Sometimes I get asked what major event I think I am the least prepared for and the one that comes to mind is a nuclear incident. It is just one area of preparedness that I have not spent a lot of time working on up until now. The reason for this is that to be honest, there are a lot of other more likely things to prepare for. I usually advise people to start with water, food, and the basics. After those are covered, considering your preparedness in other areas is a natural progression for many.
I am going to talk a little about some of the basics of nuclear preparedness to get you started but I want to highlight that I am reading and learning a lot myself. This is the first post in a series I will do as I learn things. This article is intended to be an intro so that we can learn together. I am not an expert and nuclear energy is an extremely complicated field that could never be explained in every detail in a few thousand words.
So that being said if there is an aspect of nuclear preparedness that you want to see covered more in-depth or if you have specific questions, please ask them in the comments and I will do my best to include them in future posts. I think we can learn a lot together by taking this approach. There are a lot of misconceptions about nuclear out there so it is my goal to get the real facts.
First I want to introduce to a person that helped inspire me to learn a lot more about nuclear.
Dave The NBC Guy
When I was at Prepper Camp I sat in on a class given by Dave Jones, the NBC guy. It was an informative and entertaining talk. Dave is the only person I know that can make that many people laugh and be at ease when discussing such a scary subject.
Since Dave only had an hour to talk he could only fit in so much information while answering everyone’s questions. Luckily he had a set of DVDs for sale for a mere $20 that contained all he talked about and so much more. I highly recommend that you buy his DVDs and listen to him on the Prepper Broadcasting Network. He is great at answering any questions you may have and responds personally via email.
Some of the material provided in this post is definitely the result of my taking his class and watching his DVDs.
Panic is a huge problem
First off like any emergency, the worst thing you can do is panic. You need to stop thinking that even the smallest nuclear incident is a death sentence. That is not true. Many people have survived nuclear incidents. Radiation affects people in different ways as well.
One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for a major incident is to keep yourself as healthy as possible. Those that have stressed immune systems, eat poorly, abuse substances, and have a poor survival mindset are likely to suffer more after the incident and have a lower risk of survival.
You do not have to spend a fortune on a bunker to get through a nuclear incident. There are plenty of ways to block radiation without doing this. A bunker is a complicated structure that is actually quite vulnerable in some ways. There is something to be said for being able to move out of an area. If the bunker doesn’t work out, you may be too reluctant to leave it when you should and that can lead to more trouble.
Fallout and radiation levels drop more rapidly than you might think.
Radiation and fallout are words that strike fear into the hearts of many and with good reason. At the same time it is wise to really evaluate what they actually mean. Fallout is only 5% of the composition of a nuclear blast with radiation making up another 10%.
Prevailing winds make a huge difference in how your area is affected even if a nuclear blast happens relatively close.
Does the typical wind in your area blow in a direction that would push nuclear fallout towards where you live or will the wind push it in the opposite direction? In the case of Fukushima, the winds pushed the fall out into the Pacific Ocean and towards the United States which is one of the big reasons we were so interested in how it was handled.
Creating A Nuclear Preparedness Kit
For starters, you should have a go-bag or bug out bag packed. A 72-hour kit is also fine. Some people will want to pack more than others or have a more complete kit. Since you are going to want to block as much potential fallout and radiation as possible, keeping your bag in a heavy-duty plastic bag or giant Zip Loc is a good idea.
At the same time remember that there is a chance that if you are coming out of a zone that has high radiation levels and you get assistance from emergency services, they may force you to give up everything you have on you because it is considered contaminated.
Although the Japanese government promised residents near Fukushima that they would be able to return and get some items, it was 4 years before the residents near the Fukushima nuclear incident were allowed to go back and get a bag or two of possessions.
To be honest from a safety perspective they probably shouldn’t have been allowed to do that but their government caved and there you have it. I can see where the pressure came from. I can only try to imagine the actual horror of having to leave everything behind and start over with nothing from your previous life.
Gear to protect yourself is more important than a go-bag if fallout is already an issue.
