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HHS purchases $290M worth of drugs for nuclear emergencies


If COVID taught us anything, the government is going to let these drugs expire useless, incinerate them, refuse to replenish them, and import loads of fakes when an actual crisis hits.

Snark aside, this may not be the case this time around. Relevant snippet:

> 2004 Project Bioshield Act and $290 million in Project BioShield designated funding to purchase this supply of the drug. Amgen will maintain this supply in vendor-managed inventory. This approach decreases life-cycle management costs for taxpayers because doses that near expiration can be rotated into the commercial market for rapid use prior to expiry and new doses can be added to the government supply.

I'm guessing $290M covers both the cost of the drugs as well as storage for some number of years. Would be nice to know for how long.


> If COVID taught us anything, the government is going to let these drugs expire useless, incinerate them, refuse to replenish them, and import loads of fakes when an actual crisis hits.

That’s a very weird take on this. So what should the government do in your opinion? Launch some nukes preemptively just so people could say “oh, at least we didn’t waste those anti-radiation medicines! we caused nuclear conflict, but who cares, drugs didn’t expire”?

Considering that the adversary is shifting their strategic bombers, sent their biggest sub with nuclear torpedoes into the sea, and the nuclear train is on the move towards Ukraine, this sounds like a good idea, no?


It's an especially stupid thing to point out when that's not the case here, as OP points out. Like, why even mention it then? There is enough negativity/pessimism around, no reason to add to it.


I am not trying to be negative. I mean, what’s brewing is not a subject to throw jokes around. It’s a genuine question, considering current geopolitical issues, when is the right time to prepare for a crisis if not now?


Thank you, this is why I value HN so much.


Collecting potassium iodine is not going to save Americans, that’s for sure. The amount of preparation for the American people to survive would be next to extraordinary. Most people these days do not have what it takes, and certainly our government does not, either.

The thing is that even if the missile defense system works 100% successfully for a nuke approaching the United States, the electromagnetic pulse above is enough to disable all electronic devices in the US. Like the trajectory of the plume covers the vast majority of the US, no matter what direction the nuke comes from.


> and the nuclear train is on the move towards Ukraine

This was debunked by the US Gov.


Good thing the US government does not have an incentive to lie in this case. Oh, wait. Maybe they want to avoid having taxpayers start panicking and rioting in the streets.

We are in the fog of war. The ground truth of such matters will be elusive until that fog lifts. In the meantime, no one should believe the propaganda spouted by their government without extraordinary proof.


Governments often have a tendency to think of stockpiles as indefinite items without a lifetime. But everything has a lifetime, as any good engineer would know.

"Let's stockpile nuclear emergency meds" is a good opportunity to forget about expirations and, 50 years from now, say "we're covered because in 2022 we stockpiled them and nothing happened since". Thankfully, as GP points out, this appears not to be the case... this time. But it did happen with Covid (and not just to the US! Many governments were guilty of this thinking)


Yes but that’s not a good argument against buying them now, instead it’s an argument in favour of setting up a replenishment programme for some fraction of the reserve every year after some initial delay.


> But it did happen with Covid

what do you mean? We did not have stockpiles of drugs because the drugs were not known and it took quite a bit of research to figure out what works and what does not.


Emergency management people think about stuff like this and plan for it.

Not sure what the COVID reference is, but vaccination storage and management was initially very complex (requiring ultra cold temperatures and special handling) and given the insanity of the media environment, it was essential that vaccine be available for people who showed up, which meant wasting unused vaccines.


My point is that the political imperative leads politicians on both ends to take on many unfunded liabilities without planning for continuity or completion. I'm hoping that the extended storage for this is well accounted for and immunized against the whims of the next administration.


You quoted the important part. Specifically, this paragraph negates your post.

> 2004 Project Bioshield Act and $290 million in Project BioShield designated funding to purchase this supply of the drug. Amgen will maintain this supply in vendor-managed inventory. This approach decreases life-cycle management costs for taxpayers because doses that near expiration can be rotated into the commercial market for rapid use prior to expiry and new doses can be added to the government supply.

Read it carefully. Doses that approach expiration will be rotated into the commercial market and replenished with fresh doses.

