PSA: Potassium Iodide

I see that, with Donald Trump’s threats of nuclear war, sales of potassium iodide are up.

A couple of reminders.

Potassium iodide protects your thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine, which is one of the fission products that would be spread around in a nuclear war. But it’s only one, and potassium iodide doesn’t protect against the large number of others, which go to other parts of your body. It also doesn’t protect against the radiation from a blast.

Taking potassium iodide can disrupt your physiology, so don’t take it unless the bombs go off. If you want to stockpile it just in case, go ahead, but treat it as medicine and keep it away from kids and pets. Put it in your survival gear, if you have something like that.

And I don’t think we’re going to have a nuclear war. Trump seems to be spinning down from that and moving on to disrupting North America’s economy by pulling out of NAFTA. He’s got a short attention span.


And open thread!


Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.

125 replies
  1. 1
    trollhattan says:

    And remember to stay hydrated.

  2. 2
  3. 3
    Miss Bianca says:

    Oh, well, *thank God* the President is only considering ruining the economy rather than destroying the world!

  4. 4
    Ryan says:

    “Potassium iodide protects your thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine, which is one of the fission products that would be spread around in a nuclear war. But it’s only one, and potassium iodide doesn’t protect against the large number of others, which go to other parts of your body. It also doesn’t protect against the radiation from a blast.”

    The more you know! Seriously, that this was a paragraph I would one day read never occurred to me even a year ago.

  5. 5
    Mike in DC says:

    Awesome. Look forward to Great Depression 2: Electoral Boogaloo.

  6. 6
    Yarrow says:

    I figure if I’m anywhere close to the targeted area, just drive towards it and get it over with.

    In other news, this is hilarious.

    Julian Assange's bid for diplomatic status rejected by UK government— The Guardian (@guardian) January 10, 2018

    Too bad, so sad.

  7. 7
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Butthurt Jordan Trombone (fka XTPD): we have never been at war with Eastasia.

  8. 8
    SFAW says:

    I can’t believe I’m even thinking about this shit. I remember air raid drills in elementary school.

    So fucking glad the traitors in Congress are happy to let this motherfucker do whatever the fuck he wants.

  9. 9
    cmorenc says:

    We have three more years before we can decisively get rid of this malignant pustulence in the oval office. (Doubtful whatever Mueller is able to prove that we can get 67 votes in the Senate to convict on an impeachment charge). However, hopefully in another 10 months (2018 congressional elections) we can take one or both houses of congress and greatly limit the damage. Narrow Senate control by 51-49 would limit how much the Trump Admin can corrupt the federal courts with far-right ideologues, and especially prevent him from successfully filling any SCOTUS vacancies. OTOH we’ll never get sane, responsible fiscal policy again until the FreeDumb R caucus is in the minority.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    Baud says:

    He’s got a short attention span.

    Maybe if the entire country runs a con in which we make Trump think that he’s served his two terms and Pence was elected to succeed him, we can at least move on to the next phase of the struggle.

  12. 12
    Shana says:

    Since it’s an open thread, let me brag a little. My older daughter got elected last night to our County’s Democratic Committee as a Vice Chair. We live in the most populous county of our state. She’s 27, been a lawyer for about a year and a half, worked on campaigns since she was 16, founded the Young Democrats club at her high school when she was a freshman. Yes, we’re proud of her.

  13. 13
    trollhattan says:

    AF1 flies to a fake Andrews and the limo takes him to a movie-set D.C. In Mongolia.

  14. 14
    Baud says:

    @Shana: Congratulations! The Baud! 2020! political network continues to expand.

  15. 15
    trollhattan says:

    Way to go! We can use a few (thousand) more just like her.

  16. 16
    Gravenstone says:

    Short attention span theater. All the pain of traditional theatrics, but less waiting for the mayhem.

  17. 17
    JPL says:

    @Shana: Congrats!

  18. 18
    Roger Moore says:

    I have a coworker who has stories about Chernobyl. Everyone in Poland who had reasonable chemistry training was put on emergency duty preparing KI* doses, because they needed enough of them for the whole population immediately. There wasn’t a strategic stockpile or anything, which is interesting considering worries about nuclear war. I guess nobody really believed there would be enough people alive after one to make that kind of planning worthwhile.