Protecting yourself from dust and debris is the most important thing after a blast. I have been learning about the Chernobyl incident and one of the things that stood out to me was one of the main medical responders saying how there were not enough buses to get everyone out. Some buses were late so people were standing around outside with their kids waiting. The kids were playing in the sandboxes and playgrounds. This turned out to be a terrible choice.
While waiting, everyone would have been much better off if they had been inside a building with a rag or dust mask over their faces.
Something is better than nothing when it comes to shielding yourself. I am going to lay out several types of outfits to protect yourself from radiation. The cost goes up the better the level of protection level.
Respirator or Gas Masks
These range from what you would use to sand a board down to what medical people use during pandemics or soldiers use to protect from biological agents.
Cheapest Option: Disposable N-95 Respirator Masks
This is what Matt and I use for spraying some things on grapes. They are fairly inexpensive and I have noticed they are the choice for people that are in crowds during civil unrest. The Yellow Vest protests in France were broadcast live on RT and it was impossible to miss how many people had this style of a respirator. The one above has an eye shield so you don’t need separate goggles.
High End: Good Gas Mask with Military/SWAT Team Quality Filter Cartridges, a tube system for water, and fog proof viewing area.
I have a Mira Safety CM-6 with a single cartridge but I also have the other two levels of protection as well because we have a farm and do a lot of spraying and other work. You can check out my review of the Mira Safety Gas Mask for more info. It is very comfortable to wear and I love that you can hook it to a hydration bag or the included canteen.
You can get a basic suit like this at a lot of hardware and home improvement stores. Sometimes the hoods are sold separately so that is something to be aware of. It may be less expensive to buy them online in a bulk pack and just have them stashed for use by your family.
Remember that anything is better than nothing. The more mass and barriers you put between yourself and any radiation or fall out the better off you are.
These are a lot more expensive than a Tyvek suit but for your money, you get something very nice and thick. Tyvek is prone to tears and doesn’t hold up as well for an extended period of time.
During the Chernobyl incident, it was 10 days after the explosion when tablets were handed out. This was far too late for them to do any good. You need to take them as soon as you know that fallout or radiation is a problem. Remember that it works by blocking the cesium particles so the idea is to have it in your system when these levels are highest.
It is a good idea to add radiation tablets to your nuclear kit but I want to stress the fact right now that you do not want to take these unless you absolutely have to do so. This is not something that you want to just panic and take if not needed. The tablets are for adults only and work by blocking your thyroid from absorbing radioactive material. I am not sure where to find tablets for kids but I intend to find out.
You need a single pack for each person. They are inexpensive and have a long shelf life. At the moment if you buy them they do not expire until 2024. Just make sure to double-check the dates before ordering since I have heard of some sellers offering a good deal on tablets that are not as fresh
It can be very dangerous to exceed the recommended dosage of potassium iodide. This was another problem at Chernobyl. Not only were people given potassium iodide when it was too late to do any good, but they also were not instructed in proper usage so a lot of people gave their kids very dangerous high doses. This led to severe stomach ulcers in many.
Consider how close you are to the nearest nuclear reactor or storage facility.
Most of the nuclear reactors and storage facilities are on the East Coast with many being within a few hundred miles of the ocean.
In many ways, the nuclear reactors in the United States themselves are more concerning than the threat of actual nuclear war due to the lack of maintenance and just how many of them we have.
There are 98 nuclear reactors in the United States and 60 nuclear power plants. They require electricity from outside sources to fuel the pumps that cool the spent fuel rods as they degrade. They also were meant to only be in operation for 40 years before being replaced or upgraded. That has not happened.
Storage of spent fuel and nuclear waste is spread throughout the USA rather than in a few sites away from major population centers.
Let’s go back to Yucca Mountain. Now I remember being in grade school and getting our “Weekly Reader”. This was a small glossy newsletter that we had to read and take a quiz. I think it is interesting that back in the early 90s they were trying to set kids against this project. I remember being 8 or 9 and thinking that wow nuclear waste is awful and they should not bury it deep in the ground.
