In the sequel to the movie Dune (2021), i.e. Dune: Part Two (2024), Timothée Chalamet’s character, Paul “Muad’Dib” Atreides reveals the secret locations of his family’s arsenal of nuclear weapons to the Fremen:

Stockpile of House Atreides’ atomics

Not long after this, we see bombs going off in the Emperor’s city (Arrakeen) — presumably these are the nukes:

Silhouette of Paul “Muad'Dib” Atreides watching a nuclear blast going off in Arrakeen

The Battle of Arrakeen continues shortly after this, with Paul Atreides leading the Fremen to make a direct assault, seizing the city and confronting the Emperor.

But no one seems to be fazed by the fact that the city has just been hit with nukes.

I can’t understand how it could possibly make any sense to invade a place that has been nuked like this. Nuclear weapons are known to be bad for one’s health, and the lethal effects of the radiation and fallout ought to linger for years to come.

How can anyone in the city survive, not just the initial blast, but also the ongoing nuclear radiation?

  • 8
    Nuclear weapons are not as damaging as you may think. There are accounts of some surviving the Hiroshima bombing at a distance of less than 300 m from the epicentre and most people in the city suffered no ill effects from the radiation.
    – Valorum
    Mar 30 at 7:38
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    The Atreides nuclear weapons were not a secret. All of the great houses had nuclear weapons and everyone knew it. There was a very serious law, the great convention that meant that any house who used nuclear weapons against peoole would be destroyed by the other houses. Which is why they only used such weapons against the shield wall, not against people. Mar 30 at 17:31
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    @Valorum A few fleas, rats etc also survived, but reportedly between 129,000 and 226,000 people died. Not sure how that classifies as "not so destructive." The dust generated by a nuclear blast is nasty.
    – Buck Thorn
    Mar 31 at 12:33
  • 3
    Just for the record: "Less than a second after the detonation, the north of the city [Nagasaki] was destroyed and more than 10% of the city's population were killed.[26] Among the 35,000 deaths ..." (source). The Nagasaki explosion was the less deadly of the blasts.
    – Buck Thorn
    Mar 31 at 12:46
  • 2
    @JudithJones - That the Atreides still had access to their nukes was a big surprise to The Emperor and the Harkonnen. They thought that their strike was rapid enough to prevent retaliation
    – Valorum
    Mar 31 at 13:20

3 Answers 3


The atomics are not used on the city, they are used on the natural shield wall that protects the city for the majority of the effects of storms and sandworms.

Paul uses the atomics to penetrate the shield wall and allow the worms into the area of the city.

‘The in­junc­tion!’ Paul barked. ‘It’s fear, not the in­junc­tion that keeps the Houses from hurl­ing atom­ics against each other. The lan­guage of the Great Con­ven­tion is clear enough: “Use of atom­ics against hu­mans shall be cause for plan­e­tary oblit­er­a­tion.” We’re go­ing to blast the Shield Wall, not hu­mans.'

Dune - Frank Herbert

From my research it appears that the Shield Wall breach was c.100km from Arrakeen which is plenty of distance so that the city would not be affected unduly.

This question at SF&F asks where the Shield Wall was breached and the answer would appear to be at the Rimwall West (ringed in red below)

enter image description here

This map indicates (from the scale legend) that Arrakeen is c.100km from that section.

enter image description here

Radiation is still a concern (it's mentioned in the book) but again, the atomics were used in the desert some distance from the city. I'd suggest you look at the history of Nevada desert testing near Las Vegas. This was often done 50-60 miles (an equivalent distance) from the city.

enter image description here

  • So the character in the silhouette imagine in my question would have to be standing on that rocky peninsula that extends behind Arrakeen, looking across the city, with the Shield Wall being bombed far in the distance. Mar 31 at 14:02
  • It still seems mad to me that they march the army in directly through the site where the nuclear bombs have just gone off. Apr 1 at 16:18
  • I just laughed out loud watching the David Lynch 1984 version, when @2:23:13 Paul and company don radiation suits (for 30 seconds or so). Apr 6 at 10:55

According to the follow-up novel (set shortly after the events of Dune), radiation continues to be a problem at ground zero, causing harm to those living nearby.

Finally Stilgar received a message from a poor desert family that lived in one of the squalid villages at the fringe of the Shield Wall, where breezes blew sand into the sheltered basin and radiation from Muad’Dib’s atomics still lingered at barely tolerable levels. Children were often seen playing at the edge of the desert. This family had reported noticing two girls that they did not recognize.

Paul of Dune

  • 1
    I continue to deny that any such book exists.
    – DavidW
    Apr 1 at 19:16

During the movie, they explain the plan in detail. They blow up the west wall, the one facing the storm, through which Stilgar and the worms (only the worms, no one on foot) push through.

The other two armies (lead by Chani and Paul respectively), are coming from the east and north, faaaar away from the explosions.

No bombs fall on the city.

Still from the film with markings.  An arieal map of the Shield Wall surrounding the city.  Storm on the left; Stilgar entering from the storm through the exploded Shield Wall; Chani crossing the shield wall from the right; Paul entering through the basin from above.

When the storm hits this ridge, Gurney will open the way for you, Stilgar, so you can enter the basin from the West and distract their defense systems.

Chani, I want you and your Fedaykin to then attack from the East, inside the basin.

I'll strike from the North, head on, with the Fundamentalist troops. And I'll serve Arrakeen for dessert.

Remember, I need the Emperor alive.

— Paul “Muad’Dib” Atreides, @ 2h 10m 23s

  • I think you need to rotate those marking on the map 90° counter-clockwise. Apr 2 at 5:33
  • An edit added the quotes from Paul. And he's talking about west/east/north as he points on the map, which fits my markings. No rotation needed, if we want to keep the north at the top of the map.
    – Jemox
    Apr 2 at 7:54
  • This was already said in the top answer, can't see anything new in this answer. Apr 2 at 8:14
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    @ShadowWizardLoveZelda The map in this post is from the movie, whereas the other maps are from the books. Apr 2 at 8:49
  • 6
    The question being about the movie, an answer from the movie felt more fit than an answer from the books.
    – Jemox
    Apr 2 at 9:05

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