    For those who don’t know, thyroid hormones contain iodine and making them is the main way the body uses iodide. Because of that, the thyroid absorbs essentially all of the iodide that isn’t excreted by the kidneys. If you get radioactive iodide, it will wind up in the thyroid and damage it**, potentially causing cancer or even destroying the thyroid entirely. The best way of preventing this is to give a much bigger dose of non-radioactive iodide. If the body has too much iodide, most of it will get peed out, including most of the radioactive iodide. But, as Cheryl says, too much iodide is bad for you, so it’s something you only want to do if the alternative is worse.

    *For non-chemists, that’s how we write potassium iodide.
    **This isn’t 100% negative. It makes thyroid cancer relatively easy to treat, and it has one of the highest survival rates of any cancer.

  19. 19
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    What if a couple thousand of us just bum-rushed the White House while Trump, Pence, the Cabinet, and top GOP leadership were inside and we citizen arrested them all?

  20. 20
    Robert Sneddon says:

    I-131 is one of the short-term dangers of fallout because it’s a common fission product (being close to half the size of a U-235 nucleus), it has a short half-life of 8.5 days which means a small amount is intensely radioactive and it has a preferential biological pathway, being absorbed and retained by the thyroid. It’s not a long-term danger since due to its short half-life it goes away in a few weeks.

    The WHO’s study of the Fukushima reactor releases of I-131 suggested its threat is actually overblown — the main finding was that the only thing to really worry about was accumulations of I-131 in fresh cow’s milk and even that could be dealt with by turning the milk into cheese, which after maturation for a couple of months would have no residual I-131 left.

    The potassium in potassium iodide is noticeably radioactive in itself, of course – K-40 is present in all natural sources of potassium, over 100 parts per million. There are Youtube videos of people scanning “no-sodium” salt (potassium chloride) with Geiger counters and scintillators.

  21. 21
    Baud says:

    Will potassium iodide prevent me from becoming The Hulk in the event I am exposed to radiation?

  22. 22
    Ryan says:

    @Roger Moore: I think my meta point, having lived in a targeted city in the 80s was that this never came up. Luckily, our society has become more paranoid, informed, or unstable, and now this is stuff you need to know.

  23. 23
    Ryan says:

    @Robert Sneddon: Government cheese!

  24. 24
  25. 25

    @Roger Moore: I did the inverse of what people are trying to do with potassium iodide tabs. I had a hyperactive nodule in my thyroid, not cancerous, so I took a capsule of iodine-131, the fission product they’re worried about, to burn it out. Worked like a charm, and much better than having my thyroid removed.

  26. 26
    Ryan says:

    @Baud: Gaslight the gaslighter? I love it.

  27. 27


    Will potassium iodide prevent me from becoming The Hulk in the event I am exposed to radiation?


  28. 28

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: No thanks, we just came out of a two week deep freeze.

  29. 29
    trollhattan says:

    Misspelled “gummint.”

    I knew of Clickhole but nobody told me about The Onion’s Patriothole.

  30. 30
    Jeffro says:

    @Baud: or just convince him that he has done the most by any president ever in record-setting time and that waiting any longer just makes that record less impressive.

    Otherwise known as “declare victory and go home” and “ A full four or eight years are for suckers “

    Seriously tell me that wouldn’t work ?

  31. 31

    […] Cross-posted to Balloon Juice. […]

  32. 32

    @Roger Moore: I always like chem lab better than physics lab.

  33. 33
    eric U. says:

    @trollhattan: the “gorilla channel” kerfuffle made me think we should hire the “talent” from Fox news and get them to broadcast real news just to him. Ok, wouldn’t work, he would recognize that he’s not on one of his golf courses

  34. 34
    Jeffro says:

    Also I see that on Twitter the Lyndon Johnson account is responding to the Dick Nixon account… which is quite funny but makes me wonder what is real anymore ?

  35. 35
    Roger Moore says:

    @Robert Sneddon:

    The potassium in potassium iodide is noticeably radioactive in itself, of course – K-40 is present in all natural sources of potassium, over 100 parts per million.

    Sure, but doing without potassium is far worse than the radiation danger. I suppose somebody who was really paranoid about all that radioactive potassium could look for sodium iodide instead, since sodium has no naturally available radioactive isotopes.

  36. 36
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    Hah. Sometimes the humor on that show bugged the hell out of me and made me roll my eyes but when it clicked, it clicked.

