We live in a world of numerous nuclear threats, many of which are unknown or under- or un-appreciated by the general public. At any moment, the detonation of a nuclear bomb or dirty bomb or an unexploded nuclear ordnance (nuclear UXO), or an accidental nuclear weapons launch could occur. A reactor melting down could start venting, a tornado or wildfire could rip through an extremely radioactive hotspot, a spent fuel pool could leak and catch fire, a nuclear powered satellite could crash on Earth, or a nuclear waste pile could explode. These are just a few of the many likely nuclear accidents that could happen in our day and age and without warning. Any of these events could pump into the air radioactive particles and/or gases upwind of any of us in quantities that could be lethal, near-lethal or at levels that could cause a substantial increase in our individual and collective fatal cancer risks (not to mention genetic harm risk).
What Happened to 'distance, shielding and time'
One of the mantras of radiation protection is 'distance, shielding and time.' This mantra relates to fixed sources that pump out radiation that can't be internalized. An airborne nuclear release, on the other hand, can easily cause radioactive sources to enter the body. Sometimes you'll hear so-called experts say that a 'beta particle' can't hurt you because it can be stopped by the epidermis - your skin. But beta particles that enter your body aren't stoppable - your cellular tissue is not strong enough to block it. So, remember - when it comes to internalized radioactive poisons, you can't safely shield them from decaying within you and irradiating you, nor can you distance your cells from the ionizing energies, nor can you stop or alter 'time' as radiation decays millisecond by millisecond in your body, increasing your cumulative dosage, which in turn increases your chances of cancer and genetic damage. 'Distance, shielding and time' as advice only works with external sources of radiation, not internal ones.
The most important piece of 'survival knowledge' regarding a potential major nuclear accident is that there is no such thing as a 'local release' when it comes to airborne radioactive particles and gasses. A major nuclear release will impact an entire hemisphere. Hotspots thousands of miles away could even be worse than contamination levels in the local environment of the release. Plumes, as was documented following Fukushima, Chernobyl and nuclear weapons tests, will circle around the affected hemisphere (i.e. North or South) of the Earth many times until all the particles have fallen to the ground. (The radioactive gasses, on the other hand, can stick around for centuries.)
The air masses of the two hemispheres don't mix, so when you first learn of a major nuclear accident you should consider fleeing to the opposite hemisphere (e.g., Southern Hemisphere). There is no better way of protecting your health than fleeing to the other hemisphere. There will be many fatal accidents associated with any mass exodus, including a so-called 'radiation exodus,' so take care when driving to and walking around airports and new cities. Again, if you are in the impacted hemisphere, your best bet is to flee to the opposite hemisphere.
There are rare situations when a major nuclear release in your hemisphere may not affect you severely. Usually, if the nuclear accident happens several hundred miles downwind of you, then you will benefit from the fact that the plumes will have to circle the globe before they reach you. Rainouts and dilution *may* make the plumes much less potent by the time they circle the globe in 30-40 days and reach your longitude. However, there is always the chance of a rainout in your area (in your food or water 'sheds'). Therefore, your best bet - if you can't relocate to the opposite hemisphere - is to move to a desert or arid location where precipitation is extremely rare.
The Equator's Perpetual Weather Event Where Winds Can't Penetrate
The Northern and Southern Hemispheres have atmospheric circulation systems that are largely independent of each other. On either side of the equator are large circulation systems called Hadley Cells that take hot, rising air from the warm equator and move it northwards to the subtropics (30 degrees, north or south). There, the air cools, sinks and is drawn back to the equator to be warmed up again to repeat the cycle. (There are two other 'cells' - one for the mid-latitudes and another for the polar region - that work in similar ways, but with alternatingly opposite flow directions.)
The humid, rising air at the equator is a permanent feature of the Earth and is known as the 'equatorial low' or the Intertropical Convergence Zone or the ITCZ, which is a band of rainy clouds that circle the globe. The trade winds, which are east winds that converge and try to cross the equator in both hemispheres, meet at the ITCZ. Instead of crossing the equator, trades are weakened and deflected (to run parallel to the equator) as they get 'pulled into' the role of raising humid air at the equator to be drawn northwards via the Hadley Cells. This the main reason why there is no mixing of air at the meeting of the hemispheres.
If a nuclear accident occurs in a nearby, upwind location, don't panic. The best thing to do is monitor the air currents. There is a chance that a radioactive plume released upwind of you could circumvent your location. Consult many sources and try to even contact weather experts. If you aren't convinced the plumes will circumvent you, then you should take immediate shelter - there are many, many internet sources that provide good tips for surviving a nuclear release when staying in your home. Staying in a bunker or home, however, is not going to be a perfectly 'safe' option - it will only ensure you are less exposed than being outside. A dosimeter will be extremely important for gauging the effectiveness of your 'sheltering' and determining the best time for re-entering all living spaces of the home and the outdoors. If radiation levels are normal inside and outside your home, there could still be hotspots outside. A major nuclear release also will have lingering effects - via relofted dusts via winds or fire. Unless the overall release was far less than experts believed, you will be safest in the long run in the opposite hemisphere. The second best option is the desert.
Upwards of 90% of radiation exposure following a nuclear accident is via food ingestion. Sourcing dependable non- or low-radioactive foods will be extremely difficult because of the lack of rigorous monitoring protocols in place across the globe. Food safety could even be a problem for radiation refugees in the unaffected hemisphere.
Once you have settled in an arid place or safer hemisphere, the onus should be food safety. Organizing a community or regional monitoring network will be the best thing you can do to ensure that you remain the least affected from the long-term impacts of the major nuclear release.
This is a draft set of guidelines for surviving a major nuclear release by nuclearcrimes.org. It is recommended that you print out this page, laminate it and place it in a location with your survival or emergency gear. You will not have a chance to consult with a medical professional when a nuclear event strikes. Start learning survival tips today and - as a disclaimer - ask your doctor's opinion about the effectiveness of any medical advice you read or hear. Revisit this page [http://nuclearcrimes.org/nuclear-survival-guide.php] in the future for updates and revisions to this guide.
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