Planning for Broadcasted Radiological Contamination

Radiological Effects from Fukushima – DEFENSE, Part I

Scenario – Fukushima 3 and 4 both experience catastrophic failures of their spent fuel rod storage pools, resulting in complete loss of cooling. All fuel rods ignite and, through a series of events, release massive amounts of radioactive material into the jet stream patterns of the northern hemisphere. Private radiation monitoring stations confirm the spread in advance of official warnings and eventual official notification to the public.

Much of this material is broadcasted initially along the western coast of the continental United States, portions of Canada and Alaska, and then deeper into the mainland to just east of the Rockies. The distribution of material is widespread, and increasingly dense. The chances of some of this material depositing within a given area grow by the week. The level of contamination rises and spreads east with time. The great agricultural middle of the US is heavily affected by contamination of the topsoil.

Rapidly, it becomes clear that uncontrolled agricultural activity will produce food stuffs with unacceptable levels of contamination. It is also clear that the debris will noticeably contaminate the snow packs, rivers and streams, reservoirs and lakes. Thus, arable land and the irrigation sources for it are both affected.

Objective – Determine how to reduce the risks associated with these conditions.

The mix of radioactive elements likely to rain down in this scenario are so widely varied in their weights and half lives that working to eliminate just one makes little sense. All must be considered eternally dangerous, and abated equally. The plan is simple. Keep the bad stuff away from the good stuff. This means barriers to keep it out of certain places, and removal methods for others.

Things we need to keep safe include

  • Gardening soil, compost piles
  • Pasture /farm soils
  • Water supply for home, pets /livestock and garden
  • Air for home, automobiles and other structures
  • Food stocks

Equipment Required

  • Radiological meters /dosimeters
  • Filters – HEPA, water
  • Greenhouse building materials and spares
  • Weather sealing for buildings
  • Solar /battery powered air pumps
  • Respirators and masks


The first method of ensuring good soil is to protect it from initial contamination. For the Prepper, who most likely runs an operation entirely on his own land (or within his backyard), the most secure and stable way to accomplish this is to build a green house, or other covered structure such as hoop and plastic sheet.

Built properly, this will keep radiological debris off the garden soil, and divert it away from the area. The structure should be air and water tight when all vents are closed – no leaks at all. Hoses or sprinklers wash the roof, directing washed contaminants to a single collection point via gutters or valleys. From here, downspouts dump the effluent into a transport line capable of relocating the waste to a safe and distant point. The transport line is made up of a gutter or culvert pipe sloped away from the building towards a sacrificial dump. Basically, the idea is to deny the opportunity for “fallout” to become part of the structure, its foundation and surrounding grounds.

To disallow the buildup of contamination within the soil directly around the green house, a concrete skirt can be poured around the foundation. Its design directs water away from the foundation and into a series of gutters which then connect to the transport line. Temporary substitutes can be used, such a corrugated materials, sheeting, tarps and others, but these will eventually fail or shift position and won’t work as efficiently as a well designed, permanent structure. The surface of the concrete needs to do two things. The first is to allow for a good washing. The second is to be coarse enough to provide traction for people’s footwear.

Hoop and plastic greenhouses can do some of the same, but since they traditionally are constructed without a foundation, contaminants could conceivably leach through the soil just outside the base and into the growing area. It would be wise to provide some sort of foundation at least 24” deep, or 8 -10” deeper than the frost line. Heavy timbers can be used… concrete is better. As with the permanent structure, skirting is important. If the row greenhouses are used every season, the grounds should be evaluated to determine if proper drainage can be established. Heavy tarps might work between rows if they rows are kept narrow enough.

Wash systems and decontamination procedures are required. This means thoroughly washing away contaminants from the roofs are essential. At a minimum, a garden hose can be used as long as the person doing the maintenance can perform his work from a position protected from drips, drainage and back spray. Optimally, the roof structure show be gently washed, and not pressure sprayed. Overspray will transport contamination away from the roof and onto any and all surrounding grounds, structures and people. Fallout buildup might need to be scrubbed away at some point, but never should high pressure nozzles be employed. In the cases of hoop structures, small units can be washed with a garden hose. Larger units will need some form of pipe work up on the crown. Stubborn deposits can be loosened with a sponge mop on a long handle. Always perform this work from a point at least as high as the surface being cleaned.