    Seriously, how far would the Secret Service go to protect the President, especially one as unpopular, and likely treasonous, as Trump in the face of such overwhelming opposition by civilians?

  37. 37
    Mary G says:

    Do those pills keep? I live very close to the decommissioned San Onofre plant and they sent us some like 12 years ago. I’ve hung onto them just in case, but that’s pretty old.

    And O/T, but there’s another reason for Issa wrap.

    San Diego lawyer requests ethics investigation into Rep. Darrell Issa

    Issa’s ethics were called into question again this weekend when the former director of San Diego’s Ethics Commission asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate the Representative for not reporting a business he owns in an ethics report. Surprised? We weren’t either.

    Apparently that was in the San Diego U/T, but I am too lazy to look up the link. It won’t go anywhere anyway.

  38. 38

    @Mary G:

    Do those pills keep?

    If they’re not discolored, they’re probably okay.

  39. 39
    ArchTeryx says:

    The real problem is that I-131 is only the shortest-lived of the many, MANY fission products that get spewed out of a nuclear explosion and high into the stratosphere. Most of them are radioactive. A few of them, once in the body, can stay there literally until they kill you or you die of natural causes. Example: I was extremely careful in my lab when I had to handle tritiated – 3H-containing – compounds. Hydrogen can end up ANYWHERE and the 3H that ends up in your DNA does very far-reaching and very LONG-TERM damage. Imagine a little rock hammer, chipping ever-away at a thin brick wall, over decades. Sooner or later it will crumble.

    I’m sure at least one nuclear physicist in this jackal’s nest can list out some of the others, but suffice to say they’re all fucking nasty when put in a biological milieu. There’s a reason why most of the deaths in a nuclear war would come from fallout.

  40. 40
    Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes says:

    Grim thread. Two days ago, I was at Hoa Lo prison, known as the Hanoi Hilton.

    Grim spot, dark, dark, dark energy. It is especially large in Vietnamese minds, as that was the place where the French tortured and killed Vietnamese political prisoners. The guillotine was there, along with photos of severed heads, the stocks, you name it.

    Of course they whitewashed their understandable mistreatment of American pilots; they aren’t hateful people by nature, but they suffered carpet bombing in civilian areas.

    One other thing – Henry Kissinger was a fucking joke, and should have been hauled up on war crimes charges after Linebacker II.

  41. 41
    Formerly disgruntled in Oregon says:

    @Miss Bianca: LOL (and sobbing in the corner)

  42. 42

    Nice looking scrub jay on my fence, now it’s flown away. I was going to hike up to the ridge below the observatory for sunset, but I thought better of it since the dirt trails are still wet.

  43. 43
    debbie says:

    I’m not sure this is something I would want to survive.

  44. 44
    Roger Moore says:


    Will potassium iodide prevent me from becoming The Hulk in the event I am exposed to radiation?

    It won’t do a damn thing about gamma rays, which are what turn you into the Hulk.

  45. 45
    Jeffro says:

    For what it’s worth Catherine Rampell is tweeting that Trumpov is waiving penalties on Deutsche Bank for manipulating LIBOR… hey no conflict of interest there right Congress??

  46. 46
    Doug R says:

    Well, Canada’s been busy.
    Lots of free trade agreements, including the one with the EU recently signed and lots ongoing.
    Plus, news today is that last month Canada is appealing to the WTO about US tariffs.

    Canada has launched a wide-ranging trade dispute against the United States, challenging Washington’s use of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties, according to a World Trade Organization filing dated Dec. 20 and published Wednesday.

    Canada appeared to be mounting a case on behalf of the rest of the world, since it cited almost 200 examples of alleged U.S. wrongdoing, almost all of them concerning other trading partners, such as China, India, Brazil and the European Union.

  47. 47
    Ryan says:

    @ArchTeryx: I remember my dad talking about atmospheric tests early in the nuclear age and isotopes that were absorbed and are there for life, a strontium isotope that settles in your bones. Is that accurate?

  48. 48
    Formerly disgruntled in Oregon says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Thank FSM for that! BAUD SMASH!!!

  49. 49
    The Dangerman says:

    He’s got a short attention span.

    I’m trying to decide if this is low hanging fruit or indicative of NOT low hanging “fruit”.

  50. 50
    Ryan says:

    @Jeffro: He’s still learning how to be preznit! Give him a chance!