I didn’t know that the solution that would be ultimately decided was that it would sit and fester in pools spread throughout the country so that in the event of a major incident, it could spread its toxic legacy across a greater range due to a bunch of higher-ups and greedy companies that cared little about the long term future.
Just because Yucca Mountain was determined to be a poor choice due to how much water would be able to get in and leach out, doesn’t mean that we need to just let nuclear waste fester in overcrowded facilities throughout the USA.
The Future of Nuclear Power?
I am not a fan of nuclear power because there is no good solution as to how to store the waste and the reactors that are in the United States are not maintained well. As regular civilians, we don’t get a lot of say in how these plants are operated nor the maintenance done on them.
Fukushima is just one example of a nuclear catastrophe. No one can say “This will never happen again” especially when maintenance and known issues are so often ignored. There are some things that even the best and well-meaning nuclear scientists cannot plan for. The question is not will a nuclear incident happen again but when and where will it?
Before Fukushima, there was the horror of Chernobyl in 1986 and the near catastrophe at 3-Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979.
After reading some books on the history of nuclear power and some first-hand accounts of the current industry, I find it worth mentioning what others have pointed out: Most of the people working in nuclear power today are too young to remember any of the nuclear incidents beyond Fukushima.
Chernobyl and 3-Mile Island are ancient histories to the young and are not thought about as much as they should be. It is easy to think that people back then were just being careless or didn’t have it together like we do now. The truth is that a major incident could happen at any time for a variety of reasons.
I am far more concerned about the nuclear issues we have within the United States than the prospect of actual nuclear warfare.
Communications can be really poor when there is cause for concern at a nuclear plant. Take even minor warnings very seriously.
When I read about 3 Mile Island I was shocked at how careless it was handled. The evacuation orders didn’t happen until most of the danger had passed. Even then there was the chance of a hydrogen bubble forming and causing a massive explosion but people were allowed to go about their daily lives. Actually encouraged to do so!
After a nuclear blast, there is a 15-minute window on average before fallout returns to earth. This is the time to take cover.
Nuclear Preparedness For Pets
It is important to keep your pets inside during the first 24 hours after a nuclear explosion if you are forced to stay in place yourself. You can buy special chambers to transport pets in and protect them from breathing radiation. The ones I have seen are from Mira safety and are large enough for two cats or a do up to 20-30 lbs. They are not cheap. These chambers can also be used for babies to protect them during the time where radiation levels are highest.
Unfortunately, pets are usually just forced to be left behind in the case of a nuclear incident. Some of the dogs of Chernobyl that were not killed by people out of radiation fears, went on to have produce litters. If you visit Chernobyl today, you will see a lot of dogs.
Resources for Learning About Nuclear Power and Keeping Tabs on Reactors
In this section, I am going to link to some sites and books that I have found useful in my journey to learn more. Please feel free to add to this in the comments below.
This site is great because you can get a complete list of all the reactors but better yet, you can click on the name of any of them and get a ton of information. If you want to know more about what is near you, visit this site.
This red handbook is a staple product at all preparedness stores. It has been updated regularly since it was first published in the 1970s. Although I have not had a chance to delve into it heavily, I definitely will be in the future. It is very comprehensive. I have both the paper and electronic versions and I recommend that if you only buy one book on nuclear survival, that it be this one.
This book has been a bestseller for quite some time. It took a lot of research and is presented in a very readable format. One reason I recommend it is that it has the most up to date info because a lot of files were made available in recent times.
There are so many videos that are helpful. I recommend that you watch the one that Vanity Fair did where a lady that was one of the first medical people onsite during Chernobyl fact checks the HBO series that so many have watched. It is dangerous how much misinformation comes from TV adaptations. Knowledge and facts are so important when dealing with something so serious.
This book is quite scary because it highlights just how vulnerable our nuclear reactors are and how the government seems to take the stance of not doing anything about it until something more serious happens. For an inside look, this is the book you want to read.
So what part of nuclear preparedness do you want to know more about? What have you done to prepare so far? How do you feel about nuclear energy? Has anyone reading this been evacuated from an area due to nuclear issues?