I was in West Germany in Goettingen when Tchernobyl exploded. Here are a few lessons I learned from that bit of fun.
- Whoever is in the immediate vicinity of a reactor when it melts is dead. Not immediately, but soon. Judging from the pictures I have seen regarding the city of CHERNOBYL itself, a lot of damage is done, much of which doesn't show up for years. But I am not an expert, so I'll shut up about that.
- 1,500 miles sounds like a nice buffer zone, but in the case of CHERNOBYL, a bunch of the radioactive gunk was spewed upwards in the form of smoke, where it joined up with some clouds on their way west, and then proceeded to rain down over Western Europe.
- Nothing in your outward environment will appear abnormal or unusual. That is the eerie part, since you can get a nice dose of radiation and never know it. Also, it makes it easy for the government or anybody with an interest to lie to you - unless you have a Geiger counter (they may have other measuring devices, but I don't know about them..)
For example, I am listening to KFI right now, and they have a guy on who is a doctor, and he is making it sound like a nuclear reactor accident is no big deal. He said that most of the fallout disappears within a few weeks. I wish I had caught his name, because somebody should tell him to let the Europeans know about this, since they are still (apparently needlessly) warning folks off of wild mushrooms and game because of the high levels of radioactive Stromium or was it Caesium they still contain.
- In CHERNOBYL, radioactivity was delivered via 3 elements. Iodine (has a 1/2 life of about 2 weeks) The other two, Stromium and Caesium will be around for longer than is relevant to a human being.
- To protect yourself from the effects of the radioactive iodine, which can be absorbed by the thyroid gland (since this is where our bodies store iodine), taking iodine tablets is said to provide some protection. The Polish government distributed iodine tablets to children in the days following the accident. Ask your doctor before you do anything, though. I am not giving you medical advice and you should consider me an idiot on this topic because I have never even taken physics and everything I am writing here is from memory.
- A lot of my friends back then were biologists who worked in labs containing radioactive material, and would routinely pass through a radiation detector when leaving the lab, to make sure they hadn't been contaminated during the course of performing their little experiments. After that first rain, the one with the clouds from Russia, the alarms went off when the students tried to get into the lab.
- Finally, keep in mind that governments lie. The Soviets tried to keep the lid on the accident as long as possible. The Swedes were the first ones to notice something was up because they detected high levels of radiation. The Soviets didn't admit it for 3 days.
- They insist the core is fine in the reactor in Japan. I dunno - looks like a big boom - but then again that black box always survives in plane wrecks.
- If lots of radioactivity is released, it may show up in places like... California. If it rains, then we get it on the ground.
- Hope that helps. Do your own research, come to your own conclusions about what is or isn't needed.
I bought myself a Geiger counter ordered a bunch of iodine tablets just in case. 3/14/11 Crudnix - my order was canceled! They are sold out! 3/15 Just ordered some from this site - although is on back order. Will Keep Looking - 3/15 Just ordered 9 bottles from mothernature.com - it seems to be in stock.
Monday Update: One senior U.S. official says, "under the best scenarios, this isn't going to end anytime soon." The White House also issued a statement saying, "Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity." A rather specific list of exactly who ISN'T going to experience harmful levels of radiation...sorry Nevada - looks like you're done for.
Tuesday Update: Plan B seems to have thought through what to do in the event of a nuclear disaster.