  51. 51
    Ruff the Dog says:

    A nuke attack would be horrible, but so would the panic. Large parts of the DC area would survive an NK blast over the White House; depending on wind direction and speed I might be ok in Silver Spring, 6 miles north. I had pipe dreams of creating a nuclear burst mapping tool based on what I learned as a battalion intel officer in the early 80s, but then I found Alex Wallerstein’s NukeMap. .

  52. 52
    mike in dc says:

    @ArchTeryx: That’s why the general recommendation is not only potassium iodide, but a well-stocked and built shelter with food, water and supplies to last at least 14 days, the half life of the most common radioactive fallout components.

  53. 53
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    Good for her! Congratulations! I feel very inspired and optimistic reading that.

  54. 54
    Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes says:

    On a happier note, I’m in Hoi An today (yesterday was at Ha Long Bay, an overnight among the Karst pillars, seeing floating fishing villages and monkeys in a surreal setting). Hoi An is a little south of Da Nang. Hotel is first rate, and they even have plug converters built into the walls.

    Rather than the usual coffee set up in the room, it is an electric water boiler with a box of instants. I chose a 3 in 1 package for sweet, milky coffee. The label artistically promised me that if I drink it, I’ll be a good looking Vietnamese man in a great suit, with a beautiful woman by my side and standing next to my helicopter.

  55. 55
    Roger Moore says:

    @Mary G:

    Do those pills keep?

    They ought to; it’s not as if potassium iodide is going to decompose or something. The only thing that could go bad is if they have some organic binding agent to turn them into pills and that decays.

  56. 56
    Yarrow says:

    Floriduh man has a new challenger.

    Russian man rams armored personnel carrier into shop, steals wine— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) January 10, 2018

  57. 57
    Barbara says:

    @Shana: Woo Hoo! Good for her!

  58. 58
    Cermet says:

    @Mary G: AS long as they remain dry (their very hygroscopic – still a salt) they will last indefinitely (keep the container sealed/unopened.

  59. 59

    @Ryan: Fun fact, you used to be able to see the light from the Nevada Test Range tests in Los Angeles.

  60. 60
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    AF1 flies to a fake Andrews and the limo takes him to a movie-set D.C. In Mongolia.

    Ah, yes, the Potemkin Ploy. Seems appropriate, somehow.

  61. 61
    Ryan says:

    @Mary G: Depends. Are you a native of Florida?

  62. 62
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes:

    The label artistically promised me that if I drink it, I’ll be a good looking Vietnamese man in a great suit, with a beautiful woman by my side and standing next to my helicopter.

    Yes, AND??

  63. 63
    Thoughtful David says:

    @Shana: Very good–glad to hear it!
    Nothing about her, but I’d just like to point out that–despite BernieBro bleatings–local Democratic committees are usually enthusiastic about welcoming young Dems in, and giving them leadership positions. Just like everywhere, you have to earn some cred before you can go to the top (like proving that you aren’t a Republican mole), but if you come in and show yourself to be interested, bright, and hard-working (some of these positions are serious JOBS), you can get handed the keys.

  64. 64
    Adria McDowell says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Hmmm….do go on- my mom has been diagnosed as having hyperactive thyroid. They currently have her on meds for it, and they are trying to avoid removal/destroying it as much as possible.

  65. 65
    JR says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷: worked for the French… the four or so times they did that

  66. 66
    Gravenstone says:

    @Ryan: Yes, strontium will go anywhere calcium will. So it concentrates in the bones.

  67. 67
    Roger Moore says:

    90Sr is a nasty one because it’s long-lived and gets into your bones, but it isn’t necessarily there for good. One of the functions of the bones is as a natural calcium stockpile, so the body is constantly cycling calcium (and strontium) in and out of them. That means the biological half-life of radioactive strontium may be substantially shorter than its radioactive half-life. I say “may be” because different studies have given wildly different biological half-lives, anywhere from 14 days to 49 years. If it’s actually a matter of days, it’s much less dangerous than initially believed.

  68. 68
    Gravenstone says:

    @mike in dc: Only problem with that advice is you need to go through seven half-life cycles to reduce a substance to roughly 1% its starting concentration. And 1% can still be a huge amount with radionuclides.

  69. 69
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: My wife had that; the quarantine procedures were interesting (the relevant half-life seemed not to be the half-life of I-131 itself, but that of the compound’s residence in the body).

