The nuclear threat has never seen much interest in my years of covering radiation on Prepping 101, now matter how click-baity I made the title. Nobody has been really all that interested, and I suspect that this will still be the case.
After careful thought, I have determined this to not be very wise. Because even outside of the threat of nuclear war, the dangers of our and poorly maintained nuclear plants are not something to be taken lightly. If you really think that civil society is on a downward spiral, who do you think is going to stick around for the several months that it takes to safety shut down a nuke plant?
Now here comes the threat of nuclear war again. New York City put out a video this week on their Youtube channel warning about the “big one,” and what to do when it hits. They also paid to broadcast the message on public television. “Don’t ask me how or why. Just know that the big one has hit.” Signs in malls in New Jersey about the topic have also been found and gone viral.
That tells me that the psychotic monsters in charge of this engineered collapse in which we currently live have something nuclear up their sleeve soon. It could be a real explosion labelled as nuclear. It could be completely fake like most of the Ukraine war, or it could be that they actually do pop a nuclear explosion in a major city. If you are a prepper, this is DEFCON 5 shit.
So for the sake of those of you who are new to this space, I will reprise some of the most important things.
Radiation from a nuclear explosion is extremely localized, and stays mostly local. So having the ability to reliably gauge what is going on is crucial. You probably don’t need a fallout shelter. But you do need to know that you are safe, even though you may have been told that a nuclear event happened close to your location. Without the ability to measure what is a completely invisible threat, you could decide to move away from a safe, known space with resources into the wild unknown.
There are two “types” of radiation, high level and low level. Primarily you will always be measuring gamma radiation. Beta can come down in fallout, as can alpha to some extent, but radioactive particles are heavy and without significant wind will fall straight down. Stay inside and you’ll be fine.
High level is anything over a “rad” an hour. You will find this also called a Roentgen. And then most measurement instruments of the modern era will measure in Sieverts. For practical purposes, one Sievert is the equivalent of 100 Reontgens/rads, so you just move the decimal two places.
Background radiation in most of the United States is under or slightly over .1 micro-Sieverts/hr., so millionths of a Sievert. It is almost nothing, and is comfortably measured by any Geiger counter type of device available, even the cheap circuit board science project ones that you solder yourself.
So an “event” is going to be a drastic difference. And that is why first time in all of these years of this column, I was able to wrap my head around why a Geiger is really all you need to tell if you need to know enough to just get out of there. Even if your cheap Geiger blanks out on you, well you know it didn’t do that an hour ago, or yesterday or whatever, and it is probably time to get out of Dodge.
My impetus for this article came from finding a reasonably priced low level Geiger that behaves much better than other cheap Geigers I have tested over the years. I will explain this below.
But first, I bet the smart ones among you (no not the guys who already left a comment below that I should not curse), have already figured out that this premise is only half true. What if the phones went out and you are hearing about large explosions all over the world on your HF rig? Well in that case you may want to have access to a high level meter. Especially if you are part of a HAM network of people who also have high level meters, because your best bet may to just stay put.
The only option available to us plebes to measure high level radiation are meters that were made for the Civil Defense program in the 1960s at the height of the cold war. The simplest and most common unit is the CDV-715, and the other one I have found a lot of reliable examples of is the CDV-717. I wish you were paying attention back in November, because I found a cheap source of good working meters on Ebay at the time, for forty bucks shipped. Those days are gone.
These days, Ebay is loaded with scammers claiming that their meters have been calibrated, and they start at about $150. These meters have not in any way been calibrated. They are most likely able to pass their circuit test. but that’s about it.
There is only one place in the United States, or worldwide to my knowledge, to actually test and calibrate these meters. It is Shane Connor at Radmeters4U.com. They have the only licensed machine left in private hands after Bill Clinton defunded the Civil Defense program in the 1980s. The fee is still $112 plus return shipping to calibrate your meter. Shane should be charging several times that right now, especially with all of the scammers out there.
So there is no more risk in buying a cheaper meter on Ebay and sending it directly to Shane than buying one of the “calibrated” meters, and at least you’ll know that you have a solid meter.