There is very little cost to the supplier in doing that. They get to sell a healthy dose of medication for full retail value and the government always has a fresh, healthy supply. FIFO (First in, first out).

Most companies try to reduce the value of the products they have on hand to save in taxes and keep their operation lean. The government is basically stepping in and saying "We will make it worth your while to keep a bunch of this on hand. Just guarantee me X number of fresh doses and we're happy."


Yup. Here the government is not really maintaining a stockpile as conventionally imagined, but paying industry to rotate inventory through a buffer which is the size of the desired stockpile. Seems like this strategy would have avoided the 'expired PPE' problem we faced at the beginning of the pandemic.


To be fair, California's government required companies to have n95s to deal with wildfire smoke. Those masks were readily available and deployed during covid. It's not always doom and gloom.


Next time your preferred party (whichever one it may be) is looking to cut spending, just remember that everything looks necessary. Then someone gets appointed "to make the tough choices", and we're back at square one.


Drugs in pill form don't really expire, they just lose efficacy. And if stored well it takes a long time. I cant find it right now but someone found some pills that had been stored like 50 years in sealed containers and testing for the activr ingredient showed they were still like 80% or more good.


Shifting priorities upon leadership change is usually the reason for those types of issues. But two party systems have advantages in other ways.


> If COVID taught us anything, the government is going to let these drugs expire useless, incinerate them, refuse to replenish them, and import loads of fakes when an actual crisis hits.

What are you referring to? The US vaccine development, production, and distribution went quite well, all things considered. I remember the loudest complaint being that we weren’t giving away enough of our supply to other countries.


Tens of thousands of people died at the beginning of the pandemic due to lack of medical and PPE supplies. Nurses were wrapping themselves in garbage bags and searching out construction masks.


Yes, this is what I was talking about. It was an avoidable tragedy.


Not sure if they meant Monkeypox? There was a story in Aug about a substantial stock (20 million doses) of monkeypox vaccine that expired.


If it would be much better for these drugs to expire useless than to be used.


I carry a pack of KI in my EDC backpack and a second in my checked luggage. I figure with the amount of travel I do, my odds of having "shit pop off" when I'm traveling are pretty high (rather, the odds of it happening are low (<1%/yr, even this year), but if it is happening, it will most likely happen during travel/away from home). I've got an AirBoss gas mask, bug out bag, firearm, 2 weeks of food, 4 weeks of water cached (or more) in a few client offices around the US.


You have multiple guns at client offices? Also you live in Puerto Rico? If you want to be safe during a crisis event, moving out of Puerto Rico is probably way more important than all this role playing you seem to be doing.


All of my supplies fell into a lake during an unfortunate series of boating accidents.


This sounds like a funny joke even though I don't get it.


Do you have a little prepper cache in the office of your paying clients?

If I had an office and my contractor had a little stash like that I'd think it was kind of weird.


One of my clients let me expense rifle armor + 10k rounds of ammo + etc for certain personnel for onsite security team. I love crypto.

Another cache is in my retail gun shop (I'm a part-owner, not actually working there).


This sounds eerily reminiscent of a gentleman that once inquired about taping kevlar to his back to protect himself from sniper fire.


Obviously you can't take it if you don't have it/can't get it, but the utility for adults is widely over estimated.


I'm sure it's a total coincidence that there is a ready made excuse to justify KI rationing for people who are not military age in the event that we actually need to distribute the pills.

Call me a conspiracy theorist but after the "noble lie" about masks not being necessary in early 2020, a government website telling me we don't need as much medicine for people too old or too young to fight seems rather dubious.


Your theory is poorly formed or poorly expressed. The site there suggest giving overwhelming priority to the very young.

Edit: Folks, the FDA page I link prioritizes children over people of fighting age. It lists lower doses for children because they are physically smaller but repeatedly states that they are at higher risk of harm.


I don't think the FDA page is pre-rationing those substances. The United States, largely, does this on its own through economic activity because doing it through policy would be controversial, as you've shown. You would know these as Strategic National Stockpiles:


I wonder how many sites would ban you for saying this?




Wow, I actually didn't realize adult >40 was so much less indicated to take it than 18-40. I knew it was mainly an issue for children. I wonder if that's due to decreased thyroid activity, less lifespan to develop issues with thyroid cancer before dying of other causes, or what.