  70. 70
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Get your own gimmick!

  71. 71
    Jeffro says:

    @Ryan: you’re right he probably didn’t know that was unethical

    Since he has never had an ethical to begin with

  72. 72
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Roger Moore: A lack of potassium can result in cesium being taken up into the body in its place and of course cesium is another fission product, Cs-134 and Cs-137. They’re much less radioactive gram for gram than iodine, having half-lifes of about two years and thirty years respectively but again they’re common fission products since again they have similar atomic masses to I-131.

    The adult healthy human body has about 4000 Bequerels of radioactivity (1 Bq = radioactive decay per second) and nearly all of that is due to K-40.

  73. 73
    Roger Moore says:

    Note, though, that the environmental half-life may be very different from the radioactive half-life. IIRC, most of the worst fallout isotopes are pretty water soluble, so they can get scrubbed out of the atmosphere pretty quickly by rain. That means you may be safe reasonably quickly if you get your water from a deep aquifer.

  74. 74

    @Adria McDowell: Everyone is different, and nodules are different. My endocrinologist offered three options: surgical removal of the entire thyroid, I-131 ablation (the word they use), and medication. I’m not crazy about medication and neither was the endocrinologist. She leaned toward surgery and seemed too wary IMHO of radiation, but when I said I preferred that, she didn’t object. It may just have been that suggesting someone swallow a bunch of radioactive iodine usually doesn’t go over well with the woo-woo crowd here in Santa Fe.

    The process was simple: a couple of scans, in which I took very small amounts of a different iodine isotope, to show what was going on in my thyroid and help them determine the dose needed. Then go in to the radiology section and swallow a pill, get checked with a geiger counter to make sure it was in my stomach. Stay at home for three days – as others have pointed out, the radioactive half-life of I-131 is about 8.5 days, and its biological half-life, the combined time for it to decay and be peed out, is about three days. The staying at home is so as not to expose others. I asked the techs and radiologist about my whole-body dose, and it’s pretty trivial, raises my chance of cancer by maybe 1%. Which is probably less than the probability of something going wrong with surgery.

    I do have to take thyroid hormone, but not as much as I would have if I had had my thyroid removed. The dose didn’t burn out my whole thyroid.

    You might want to get a second opinion.

  75. 75
    magurakurin says:

    @Gravenstone: after Fukushima, everyone in Japan got an education about Strontium-90 and Cesium-137. The fear of the Iodine was quickly over, but there have been thyroid cancer clusters in young children close to the accident site. But the Strontium and Cesium…one never knows I guess. I think that the radiation sickness will be the least of the fears after a large nearby city was destroyed in a nuclear attack. The hordes of half-burned, starving people converging on your neighborhood will render any medicine for radioactive isotopes pretty goddamn useless, I’d reckon.

  76. 76
    Jeffro says:

    @Ruff the Dog: well that website is just terrifying

  77. 77
    Adria McDowell says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I’ll definitely pass that info on, thank you! Mom has no medical insurance, so surgerical removal will put them further in the hole. Anything that can help lessen the cost.

  78. 78
    HinTN says:

    @Baud: I read the original as LOLodide. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t…

  79. 79
  80. 80
    FlyingToaster says:

    @SFAW: I went through the “diving under a desk” routine every month through second grade. When they opened the new PTA-funded Gym/Auditorium/Library wing, the Gym became the fallout shelter. We went there for both tornado drills and fallout drills through 4th grade.

    I hope to hell that nobody’s putting schoolkids through that shit again.

  81. 81
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @ArchTeryx: Tritium is not a fission product, it’s created by neutron capture of regular water’s deuterium content (about 1 atom in 40 million IIRC). It is detectable in the groundwater around boiling-water reactor plants since the primary steam loop leaks a little. However elemental 3H forms into tritiated water very easily and that poses a very low danger to biological organisms since water’s biological half-life is a matter of a few days if that. The US safety limit for tritium is something like 1200 Bq/litre of drinking water and that’s incredibly conservative compared to the sorts of safety levels in drinking water for fission products like Cs134 and Cs137 (100-200 Bq/litre).

    Note that the US often doesn’t use international standard units for radioactive dosages, it has its own bestiary of Grays, rems etc. Conversion can be done but watch out for the decimal points.

  82. 82
    Roger Moore says:


    I hope to hell that nobody’s putting schoolkids through that shit again.

