Tag: potassium iodide

Nuclear Bomb Threat – What to do


Text - not a drill

If you’re close enough to hear a siren or get a text like the one above, you are in potential danger.

It doesn’t matter whether the danger is coming from a nuclear plant leak, a terrorist explosion or an incoming missile.

Take action immediately. You may have just a few minutes.

  1. Get to shelter. Get deeper into a building or deeper underground to put as much solid material – bricks, concrete, dirt – between you and the radioactive fallout. Obviously, if your shelter is hit directly by a bomb, it won’t protect you.
  2. Stay in your shelter. Radioactivity is worst at the time of the blast, but dissipates pretty quickly. According to the Department of Homeland Security, radiation will have declined to a little as 1% after 2 weeks.
  3. Don’t come out until it’s safe. This may mean 24 hours or it may mean 2 weeks or even longer! You’ll only know it’s safe if you have a way to get emergency communications from official sources.

Basic preparations to take now

Most preparations for a nuclear disaster are pretty simple, and follow the guidelines that we’ve laid out many times. Here’s a quick reminder list.

  1. Have a survival kit that you can grab at a moment’s notice. Take it with you to your shelter. You may want to have a battery-operated walkie-talkie in each family member’s kit so you can stay together in the dark.
  2. Stock your shelter with food and other supplies so you can shelter in place for days if need be. Obviously, if you are traveling or not at home, it will be difficult if not impossible to have enough supplies for a lengthy emergency stay.
  3. Be sure you have an emergency FM radio so you can monitor official transmissions.

Advanced preparations if you are in a target location

Some areas are more likely to be targets than others. For example, right now the emphasis seems to be on Guam and Hawaii, which could be reached by missiles from North Korea.

However, every nuclear reactor in the country – there are about 100 of them – could also be subject to an emergency or terrorist attack, as could different manufacturing, government or military centers.

If you live near one of these “prime targets,” you may want to make more preparations. These could include:

  1. Find out what your local government’s “emergency plan” is for a nuclear disaster. It probably involves evacuation.
  2. Be ready to seal yourself into your house. Bring in pets. Close all windows and doors, shut off fireplace, heater and A/C.
  3. Have a supply of potassium iodide (KI). It’s nonprescription and FDA approved. You’ll need enough for every family member for several days. Pills cost lessz than a dollar each. Be sure to check on expiry date.
  4. Consider having a way to measure the levels of radioactivity yourself. Geiger counters start at around $150. There are also Smartphone apps to measure radiation.

If you want more info and some specific recommendations for these products, please check out an earlier – now updated! — Advisory: https://emergencyplanguide.org/what-threat-do-you-face-from-a-nuclear-reactor-emergency/

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. If you get caught in an active radiation blast, you’ll need to protect yourself as best you can and then get the radiation — carried through the air like dust — off you. Steps for decontamination are pretty much removing your clothes and then washing off your body and hair.  Here’s an article from NPR that describes the process and the imprecise nature of that process: Decontamination



What threat do you face from a nuclear reactor emergency


Nuclear Power PlantWe have written before about the shadowy world of nuclear power plants. In last week’s news I found another of the disconcerting developments connected with plants that have been shut down and that are going through the “decommissioning process.”

This news comes from Vermont.

Briefly, the purpose of decommissioning is to remove and dispose of contaminated materials so that the property may be released for other uses. Since decommissioning can be a long and complicated. the plant owner is required during the plant’s lifetime to set money aside for that purpose.

Naturally, once the plant stops producing power, owners want to shut it down as quickly and as inexpensively as possible.

One of the steps they take is to petition to have the “emergency zone” around the plant reduced. We have written before about the 50-mile-zone vs. the 10-mile-zone; you can check that Advisory by clicking here.

It turns out that Entergy, owner of Vermont Yankee, has successfully petitioned the NRC not only to stop supporting planning in the 50-mile zone, but also planning in the 10-mile zone. In fact, it has petitioned to eliminate ALL its responsibility to the 18 towns around the plant.

Apparently the funds set aside for decommissioning have also been “used for other purposes.” Lawsuits are being filed, hearings held. It’s not clear what the outcome will be.

But this brings up the whole issue of emergency planning around nuclear power plants.

Can you answer these questions about living near a nuclear power plant?

Nuclear Reactors U.S.1. How far away is the closest nuclear plant?