Do you also carry an N95? A Tyvek suit would also help.


I have a packet of KN94 in my pack (more for "required for compliance for covid" randomly happening, but also for this), and some gloves (nitrile 2x and 1x mechanicswear for shooting/climbing/hot/cold). Tyvek suit would be more hassle to carry vs. the benefit than I'm willing to do.


You can pack it quite small if you never tried, in the size of an average book, maybe less if you vacuum pack it.


It looks like there are grades of Tyvek - similar to masks? - what's the min level you'd recommend?


Yeah. Have a few in my backpack, one in the car, a whole bunch at home. I get that you wouldn't have one 3 years ago but most people have N95 nowadays, even if it's just leftover.


Most of the N95s are in government storage, slowly turning brown.


Well, whatever helps you sleep at night. I wouldn't want to live in a post-nuclear world.


I don't have any illusions that it would be fun, but I think I'd rather live even with the change of pace.


"change of pace"

Understatement of the year.


I'm mostly thinking about cases of a moderately limited incident, not complete all-out US vs USSR Cold War MAD countervalue exchange.


You already do.


"Fortunately" I have a super power now that removes my need for PI tablets!


What is KI? What is EDC?


Potassium iodide and everyday carry, I'd guess.


I'm appalled after decades of massive anti nuclear war protests and shuttle diplomacy that our 'leaders' are now almost casually sliding into the abyss of nuclear wars


Attacking a much smaller neighboring country and failing so miserably that they have to start making nuclear threats is hardly casual. That's a professional-tier fuckup. Given the apparently irrational decision making that's going on in this situation, we can only prepare in whatever ways we can.


During the cold war, the leadership of America made sure to try to deescalate, maintain multiple communications channels, and keep open favorable outlets to peaceful outcomes. It seems like a notable shift that none of these seem to be very prominent today.


The US also escalated at times, such as the reaction to missiles being placed in Cuba, which did almost provoke nuclear war.

And there was Nixon, who was busy trying to convince the world he was a madman willing to launch a nuclear strike to get what he wanted:


What kind of face-saving option should we offer Putin? Keeping in mind that we don't run Ukraine's diplomacy for them...

The Cold War featured American and Soviet pilots shooting at each other during the Korean War, supplying arms isn't nearly as big an escalation as supplying fighters.


The decision-making involved was quite rational if you assume Putin was operating with incomplete information. Had the war ended in two weeks, as it looked like it was going to right at the start, he would have met his domestic goals.

But then it turned out that Ukraine was more prepared than Russian intelligence thought, and Europe started flooding it with weapons. Given that Russia isn't taking the war half as seriously[1] as Ukraine is, none of what's happening is irrational or surprising.

[1] By design. Putin didn't want an existential conflict that required actual sacrifice on the part of his constituents, he just wanted an easy victory to cement his popularity. He's now stuck in a situation where he has few good options.


He also rotted Russia from the inside, putting only incompetent but loyal acolytes everywhere.

He was afraid of the Army, which is why it always treated it like shit, except for vanity projects.

Which is why they have hypersonic missiles and nuclear powered torpedoes, but no socks, uniforms and guns for recruits.


> decision-making involved was quite rational if you assume Putin was operating with incomplete information

This is stupid strategy. Military men millennia ago were beyond it. The fog of war is real. One maintains exit ramps. Fully committing at the onset of a war you unilaterally start is blunder, full stop.

Part is the fundamental weakness of dictatorship, a weakness our ancestors addressed with monarchy. (Bush and Nixon could walk away from failed wars their successors wrapped up without fear for their lives. As could Roman consuls.) But a larger part is broad stupidity, concentrated at the Kremlin.


UA was incompetently underestimated, given every political decision involves incomplete information


I agree with the general sentiment, but once you start calling in conscripts and mobilizing the population, it’s assumed you’re taking the war seriously.


I think you should clarify that by a much smaller country you mean largest country in Europe.

You also seem to be purposefully misinterpreting the OP's point about what is being considered "casual". Whether you think Putin is irrational or not has no bearing on the fact that most of our leaders seem to be treating a potential nuclear war after decades of shuttle diplomacy indeed very casually.