    I don’t think the “active shooter” drills they get today are a whole lot better, really.

  83. 83
    different-church-lady says:

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just kiss my ass goodbye?

  84. 84
    Robert Sneddon says:


    after Fukushima… The fear of the Iodine was quickly over, but there have been thyroid cancer clusters in young children close to the accident site.

    Actually no. Really bad epidemiological practices resulted in lots of reported “abnormal” thyroid cysts and lumps since everyone near Fukushima was scanned for thyroid abnormalities (as one thyroid specialist in the US commented, “the next time I see a perfect thyroid will be the first”). Needle biopsies were carried out in some cases — such biopsies have about a ten percent error rate for reporting cancerous and pre-cancerous cells. The actual results showed no real difference in thyroid cancer between populations a long way away from the Fukushima releases and those exposed during the first few days of the reactor breaches, adjusted for age cohorts. That doesn’t make good press headlines but the panic merchants got their message over better and earlier so the popular belief is that there were actually ongoing effects from I-131 in Fukushima and environs.

    It helps (so to speak) that iodine is very mobile in the environment so the amount of I-131 released promptly from the reactor site, about 3 to 4 kg in total spread and dissipated over a very large area quite quickly. A lot of it went into the sea and out of the reach of food concentration/consumption vectors. An immediate ban on consuming seafood and milk sourced from the local area helped.

  85. 85
    Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes says:


    Sadly, I got neither the great suit, the beautiful young Vietnamese woman nor the helicopter, not even on the second cup.

    I suspect the labeling was really a ploy designed to provide the company owner with nice suits, beautiful young Vietnamese women and fleets of helicopters….

  86. 86
    Miss Bianca says:

    @FlyingToaster: nah, they’re drawing the line at active shooter lockdown drill.

    ETA: i see Roger M got there first.

  87. 87
    Chip Daniels says:


    And remember to stay hydrated.

    Stay thirsty, my friends.

  88. 88
    FlyingToaster says:

    @Roger Moore: @Miss Bianca: O FFS.

    I know my daughter’s class had a discussion in Library about what they’d do if there were a shooter. But they don’t have drills.

    We have fire drills. We have evacuation drills. But why the fuck would you want to scare kids even more with anything containing the term “active shooter”?

  89. 89
    Jay S says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: We had a cat go through radioactive iodine treatment. There were restrictions on cat litter, either flush-able or held for a fixed time limit after treatment. Interesting that they allowed it in the wastewater, but not in garbage, and apparently they check radiation levels in garbage collection.

  90. 90
    SgrAstar says:

    @Shana: That is great, Shana! I have a lot of confidence in our youth. My students were raised by very conservative parents, live within the constraints of mormonism, and are solidly progressive. Change…it is coming.

  91. 91
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes: Isn’t Ha Long Bay something? I spent four days there a few years back, doing live-aboard sea kayaking. There are places you can go into/under those karst pillars, if you have a local guide and accurate tide tables. One we went into was open inside – think a donut, basically, and the only way in was one tunnel with almost no headroom. Way cool.

  92. 92
    mike in dc says:

    @Gravenstone: Well, the next step up is 14 weeks, but that’s rather a large stockpile of food and water. Kind of a large amount of human waste to worry about too, I’d expect.

  93. 93
    Sayne says:

    I live in Arlington, VA and my apartment looks right into Washington DC, so I’m one of the lucky ones in the 100% kill zone. It’ll hopefully be the blast wave that gets me. If not, I’m close enough that the thermal shock will cook me quickly. Either way, I won’t have to worry about nuclear war for more than a few seconds.

    The unlucky ones are a few more miles out, far enough away to avoid the firestorm and concussion wave. They’ll have to hunker down in their basements for days or weeks and hope they have enough water and food… or brave the fallout and try to escape.

    Fun times.

  94. 94
    mike in dc says:

    @Sayne: I’m in Hyattsville. If I have a heads up that’s longer than a few hours, my go to would be the Shenandoah valley. A few hours’ drive from the DMV via I-66, sparsely populated and surrounded by mountains. No major military bases in the vicinity either, so short of a nuke exchange with Putin, it’s relatively safe.

  95. 95
    Miss Bianca says:

    @FlyingToaster: you mean they dont do them out in yr neck of the woods?