In my experience, unless there is visible corrosion on the board inside, or in the case, a meter that passes its circuit test calibrates fine, and is not even that far off. So if you have a seller who says “I don’t know if this works, offer to send them a D battery from Walmart delivery maybe. Most likely they either know the meter doesn’t work, or it does. If you can just get a meter by can’t afford to send it out, it is most likely fine to let you know an approximate idea of what is going on. It isn’t like once calibrated, the people who own these meters before you gave them to their 2 year old to play with the dials for fun. I don’t think most people ever touch them.
So if I Need a Geiger, Why This Geiger?
It just so happened that the PSA from New York City came out this week, because I was hoping to cover this little meter in Grid Down this week anyway. They just arrived and I have never encountered a low level Geiger that is robust as this little machine. And if you look back through Prepping 101, I have been chewing on this bone regularly since 2014. I have literally at least two dozen different Geigers, from the CDV-700, to the brand new and supposedly “high level meters from GQ electronics (NOT).
I guess I should probably address the CDV-700 first, because it looks just like a CDV-715, and it even came in a kit with two of them. The CDV-700 is just a regular Geiger tube measurement device. It was provided to Civil Defense specifically because the ion chamber units were completely useless short of a nuclear cataclysm. It is no better or worse than any other Geiger, but they go for big money on Ebay. People just don’t know any better.
I have covered several much better, and less expensive choices over the years on Prepping 101, even some DIY kits. But they all suffered the same problem. When confronted with even a tiny test source of cesium-137, a common material in nuclear blasts and power plant failures, the meter blanks out, or shows a crazy reading. Some of them never even come back down.
This new meter is just the opposite. It has a GM (Geiger-Mueller) tube just like the rest of them, but at the saturation point of the tube, where detection between counts is difficult, it doesn’t die of freak out. It gives you it’s highest ability to measure, which seems to be around 120 uSv/hr. This translates to 12 millirads/hr., which is outside the bounds of a “standard” russian GM tube like the SBM-20 found in most small electronic units. I have not opened it up, but it must have either an authentic Russian CI-3BG / SI-3BG, or a Chinese copy of that tube. This tube is used in Russian high/low level combo meters I have covered at length over the years.
The GQ Instruments machines that are able to do higher radiation levels contain this tube, along with an SBM-20. They seem to be great machines, but the software could be stronger. It takes a long time to come back down to normal once the test material is removed. If you have the money, I would say that the GMC 500+ is a good investment. It can handle up to about .5r/hr. If you are above that, you really need to leave.
This machine at Star & Bullock, which has no name to speak of, is different than other meters I have tested in this same chassis and that look identical. This model also does electrical field analysis, magnetic field analysis, and radio frequency analysis. So there is different software, and that software is much more robust than others I have tried. It not only measures up to its ability, but also returns to normal background almost instantly when the test source is removed. I think that makes it a low cost high quality instrument.
My biggest peeve with it is that I wish it used a removable battery instead of a rechargeable 3.7v lithium pad. They are common enough to be able to carry extras, but they lack the convenience of a standard supermarket battery. the GQ machines use a much more common 3.7v 18650 rechargeable, but still not one you will find in Walmart.
The other thing is the thick plastic case without any window cut in it to directly expose the tube. And the case is somewhat hard to get apart. I removed the two screws and didn’t want to force it, as it did not just separate. I suspect that this meter would do everything that the 500+ will do, and all you have to do is expose the tube. This would include measuring beta particles that may be falling in the air column.
Note that none of these meters will measure radioactive food, radioactive soil, or most likely even a person who is covered in radioactive particles. For that you need a completely different type of extra sensitive meter, and they generally only measure one isotope at a time, and require a computer with software to even get started. Suffice it to say that you should stay away from food that isn’t yours for a while, as there are plenty of examples of contaminated food being distributed after nuclear events in the past.
In many ways I can’t believe I am still in the trenches trying to get information out there. We are far beyond the point where you should expect that something is seriously up, and I would argue that preparing for that should be an absolute priority. When the rubber meets the road, and you are starving to death, or your skin is peeling off from radiation, there is zero chance that you will say “I’d rather not live in a world like this anyway.” You will want to live, but you won’t. Get busy. This is not infotainment.