Low flow piping and nozzles can do much of the rinsing without the worker having to get near the area. As a rule, any washing system pipes and nozzles should be located at the crest of the roof, angling downward, with a stream that covers the crest. The roof design needs to take into account that wash water will spread out, and thus needs to be contained by properly designed slopes. For instance, a greenhouse structure with a single plane, south facing slope might incorporate gutters along both sides as well as the bottom edge, so that all wash water is directed to the drain spout, and the transport piping. If the roof is made of two sections, slightly angling towards each other, a single valley can be used to handle all of the waste water. If the wash is done by hand with a garden hose, the worker should have access to the entire length of the high side, from a position that will prevent overspray from blowing back on him.

In this scenario, we are assuming that contaminants will arrive at random, and often enough to be a risk. Working near structures that collect and concentrate this contamination is dangerous not just because of the radiation acting on a body, but also by the inhalation of it. Surface decontamination processes often lead to a localized stirring-up of debris. It is important to protect the lungs from this.

Full Face Respirator – no filters attached

This can be accomplished by the use of high quality masks or respirators rated to a P100 level. Full face respirators are the best option, and can be purchased for under $80. Replacement filters can be found for under $20. The full face mask is able to prevent contaminants from getting in the wearer’s eyes, and entering into his system via the tear ducts.

Masks are a good alternative considering their price, but must be of the type that will mold to the face of the wearer. When selecting a mask, be sure it is contoured for the face and includes a valve for exhalation. With out the valve, the mask will separate from the face with each breath, and will eventually fail to reseal. The mask should include elastic bands that wrap around the back of the head. Avoid any masks that simply loop behind the ears, as these do not form tight seals, and are primarily designed to keep germs to the wearer and away from those nearby. They are not very good at keeping contaminants from the wearer. Here is an example of one of these masks. The Moldex 2360 P100 Disposable Respirator Mask.

If contamination is heavy, a full body suit might be in order, to prevent tracking debris into the home or other locations. Disposable Dupont Tyvek Coveralls suits, over shoes and gloves will round out the outfit. Also, if there is a chance that waste water will contact the worker, these precautions should be considered. Personal decontamination is easier when an over-suit, or even a makeshift plastic coverall can be discarded.

With a good drainage system in place, each rainfall will help to clean things up. Any fallout contained within it will leave residue behind, but this can be dealt with as described above. A good clean rain will go a long way towards rinsing the gutters and transports, and diluting the dump area located off site.

The second method of dealing with dead dirt is to scrape off the contaminated top soil and set it far aside. This is included in official documentation for the recovery of agriculture after a nuclear exchange. However, this does not work well in a situation where contaminants are semi regularly raining down. There is only so much productive top soil available. Once scraped, the remaining soil must be protected from further contamination, which takes us back to method one. Consider soil scraping to be a one-time activity.

Indoor Gardening

An alternative to maintaining specialized outdoor facilities is to create an indoor gardening center. Homes with sunrooms are especially adaptable. Sunrooms with a southern exposure are well suited for greenhouse conversion. By incorporating vertical gardening techniques, compact containers, vertical wall units and racks, drip irrigation and other compact gardening methods, a sun room can produce more than might be expected.

Many home improvement stores offer add-on glass room and porch enclosures that would serve well as a sun room greenhouse when sited properly. They are weather tight and strong.


Government instructions regarding the use of farm land, crops and feed vary depending on the degree of contamination. All instructions assume a single event, but of varying intensity. The instructions assume there will not be another attack. With a regular deposition of contaminants, the instructions have little long term utility.

Here are some excerpts from “Defense Against Radioactive Fallout on the Farm” – download available HERE.

Would fallout affect my system of farming?

It could. Seriously contaminated land may need to lie fallow for as long as a season. After this, fallout may require a change to non-food crops or to food crops that do not absorb large amounts of radioactive materials from the soil. Alfalfa, clover, soybeans, and leafy vegetables have a greater tendency to absorb long-lived radioactive strontium than cereal grains, grasses, corn, potatoes, and fruits. Guidance on suggested crops to plant will come from USDA county defense boards.

Would fallout reduce economic productivity of crop and pasture lands?

Fallout might reduce such productivity in several ways: (1) Crop and soil management could be impeded because of danger from external radiation; (2) some crops might be killed by contamination; (3) other crops might become contaminated to a degree where they would be unmarketable; and (4) economic value of food grown on contaminated land might be less than that of other competitive crops.

What are the effects of fallout on growing vegetables?

Growing vegetables that are exposed to heavy fallout may become highly contaminated. Leaves, pods, and fruits that retain fallout material should be cleaned before being eaten. Washing is probably the most effective measure, just as it is the best way to clean garden foods that get dirty from any other cause. Radiation from heavy fallout may affect plant growth. Roots and tubers absorb little contamination from fallout before it is mixed with the soil. The normal cleaning or peeling of underground vegetables such as potatoes or carrots would be adequate for removing fallout.

What are the effects of fallout on fruits?

