What Does Van Allen Do?
Split into two distinct belts, the entire Van Allen radiation belt extends to 7 earth radii. The most dangerous belt is the inner belt, which lies 1.1-3.3 earth radii away. With high concentrations of energetic protons, energies would typically exceed 100 megavolts (MeV). An astronaut, much less any living thing, would be lucky to survive more than a few minutes.
Given the intense proton radiation, space flight without extreme amounts of armored protection on the space vehicle would almost be impossible. In 1958, with the first satellite Explorer I checking for cosmic rays , its Geiger-Müller tube registered off-scale with radiation while traveling through the inner belt. Subsequent measurements have registered over 400 MeV (400 million volts--can penetrate 143 mm lead). [(1968) The Radiation Belt and Magnetosphere ]
Gamma-ray energies from radiating nuclei range to over 1,000000 eV (1 MeV) for Cesium-137. Alpha particles from naturally decaying species, typically have 4 MeV of energy. The energy released when an atom of uranium-235 and plutonium-239 fissions (naturally or induced) is about 200 MeV (200,000,000 eV), or about 50 million times the energy released in burning an atom of carbon.