On what basis are you saying that leaders are treating this issue casually?



Russia could have had peace any time by leaving Ukraine. Instead they've lost somewhere north of 50 thousand men in 6 months and equipment numbers that are more reminiscent of WWII then a regional battle. There is an amazing amount of copium in your post.


Irrational in what sense? Ukraine is a pro-American country that’s steadfastly moving towards NATO membership.

If the US attacked Canada because China overthrew the government, installed a pro-Chinese president, and started making stronger legal pacts, bonds, and certifications with China would that be irrational?

Being anti war is fine, and amicable. But don’t get it twisted. Putin is acting rationally


> China overthrew the government, installed a pro-Chinese president

The first problem is that this "analogy" is not an accurate parallel to what happened in Ukraine. The US had no boots on the ground whatsoever.

There were mass protests, and then the elected parliament removed the president. Later, the people by a wide margin freely elected the current president, who is ardently against Russian interference.

There's not a democratic outcome here where "China" is illegitimately foisted upon the people of Canada.


> If the US attacked Canada ... would that be irrational?

No, because the US has the capability to invade Canada.

What's irrational about Putin is the self-defeating nature of his decision making. Both self-defeating for his country, as well as for the stability of his regime which translates into his personal safety.

He's embarrassed himself and his country, pushed Ukraine more towards the West, and achieved none of his strategic objectives.

I hope he is just behaving irrationally because of bad advice. The alternatives are more scary, because then the madman thing might not be an act.


It may have been rational to start the war from Putin's perspective but in no world it is rational to continue to pile in resource when they are obviously losing both the war and any remaining political influence globally.

At this point the war is continuing purely to fuel the ego of a dying dictator.


> Attacking a much smaller neighboring country and failing so miserably that they have to start making nuclear threats is hardly casual.

I assume he's talking about the US and the UK strong-arming Ukraine away from peace talks that had a chance at ending this conflict back in May. All the hawkish talk from Biden this whole time has been about dethroning Putin, leaving no face-saving diplomatic exit for him except escalation between nuclear powers, and that's exactly what's happening. The lessons of the past 70 years have gone out the window.


The sentiment is understandable but probably has nothing to do with the story. The US routinely buys these kinds of drugs for preparedness programs, has done so long before Ukraine was an issue, and planned this specific acquisition last year, when the drug in question was approved for the purpose.


Are you Russian? Because I'm pretty sure my leader isn't going to initiate nuclear war.


Not now, but who knows in 20 or 50 years ...


I'm guessing that in Putin's world view, what happens to the world after he dies is truly irrelevant. I.e., what he experiences is all that really matters, and he expects simple oblivion upon death.

If that's his perspective, then we all might just be NPCs to him.

I'm not excited about someone with little time to live, and existential dread / nihilism, having nukes.

Edit: This is pure speculation on my part. I have no reliable info on Putin's worldview.


He has a bunch of kids. Reports suggests he cares at least a bit about them.

The people around him might care too. It's not like in old Egypt where the servants were burried with the pharaon.


He actually seems to be taking the traditional Russian long view. They didn't get that big through clever land deals, after all.

One curiosity through this whole thing that seems to have gotten memory-holed: Boris Johnson, playing the role of Henry Kissinger, killing an early peace deal and keeping this mess going. Putin might have been looking just to keep NATO out of Ukraine. If that was the case (maybe not, see above) then this extended war might have been avoided.


> Boris Johnson, playing the role of Henry Kissinger, killing an early peace deal and keeping this mess going. Putin might have been looking just to keep NATO out of Ukraine.

This is odd revisionism. You can look back at articles that took place during the negotiations in late March and early April and see exactly what the Russians were saying then. The big sticking point was that Russia wanted Ukraine to agree to giving control of the Donbas and Crimea to Russia[1] before any meeting between Zelensky and Putin, while Ukraine wanted to discuss those two during a direct meeting between the two presidents.

You can see the Russian foreign minister[2] as well as the head Russian negotiator[3] saying that Ukrainian proposals were unacceptable because they didn't agree to give up territory before Zelensky and Putin even met. A few days later, Putin called the peace talks a dead end because Ukrainians wouldn't cede territory and complained about crimes in occupied territories[4].

