um... an air burst certain produces a lot of radiation (X/γ) in the initial flash. The fridge probably isn't going to protect from fallout radiation in any case since you'll need to exit it before you run out of air. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Sep 16, 2016 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ @PeriataBreatta It's a foot deep, not tightly packed, nothing holding it in place, etc. It would be harder to open the door with it there, but not as hard as many people would think, because residential house constructions materials are fairly light and they use as little as possible in most cases to hold the structure. Plaster and pretty flimsy wood is what the bulk of most has are made of. And further, most houses seems to have fridge space built near support walls which means that a beam will fall on top of the fridge and create a tent like space with little debris in front of most fridges $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Sep 16, 2016 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm. Where I am most houses seem to be built from concrete block walls and beam and block floors but maybe that's unusual? $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2016 at 17:31

Your customers will need to: Put your fridge underground in the cellar;
Reinforce the cellar walls to withstand the shockwave of the blast and the collapse of the house on top.

Add shielding in 2 layers, preferably tungsten, 0.5" each layer, since lead is just messy, on the outer side of the body, and on the inside, just behind the fibreglass interior. Put the insulation in between the two layers of tungsten. The piping and wiring to the outside from the inner compartment should leave through the bottom of the fridge.
Recommend buyers get TWO fridges, or one for every member of the family and a spare for actually keeping food in.


While the it's-not-possible answers are correct for the question you intended to ask lets try another approach:

For colder climates it's technically possible (but economic insanity) to build a refrigerator that contains no cooling element at all. Lets make the Green Fridge (tm):

No ozone-destroying Freon! No toxic ammonia! No risk of incomplete combustion of the propane causing CO poisoning! Uses far less electricity than a normal refrigerator! You'll be safe against anything less than a direct hit by a nuke!

Dig a big, deep hole. In the hole we put a large, very well insulated, very strong walk-in cooled space. Note that this will be at at least the sub-basement level, ideally it would be accessed by stairs or a ramp going down so as to minimize the air spill when the door is opened. There are two holes in the ceiling of the cooled space.

Above the cooled space, separated by the insulation layer is a large concrete box. One of the holes from the ceiling connects to a U-shaped pipe (so the opening points down) in one corner of the box, the other to a pipe in the opposite corner that connects to the top, again with a U on the end. There is a large bimetallic thermometer on the first pipe that opens or closes a baffle in the pipe. There also must be a drain for the box.

A pipe heading up goes into the third corner of the box, the box is filled with large gravel, a pipe is added in the last corner and it's roofed over and likewise very well insulated. Pipe #3 is insulated and extended to a surface air intake. There is a fan in this pipe (the only powered component in the whole thing!) that turns on when the outside air is colder than the air in the box. The final pipe vents back to the surface, ideally after running a bit through the ground first to dump its cold into the soil.

Now the whole thing is covered over except for the vent pipes and however you plan to get to your storage space. You want some feet of dirt and then a moisture barrier layer and more dirt.

Assuming you sized it big enough and the winters are cold enough this will work--you get a cold space for no more operating costs than running a fan in the winter.

Note that so long as you are dealing with an airburst this should survive anything, although escape might be problematic. You have basically perfect radiation shielding, the only modification you'll need to make to ride out the nuke attack is to add a supply of compressed air to use while the firestorm burns overhead.

(Note: In practice you would put the cold space on the bottom and use a fan to bring up the air, I was going for ultimate green. Also, the thermal mass needed is simply too great to be worth it. However, a related idea is in actual use by some people: Bury your house as indicated, run the air feeds through enough ground and you can climate-control your house with nothing but a fan. While the total heating/cooling needed is a lot greater the outside air will be in the right direction far more often and the natural ground temperature isn't too far below what you want for your house anyway.)


The it's not possible answers are correct if you interpret the requirements strictly in light of the scene from the movie, where the fridge is directly exposed to the nuclear explosion. Having said that, your company could legitimately market a fridge that would be of benefit, within certain limitations.

  1. The fridge would require to be installed in a cellar, or ideally in a reinforced shelter dug into your garden. At a time of heightened nuclear tension digging a shelter may be something people are prepared to do, similarly to how Anderson shelters were dug in many gardens in the UK in World War 2. A shelter intended for protection from a nuclear device should ideally have a zigzag tunnel leading to it: the earth will provides a significant amount of protection from direct gamma, neutron and thermal radiation.

  2. The fridge should have a large dedicated compartment for fresh water, sufficient for an entire family to drink for at least a couple of days while you trek out of the fallout zone.

  3. The fridge should have a (non-refrigerated) compartment for other emergency supplies, particularly enough P-3 particulate masks for the entire family. As above, these will be used during the first couple of days after the explosion while you trek out of the fallout zone, to prevent internal contamination. Other useful items: ear plugs (your eardrums will likely rupture thus providing a route for contamination particles into the lungs / stomach, so you will want to block your ears), disposable razors (contamination will be trapped quite effectively in hair so you will need to ensure everybody gets a close all-over shave, to reduce contamination), basic medical kit including splints and burns dressings.

  4. The fridge should have a lead-acid battery backup, for when the power goes down, and beefy EMP protection.

  5. The fridge should feature a pull-out strong metal frame so that it can serve the function of a Morrison shelter and protect the users from falling rubble if the building above collapses on the cellar, or the roof of the garden shelter falls in. It should also have a shovel and combination hammer / crowbar / wrench in case you need to dig your way out of the rubble.

It doesn't really work in the same way as the Indiana Jones fridge, but I'd still be pretty happy to have such a fridge in a shelter in my garden if I was worried about possible nuclear attack. Obviously nothing would protect you from a direct hit, but the fridge would considerably enhance a shelter capable of supporting survival in the scenario you outlined as long as sufficient warning was provided to allow you to get into your shelter before the blast.


Add an asterisk to "Protect":

Protect* one person from up to 1.2 megatonnes of a TNT nuke at a minimum distance of 2 km from the explosion.

* Protect: the explosion will not kill you and the nuke will leave no lasting ill effects. Protection may also apply to others near fridge.

Simply make a normal fridge with small extra box with a piece of string hanging out. "Nuke conversion"-kits also sold separately.

In the event of an imminent nearby nuclear explosion simply enter the fridge, pull the string and the 40 kg of TNT in the box will explode, preventing the nuclear blast from killing you.

Double your money back if the nuke kills you, upon personal application.


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