Archive for March, 2011

Prep, don’t panic over fallout

March 22, 2011

Many websites are devoting themselves to covering the Japanese nuclear accidents with realtime data. The mainstream media here in the US is downplaying the crisis.

Unfortunately one characteristic of the Web is to inflate rumors into full-blown crises. The mass media is in part responsible for this. By not providing timely and transparent information, people are left to wonder just how bad the disaster is.

And government’s track record of outright lying fawns the rumor mill as well. This is in part a product of what I call the cry wolf effect. We can all remember–and should–all the lies about Iraq’s WMD. 4600 lives later, we’re left to wonder. So I hope the American people can be less trusting of what their government tells them: one side effect of this distrust is to believe nothing they say, for instance when President Obama tells them this radioactivity poses no danger.

I’ve heard that Iodine is an important substance) to take in being that it can stop damage to the thyroid gland, a major issue from fallout. Unfortunately, few people have on hand Potassium Iodate pills. That may not be such a bad thing as the pills should only be taken when fallout is coming down. (I’m sure not a few people have begun taking KI–the scientific name for the pills–out of panic despite the near-total absence of radioactivity in the US.)

A wiser course of action would be to take foods rich in Iodine and Potassium. While I can’t vouch for the efficacy of any supposed remedies discussed at this site, I have heard sea kelp might be viable. From this same source–nutritionist David Wolf–Vitamin C, reishi mushrooms, and possibly selenium were suggested as ways to mitigate the impact of exposure to radioactivity. (See link below)

It’s worth remembering that once some radioactive particles enter the human body, they are impossible to remove. They’ll continue to irradiate surrounding tissue, typically inside the lungs, which over time metasize into cancerous growths.

Now typically these radioactive particles are heavier and thus will be less prone to travel vast distances. I’d say the Japanese will have the most to fear. This may translate into why so many wear masks. Keep the particles outside the lung, the theory goes, and you’ll be less at risk of the effects of radioactivity.

Still, there are plenty of risks associated with radioactive particles in food and water. Already milk and spinach have been impacted in the disaster zone. And if winds carry the radiation away from the coast to Tokyo in the south, the town could become a ghost town. At the very least expect massive agricultural losses from radioactive taint.

Being unseen or unfelt, radiation inspires fear. It’s the uncertainty of not knowing if what you’re eating or drinking has been contaminated that can drive you mad. Children are also very vulnerable, so radiation is a parent’s worst nightmare.

If I were in Tokyo, particularly the eastern or northern side, I’d make sure the children were away. Not sure how much more broadly the radioactivity will spread at this point. Unfortunately there’s a possibility that another reactor, at Tokai, is leaking by virtue of a radioactivity survey map. (See link below)

I did see that the problem isn’t over. Unfortunately, the plutonium/uranium mix, called MOX–is particularly dangerous, and quite heavy. The worst case scenario is that the uranium could burn all the way through the subsurface rocks and generate a huge explosion, spewing out a mix of magma carried aloft in a massive plume of radioactive steam. The likelihood is miniscule, however.

The nearest event was Chernobyl. In that case, we’re seeing contamination to this day. They successfully stopped radioactive emissions there by entombing the reactor, a solution proposed for the Fukushima reactors by famous theoretical physicist Michio Kaku.

I just saw that the heaviest manmade structure ever made was being built to make the Chernobyl entombment more secure. Perhaps the thought of all the uranium from the reactor plunging through the earth’s substratum is enough to justify what must be massive costs for that operation.

As I’ve written about here, nuclear power is dirty from the extraction process all the way through to disposal of its byproducts. As the world is now seeing in Fukushima, the spent rods can overheat, meaning no one is safe from radioactivity even with depleted source of nuclear energy.

To make matters worse, we have over a hundred aging reactors here in the United States. Many are replicated upon the Fukushima model, which is a General Electric design plan. Many of these reactors have been discovered to lie on earthquake fault lines as well, including one along the Hudson River, Indian Point, just north of New York City, not to mention two in California.

Nuclear energy is an expensive process. Keeping it profitable requires massive subsidies–Barack Obama just approved over $50 billion in subsidies for the U.S. nuclear power industry.

Being so dirty, dangerous, and expensive, one wonders if the subsidies for more benign sources of energy deserve the criticism they receive. We know coal and petroleum are bad, but paradoxically, they’ve become more attractive in relative terms, even if coal kills 10,000 Americans prematurely each year.

Even a reactor failure on a scale like Japan’s probably won’t kill as many as coal will, or lead to as much death as the occupation of oil rich nations in the Middle East. This of course doesn’t mean the other fuel sources are good, but rather made to look more attractive.

It may be the reaction to the radioactivity creates a bigger crisis than the radioactivity itself. The following quote comes from Shane Connor, who works for a geiger county company, KI4U, recently overwhelmed by a flurry of orders:

“Unfortunately, the public is generally not well educated on nuclear threats and fallout, and stirred up by sensationalist media reports of potential food contamination, could unleash a widespread panic run on food stores and other supplies. Understanding that real potential for future panic would make it prudent for families to have calmly stocked up beforehand, as they should for any natural disaster or, failing that, promptly at the very first indication of any developing nuclear emergency while locally available inventories are still plentiful.” (Japan Radioactive Fallout Contamination Map & Radiation Protection FAQ! Iran, North Korea, too )

As bad as a panic might be, there’s still a role for premeditation; I just think the author’s point is not to have to panic-buy.

To prepare, the instinct is to horde. If you think milk, for instance, will be contaminated for 3-6 months, then the instinct is to buy powdered, condensed, and evaporate varieties.

Done in a gigantic spree of buying, hoarding encourages panic-buying like we’re seeing now in Tokyo and other places nearer the disaster zone. Panic buying leaves people with more than they could use, and makes it hard to resupply essentials. It’s also an expensive exercise.

Now as bad as hoarding might be if done at the start of a crisis, I think it’s prudent to have stocks of certain essentials before the crisis begins. This gets to the heart of “prepping” which is different from “survivalism” since the main goal of prepping is not to avoid all effects of a disaster but to mitigate as many as possible given budget and time constraints. A prepper might do well to pick up a few items every month at garage sales and on sales in local hardware stores. Cost is a priority thus prepping is best done gradually, over time to capitalize on purchasing opportunities. Another consideration: buy what you will use so that you can achieve turnover in your stock.

Prepping isn’t paranoia in an age of Fukushimas, Gulf Oil Spills, and Katrinas–it’s a necessity. People who aren’t prepared typically become victims of the tragedy who suffer far more than those who are ready, at least partially.

Most importantly people need to think, to anticipate, and to orient themselves to the possibility that they can’t rely on others in times of crisis. As much as faith and perseverance are vital to maintaining one’s spiritual health, it’s not enough to leave issues of survival and health to blind faith alone.

Links, Sources
David Wolf’s long but excellent interview: from The Best Day Ever

Troubling by virtue of the size of the doses and absence of data from the most affected provinces (“under survey”):Japan map of Japan Radiation Maximum by Prefecture by Do,Ken,To,Fu – TargetMap

Indicative of a cover-up, justified by the need to avoid panic or not: Feds hide nuclear radiation hitting US for 4 days | Alexander Higgins Blog</a<

In French, but you'll get the point (remember that this is radioactive isotopes which don't necessarily pose a major threat):Modélisation de la dispersion des rejets radioactifs dans l’atmosphère à l’échelle globale

Fascinating photo-stocked story by a daring motorcyclist venturing into Chernobyl’s dead zone 25 years later (warning: disturbing subject matter):

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