Type to search

How To Survive A Nuclear Meltdown (Essential Prepper Guide)

nuclear meltdown

How To Survive A Nuclear Meltdown (Essential Prepper Guide)

The art of prepping means considering all the dismal doomsday possibilities, including a nuclear meltdown or nuclear war.  While some call it being paranoid, I like to think of myself as someone who sleeps better than others at night. If and when a fallout occurs due to a nuclear reactor melting down or a nuclear war, at least I have given myself a fighting chance. You probably won’t be attacked in a parking lot, however, knowing some self-defense if you are could only serve to help save you. Prepping, as a general rule, is exactly the same mindset. It is less paranoia and much more about preparation. That’s why I wrote my prepper guide, how to survive a nuclear meltdown. To be honest, it isn’t as difficult nor as expensive as you might think it is to prep for a nuclear meltdown. It just takes a little reading, a little effort, and then you will be in a better position for survival than you were prior to reading this guide.

In case you weren’t aware, there are nuclear reactors all over the world and all over the United States. You might even live by one (and probably do). And just in case you weren’t aware, nuclear reactor meltdowns do happen. Back in 2011, the Fukushima nuclear meltdown happened after a large tsunami cut the power to it. To this day, it still leaks contaminated nuclear material into our oceans. And there is little sign that it will stop doing so anytime soon. To know how to survive a nuclear meltdown, we first must understand a number of facts about what happens when a nuclear reactor melts down. Heck, what is a nuclear reactor?

What Is A Nuclear Reactor?

Nuclear reactors are nuclear systems used to generate power. There are more than 30 countries which house nuclear reactors. Essentially, the heat or “thermal energy” of a nuclear reactor is translated into a more mechanical energy. Commonly, uranium-235 is used by the reactors as a

Nuclear power plants are a rather commonplace. The need for energy and electricity is endless. They can also be used for the propulsion of ships.

A nuclear reactor’s controversy surrounds the inherent risk of a nuclear meltdown.

Do I Live Near A Nuclear Reactor?

Do you live near a nuclear reactor? Here’s a handy map of the ones located in the United States. Hint: you most likely do.

nuclear reactor map

Here’s a nuclear reactor world map.

nuclear reactor world map


Many super populated areas are at risk for the potential direct fall out from a nuclear meltdown. And even those of us who may live further out, we all remain at risk because the atmosphere and our general ecosystem is a pipeline that carries the good and the bad to us.

Which cities are closest to nuclear reactors? There are many.

nuclear reactors near american cities

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station 2013 photo D Ramey Logan.jpg

Cities Closest To Nuclear Reactors

Pittsburg is a mere 10 miles or so from the Beaver Valley Power station. If you’ve been to the north side of Allegheny county, you’ve possibly seen the reactor causing “nuclear snow” in the coldest times of winter.

Charlotte residents have two problems: McGuire Nuclear Plant (under 20 miles in distance) and Catawba Nuclear Station (around 50 miles). A terrorist plot could involve both locations as a way to maximize potential deaths. It would be important to consider this if you opt to evacuate or bug out. You wouldn’t want to risk driving into another nuclear situation.

New York City is under 30 miles away from Point Energy Sector. Bugging out of New York City would be hell on earth.

Limerick Generating Station is just under 30 miles away from the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia.

Columbia, North Carolina is flanked by Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station (just at 20 miles in distance).

Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station sits just on top of Miami. It is around 25 miles in distance.

Just over 30 miles from New Orleans sits Waterford Nuclear Generating Station.

Cleveland has two issues: Perry Nuclear Power Plant (30 miles) and  Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station (70 miles). Should be a consideration for an evacuation or bug out plan.

Monticello Nuclear Generating and Plant Prairie Island Plant flank Minneapolis at just under 40 miles each. Should be a consideration for an evacuation or bug out plan.

Phoenix | Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station | 40 miles

San Diego | San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station | Just Over 40 Miles to North

Los Angeles | San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station | 60 miles, this time to the south

Houston | South Texas Nuclear Generating Station | 90 Miles

Kansas City | Wolf Creek Power Plant | 90 Miles

What Is A Nuclear Meltdown?

According to Wikipedia, a nuclear meltdown is a “severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating.” It is mostly considered by experts to be accidental.