  96. 96
    Ruff the Dog says:

    @Jeffro: Sorry, I realized my reference to Nukemap didn’t show the link. Choose your location, choose the size and altitude of the detonation, set the wind speed and direction, duck and cover.

  97. 97
    Jeffro says:

    @Ruff the Dog: Oh, I looked it up already…yikes! Not terribly reassuring, considering that just one decent-sized nuke dropped on DC means everything is flattened, fried, and glowing well past my doorstep(!)

  98. 98
    kindness says:

    Trump is trying to crash the economy. He must be.

    Pulls out of NAFTA making all the factories that US companies built in Mexico boat anchors. American companies will no doubt shower us by crashing & burning. Thems some Trump lovin right there.

  99. 99
    Jeffro says:

    Btw folks, I know that Criminal Ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio is running for Senate but did y’all know that Don Fucking Coal-Miner-Killer Blankenship is running?!? Is there a word or phrase that describes it when we live BEYOND an alternate reality?? What the holy living fuck?

  100. 100
    Sayne says:

    @mike in dc:

    That’s not a bad idea, but getting there that would be the problem. I-66, Route 7, Route 50, Route 29 and 211 would become parking lots quickly. No, I’d probably just be stuck here.

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    Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Stunning views.

    Funny story – on the dock to embark under the cave into one of those donuts to see the monkeys, you get lots of Chinese tourists. For some reason, the folks who don’t see many Americans want to have their photographs taken with Americans. There was a line of people who wanted their photos with with me and the Countess – so funny – lots of grins and hugs.

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    @kindness: Every time he talks about pulling out of NAFTA, every farmer in this state (plus John Deere) hyperventilates.

  103. 103
    PVDMichael says:

    Isn’t this post kinda burying the lede? :)

  104. 104
    kindness says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady): He literally has no idea of the consequences of his stream of conciousness existence. What I really don’t get are the 29% who are fans for ever. They must have already absorbed all the strontium 90.

  105. 105
    J R in WV says:


    Regarding Nuclear War, there is an interesting and informative book about how to protect yourself and your family from fallout and blast, the actual consequences of nuclear explosions, etc. Written by an engineer at Oak Ridge National Lab named Cresson H. Kearny, the foreword is by Dr Teller. It appears to be copyright free.

    He describes several shelters that can be built by a family of four using common tools and stuff around your house, like shower curtains. How to build an air pump to circulate fresh air into your backyard trench, etc.

    Here’s a link to the site I downloaded it from.

  106. 106
    Peale says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady): so? They voted for this shit. Maybe farmers shouldn’t be central to our trade policy any longer. We mock the gop for acting like coal and steam power should be the future growth industries. But this idea that we need trade policy centered on wheat is just as old fashioned. They voted for this shit so they should get what they wanted good and hard.

  107. 107
    FlyingToaster says:

    @Miss Bianca: Not in the tiny private school WarriorGirl attends. The public schools might, but OTOH, we’re in Watertown and the last thing we want to do is remember the fucking Tsarnaevs.

  108. 108
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    @Shana: Late to the show, but congratulations! You are rightly proud of her. So glad to see younger folk in leadership.

  109. 109
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes: We didn’t run into many tourists, since we were pretty self-contained and a little off the beaten track. Here’s one place we explored.

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    Gin & Tonic says:

    @J R in WV: My take on it is the old line: the living will envy the dead.

  111. 111
    Lizzy L says:

    @J R in WV: My next door neighbor (talking about the 1950s) had a fallout shelter. Hole in the ground, air vents, places to sleep, stockpile of canned food… Just thinking about it gives me the shivers.

  112. 112
    Betsy says:

    @Ryan: Yes, Depends are indigenous to Florida.

  113. 113
    J R in WV says:

    @J R in WV:

    Well, I wrote that, the kitchen timer started to ding, I spent a couple of hours building eggplant parm my way, it was done.

    Now we’ve had the eggplant, it was great, and I’ve come back to see that the comment loaded correctly, and the link to the site where the book lives works. It has a ton of good info, more about what Cheryl mentions in the O. P. – how much thickness of what material protects how much, etc.

    You can order radiation detectors from Amazon, unlike when this book was written. I have one, as a rock collector I didn’t want to collect an interesting rock in Colorado or Wyoming or Arizona that was hot without knowing about it.

    I found the book informative and interesting.

    Do with it what you will.