If fallout is heavy, ripe fruits may be lost because of the personal hazard involved in harvesting them. Fruits that do not have to be picked immediately can be saved. They should be washed before they are eaten.

Would fallout limit use of plants for human food?

It depends on the extent of radioactivity. Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, should not be eaten unless they are thoroughly washed, or are known to be free of hazardous amounts of radioactive materials.

It is clear that newly deposited radiological debris is a distinct hazard, and the conditions under which it is deposited might make intervention impossible. Returning the soil and grazing land to safe use may be difficult and expensive. For repeating events, we may have to assume that such a way of farming will become dangerous or impossible. Download and read the “Defense Against Radioactive Fallout on the Farm” publication (1958) for possible ideas.


All living things require clean safe water. Fortunately, fallout is a physical material with measurable mass, and our modern filtration systems are capable of removing it. At issue, though, are the filters themselves. While many modern filters can be cleaned and rejuvenated, this is normally done in the absence of radiation. Cleaning a fallout contaminated filter will require a few safety measures.

The greater the contamination, the greater the radioactive exposure during service. To get an idea of what the servicer will endure, he should have a meter with him. He will also likely need a way to measure the overall accumulated exposure with some sort of dosimeter.

Along with a way to evaluate the radioactivity, the servicer will need to protect against inhalation and ingestion. Again, it is recommended that he make use of a good full face respirator, or a sealed mask at a minimum. Gloves and a disposable suit round out the equipment list.

If the filter is of the sort that is cleaned through pressure washing, back flushing or any other method that requires water under pressure, it is best to do the servicing of the unit outdoors in an area that will allow the contaminated wash water to flow into the waste transport system mentioned earlier. It may be advisable to setup a temporary plastic shelter to control over-spray and splashing.

Ceramic filters of the sort that are cleaned by scrubbing (such as Berkey Blacks)
can be cleaned initially in a bucket. After the outer surface has been scoured, it can be rinsed with clean water, and scoured again. After two passes in this manner, it can be cleaned as usual since the radioactive materials are most likely gone. If there remains any doubt, check it with a meter.

Filter unit containers will need to be flushed and sanitized. The individual system components can be tested for leftover debris with a low range fallout meter. After each component passes inspection, the filter can be reassembled.


Air filtration is a necessity in a radiological environment. A few particles of the wrong type can lodge in lung tissue and result in a cancer. HEPA filters are effective in cleaning the air supply. In conjunction with positive pressure systems, the living areas of any building of relatively tight construction can be made safe.

Vehicles with sealed cabs can make use of HEPA cabin filters to prevent fallout ingress. If HEPA filters are not available for the vehicle in question, they can be adapted from existing filters, though this work will be difficult, and should be undertaken by a craftsman or body man of some sort. This work is easier if the vehicle has filters that can serve as templates for the modification.

Building filtration systems are simple in concept. The idea is to pull in outside air through a filter box. If the volume of air being pumped or sucked into the building exceeds the volume exiting through window vents and holes, the pressure inside the building will increase. Forcing air out through the leaks prevents any contaminated air from coming in through those same leaks.

The filter box itself is easy to construct. HEPA filters for A/C units are perfect material to start with. A sample device would be a 20”x20” HEPA filter element built for residential A/C units. Construct a box with an air pump drawing air into it. At the far end sits the HEPA filter, clamped into place against a flange so that all air must pass through it. The box’s own outer flange is built to rest against any opening the builder sees fit. It could be in a window, an open doorway or a purpose-built entry into the home. Wherever is sits, it must draw outside air through the filter and into the home, where its intake volume creates a positive pressure in comparison with the outside. Having the air pump inside the building allows for servicing it. It also makes connecting it to a power source easier.

As a side note, this also is a great way to pressurize a single room as an indoor safe room against NBC threats. Some homes, for whatever reason, can not be made safe without some serious rework, and in these cases a safe room makes sense.

One other thing to note regarding buildings and vehicles is that each of them tends to concentrate pollutants. Air entering in brings with it various contaminants. These particles settle out onto the carpet, furniture, seats, dash, etc…. They usually don’t go away, but build up over time. Dust might not be much of an issue, but radioactive particles and biological weapon debris will be. This is just one more way to visualize the dangers associated with deadly particles.


Food stored indoors is basically safe. Canned and boxed items can be cleaned off if they become contaminated. Anything stored outdoors in sheds and cellars needs to be inspected, especially if stored in loosely closed bags, or hanging on hooks! If it can not be washed in a secure manner, it needs to be disposed. If the home can not be securely over-pressured, then it may be a good idea to determine if sections of it can. One of those might be the pantry or bulk storage room.



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