So think of it in simplistic terms: A nuclear reactor is dealing with extreme levels of heat, therefore, it has a cooling system that functions to regulate the temperature to a point that is safe for the reactor to perform its tasks. But if the cooling system fails to function, the nuclear reactor will heat up unabated and there is little that man can do to intervene. The 2011 tsunami in Japan took out the Fukushima reactor’s power, this killed the cooling system and caused three nuclear reactor cores to overheat, or, meltdown. Internal fires could also comprise the stable temperature of the nuclear reactor.

One major concern when it comes to the stability of our nuclear reactors is that of terrorism. Many terrorism experts believe that nuclear reactors are perfect targets for terrorist, particularly those looking to do harm to the United States. Kill the power supplies to the San Onofre, California nuclear reactor and immediately put the lives of millions at risk for sickness and death.

Keep in mind, we are only considering nuclear reactors in the way or nuclear power plants into this prepper risk equation. Uranium enrichment plants, civilian research reactors, and fuel fabrication plants are also risky business. But we’d be here all day if we got into every potential scenario. Just know this: Most all of us are at risk for a nuclear meltdown. Every one of us should consider how to survive a nuclear meltdown. Prepping is all about simple steps before massive leaps. You don’t need to build the nuclear bomb shelter just yet, you can do little things that have big effects on your livelihood.

How To Survive A Nuclear Meltdown

If you can evacuate, do so….

If you remain unphased by everything you’ve read and don’t think you’d ever need to know how to survive a nuclear meltdown, you should simply move on. But if your common sense has appealed to you and you realize that a nuclear meltdown potential is not something of sci-fi fantasy, keep reading, because there are things you can do to help increase you and your family’s odds of survival.

After a nuclear event takes place, the contamination will settle all over everything. If you are able to get the hell out of dodge and bug out, definitely do so. Preferably, you’d want to get at least 100 miles away from the nuclear meltdown to give you and your family the best odds for survival.

Otherwise, if you have a sealed off basement, get in it. This is when having some supplies for long term survival will benefit you hugely. Long term food storage, water, backup batteries for electronics and phones, two-way radios, and medications.

If you could have radiation-proof protective suits, that would be great. But they cost a good amount of money so that may not be possible to have on hand.

If you happen to live next door to a nuclear reactor when terrorists attack it, your odds aren’t good in any scenario. Consider moving if it at possible. But for the rest of us, we will have time to prep.

Nuclear meltdowns lead to illnesses just as much as they lead to death. In fact, thyroid cancer is a top killer from nuclear meltdown aftermaths. Here’s a study on nuclear detonation and thyroid cancer. The study mentions potassium iodide prophylaxis as a solution. “The concept behind giving the iodide prophylaxis is the observation that stable iodine supplementation in an iodine deficient population can modify the risk of development of thyroid cancer”

So preppers, start here:  You will want to have some potassium 
iodide (KI) handy (here’s some on Amazon).

fukushima iodine pills

For any nuclear fallout scenario, thyroid cancer would be a possible plague and health officials recommend these pills as a way to be preventative (but you’d have them and not be at risk for limited supplies or supplies being raided). According to the product, “Potassium iodide should be taken as soon as possible after public health officials tell you.  You should take one dose every 24 hours.  More will not help you because the thyroid can “hold” only limited amounts of iodine.  Larger doses will increase the risk of side effects.  You will probably be told not to take the drug for more than 10 days.”

Radiation Towellets are highly recommended as a way to clean off radiation. Here’s a family pack on Amazon.

family radiation protection towellets

Make sure you have a bug out bag ready to go. If you aren’t sure what a bug out bag is or need more info, check out my bug out bag essentials article. You can build your own using that survival item list as a guide, or buy up a pre-made bug out bag from Amazon (it is pretty good, but like anything, nothing beats building your own).


You Get Contaminated, What Should You Do?

If you do get nuclear contamination on you, time will be of the essence. Make sure you get to a safe space where you can deal with the contamination without causing more damage. You will need to immediately take off all clothing. Put those clothes in a plastic bag and have them buried. DO NOT BURY THEM NEAR YOUR HOME OR ANYONE ELSE’S HOMES.

Following this, take a shower and scrub all parts of your body thoroughly. You need to get all traces of the contamination removed from your body.

Do your best to stay away from others, even those who may feel a need to help you. They could be making things worse by infecting themselves and potentially spreading it to more areas where you and others are likely to congregate.

In conclusion, the government will tell you that a nuclear reactor meltdown simply isn’t a big threat anymore. Do you want to allow the government to guide your safety or do you want to make sure you possess the basic items and knowledge that would allow you to survive a nuclear meltdown? I think the answer is clear and obvious.

Feature photo credit:

Author: Jim Satney

PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.