    Here’s hoping none of us will ever need it!!

  114. 114
    Alain the site fixer says:

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes: FYI I’ve tried to run your submission but there is an issue. I’m not ignoring your great submission!

  115. 115
    Chip Daniels says:

    @Ruff the Dog: Nice map.
    I live at Ground Zero in Los Angeles, so I figger it would be quick.

  116. 116
    Sab says:

    @Lizzy L: When I was a child in Florida me next door neighbors had a bomb shelter. It was pretty useless, however, because snakes were always getting into it.

  117. 117
    J R in WV says:

    @Lizzy L:

    Well, yes. I was 11 during the Cuban Missile crisis, which may have been the closest to all out nuclear exchange we ever came. I tried to dig a shelter in the crawl space under our home with a pick and shovel. Bedrock, a hard sandstone layer that capped the ridge we lived on, was about 18 inches down.

    I worked like a little beaver after dinner / news broadcast every night. I don’t know what my folks thought. They didn’t discourage me, but didn’t encourage me either.

    One time when I came home on liberty from the Navy, they had a new furnace down there. The plumbers came in with a big air compressor, jack-hammers, and turned my little notch in the rock into a big space with a concrete floor, with both a water heater and a furnace. I guess
    I saved them a couple of hundred dollars in plumber hours, maybe.

    The cellar we have wasn’t intended to be a fallout shelter, or it wouldn’t be needing a lot of remodeling to be so. I don’t do things by half. Like most, I don’t know at this point of my life if the work would be worth it. If I had kids and grandkids, that would be different.

  118. 118
    laura says:

    @Shana: Shana! You are rich in the thing that money can’t buy. I cannot imagine how proud a parent can be in the achievements of a child, but imagine that you have won the Power Ball -except for the money part.
    If children are a gift to the future, I’m grateful to live among such decent, striving, engaged people such as your daughter.
    You’ve got a lot to be proud of.

  119. 119
    J R in WV says:


    Isn’t bragging if it’s plain truth!!!

    Congratulations. You raised her right, obviously.

    Have you shown her Balloon Juice??? That would be wrong! ;-)

  120. 120
  121. 121

    @Jay S: The solution to pollution is dilution. By the time the wastewater goes into the sewer line and then to the processing plant, it’s at harmless concentrations. What it can do, however, is volatilize in even smaller concentrations and mess up the diagnostics for figuring out North Korean nuclear tests. There’s enough I-131 from Japan, mostly coming directly from reactors I think, that it’s reported after the tests, but not more than fluctuations of an increasing background. And the North Koreans are very good at containing their tests!

  122. 122
    Tynan says:

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes: Yeah, it’s crazy. I’ve been living in Hanoi two years now and people still love to get their picture taken with me.

    Love everything about this country except the air quality and people’s driving habits.

  123. 123
    Jay S says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: So as long as my nuclear waste is water soluble I’m good to flush. Cool ;-)

  124. 124
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I recall seeing reports by “the sky is falling!” panic merchants about I-131 detected in Boston harbour shortly after the Fukushima releases. Pointing out the number of hospitals in the area that dump waste I-131 from treatment facilities into the city’s sewer system didn’t help. Reactors release very little to no I-131 when operating normally as gaseous fission products such as Xe-135 and I-131 are contained within the fuel rod cladding. I suspect any “in the wild” I-131 around Japan is due to hospital use and people (and animals) treated with I-131 excreting it normally.

    Humanity has got very good at detecting and measuring very small amounts of radioactive material. Some Fukushima-specific contamination was found in a salmon from the Pacific caught in 2016 — the measured result was 0.07Bq per kilo of Cs-134. That means a kilo of fish tissue emitted one particle from one atom of Cs-134 decaying every fifteen seconds. It required exposure in the detector shielded from outside influences for nearly two weeks to characterise that amount of activity. Natural radiation from Po-210 in fish is more than 70Bq/kilo.

  125. 125

    @Robert Sneddon: Yes. It’s hard to be sure without knowing everything about the reactors in Japan. After each North Korean nuclear test except the last, there’s been a back and forth, partly on Twitter, about isotopic detection and what it may mean. The last test was big enough that it was obviously thermonuclear, which is usually the question being debated. And it seems to have jangled up the mountain enough that maybe there will be some leakage from the next test. That would tell us something about the design of the bomb.

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