There are about 100 operating nuclear plants in the U.S., and most tend to have a low profile. So if you don’t really know where the nearest reactor is located, here’s a link to a map from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC):  http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/reactor/  *There’s a lot more info behind each pin on the map at the site.

2. In an emergency, how will you be affected?

The NRC defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: 1) a “plume exposure” zone with a radius of 10 miles, where airborne radioactive material would directly impact people, and 2) a second zone with a radius of 50 miles where contaminated food and water could be ingested by people within the zone.

(As a side note, Japanese authorities set a 20 km “exclusion zone” around the destroyed Fukushima Daishi power plant. That zone continues to be adjusted as radiation levels change as the result of government clean-up efforts and new weather events.)

3. What preparations can you make to protect yourself from a nuclear accident?

If you live near an operating plant, it’s likely that the first you’ll know of an emergency is when you hear a siren. (3-5 minute blast, repeated) Immediately tune to your local FM radio station or TV station, or to one of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) stations.

  • Plan to shelter in place. The major hazard in the plume area is direct exposure to the radiation cloud – through breathing, touching particles on the ground, or eating materials that have been contaminated.
  • Go indoors and stay there. Close doors and windows and shut off furnaces, fireplaces and air conditioners. Keep pets inside. If you’re in your car, close the windows and vents.
  • Keep listening for updates!

4. What will the authorities be doing?

  • An evacuation may be called. Grab your survival kit/evacuation kit and follow instructions. Hopefully your car’s gas tank is at least half full.
  • You may be advised to take potassium iodide (KI). KI is a nonprescription medication that blocks uptake of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland. It is FDA-approved and readily available, coming in 65 and 130 mg tablets and liquid form; children need half or even a quarter of the dose for adults, so follow directions carefully. KI is effective for about 24 hours and you need to have enough to last every member of the family for several days or until you can get out of the affected zone. (See purchase info at the bottom of this article.)
  • You’ll be notified when it’s safe to return. (How can you be sure it’s safe? See “More resources,” below.)

5. What about the threat of a closed plant?

Here in Southern California, the San Onofre plant ceased operations in 2013 after a history of maintenance problems. The owner of the plant is just now putting final touches on its “decommissioning plan.” Spent fuel is being stored in one of the closed reactor containers — just hundreds of yards from the Pacific ocean (risk of tsunami?).  Since the 2010 U.S. census counts over 8 million people living within 50 miles of the plant, ANY emergency here will have a big impact!

Clearly, the chances of a nuclear disaster are far less for a plant that is no longer running, but as long as radioactive fuel is still being stored on site a certain threat remains, whether from a weather event (like what happened and continues to happen in Japan) or a terrorist event.

So it’s back to you and your emergency planning team, whether that’s your family, your local neighborhood emergency response team or your workplace leaders:

  • Are you near a nuclear plant?
  • Is it operating at full or reduced capacity?
  • Is it shut down or scheduled to be shut down?
  • What is the emergency plan for the site?

As an active and concerned citizen, it’s up to you to learn more. I hope this article can be the impetus. We’ll continue to share what we learn . . .

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

More resources:

Buy KI tablets. As you are shopping, consider the make-up of your family, and whether it would be easier for you to have smaller tablets (adults take two, child takes one) or even liquid (would have to be mixed with something). This is an inexpensive item so get a big enough supply that you don’t have to worry about running out. This particular item often goes on sale at Amazon — note its expiry date! (Click on image or link to get current price details.)

IOSAT Potassium Iodide Tablets USP, 130 mg, 14 Count


For more understanding of your circumstances, consider a Geiger Counter. You can learn more about them at this Advisory and take a look at two versions here:

SOEKS 01M Plus Generation 2 Geiger Counter Radiation Detector Dosimeter (NEW Model replaces SOEKS 01M)

GCA-07W Professional Geiger Counter Nuclear Radiation Detection Monitor with Digital Meter and External Wand Probe – NRC Certification Ready- 0.001 mR/hr Resolution — 1000 mR/hr Range


There are less expensive options, including this app that works with your phone. Its  low cost makes it attractive for people living or working in areas of moderate risk, or for people who want a backup unit to carry on the road.. . .

Smart Geiger Counter Nuclear Radiation Dosimeter “X-Ray” and “Gamma” Detector Smartphone Android iOS with App


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