[1] [2] [3] [4]


This was never about Ukraine, any settlement would be met by further escalation when he felt ready. Probably when the west was more fractured, insular, nationalistic and our democratic institutions more fragile.


The worst outcome is nuclear war.

The second worst outcome is teaching Putin - and all other nuclear armed authoritarian governments - that all you need to do is threaten usage of nuclear weapons and you get what you demand. Within months China will demand Taiwan be handed over under threat of nuclear attack. Maybe eventually they'll demand the same of Australia - easy to do if you want the resources and know that threat of nukes gets you a country handed on a platter.

What do you propose can be done to resolve this?

Probably China and India are the only parties now able to influence Putin to back down.


@andrewstuart Resolution is the same as the way all wars eventually end (or preferably never start) - diplomacy and agreements. We are in a period of catastrophic diplomatic failures after decades of successful MAD standoff balance


> the same as the way all wars eventually end

As a German, that's not how our last war ended. Neither did the more recent Iraq war, or Libya. Plenty of wars end with the utter defeat of the opponent.


China and India are the only nuclear powers with a no-first-use policy.


> China and India are the only nuclear powers with a no-first-use policy

Moscow also guaranteed Ukraine’s security in the Budapest memorandum. Stated policy is a poor predictor of their actions.


Russia's list of what is acceptable use of nuclear power is actually pretty vague and includes "use of conventional weapons to pose an existential threat to Russia."


Putin said that dealing with street gangs in his youth taught him that when a fight is inevitable, he should strike first. Now we have a significant nuclear escalation on its way to Ukraine.


> Probably China and India are the only parties now able to influence Putin to back down.

The problem is, if Putin loses the war, he will lose power, and possibly even his life [1]. This makes him more likely to use nukes, as his life is endangered without a victory. Under this circumstance the only way out is to give him a "small victory".



Ah yes appeasement, it's always worked so well before.


The answer certainly is not nihilism and therefore proceeding with teaching Putin a lesson as we are now.


Perhaps if the lesson we're trying to teach him that he must either die or launch nukes?

Those will likely be his only two options very soon if not already.


As someone from the balkans... what do you do when some other nuclear superpower decides to bomb eg. yugoslavia or invade eg. afghanistan or syria, libya, iraq, iraq again, etc?


Stop genociding Albanians, it was as simple as that. Not all wars and interventions are morally equal.


Maybe stop genociding my neighbors?


Replace "threaten usage of nuclear weapons" with "threaten exit from the global finance system under the force of the largest military ever assembled on earth" and you have US policy for the past century.


There is not even remotely an equivalence. Only one of them includes threatening the end of the world.


We failed to contain Putin in any of his previous assaults and now here we are. Our options are to continue to reward an aggressive tyrant or stand up to him. You are free to believe that Putin will become satisfied with some level of territory and influence but history provides ample evidence that Putin will not stop.


It's also telling to read the top two tone-deaf comments here on HN talking about preparedness as if one is going on a fishing expedition instead of addressing the elephant in the room that is potential nuclear war.


Agreed, the top comment about the bug out bag is peak HN. Have fun with that buddy. I know a post nuclear war is gonna suck and none of my skills will transfer, I'll just wait to die.


Agreed, but the era of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) deterrent principle has come to an end.

Until very recently, everyone agreed that nuclear weapons could not be used because the outcome would be that everyone is destroyed.

Putin has ended that era because appears unconcerned by the prospect of MAD.

MAD only works if all sides agree that they do not want to be destroyed. Putin appears to not care.

So, the equation has changed and we all need to rethink the new equations. It may be as simple as - "there will be a nuclear war because a madman has the keys and is willing to press the button".


MAD is an insane game of chicken that we always knew could be tested by madmen, zealots and gamblers.

The Russian leader certainly does care about the risks. However, the nature of the game rewards him for acting that he does not, and the other players for reciprocating. Up to a point, that is. MAD is not a good or stable game.


MAD applies if all sides are actually at risk of being destroyed.

A close historical precedent for the current situation is the US against Japan in which the nuclear power didn't have a reason to destroy its enemy (indeed, worked to rebuild it immediately after), and the enemy couldn't retaliate on par. So there was no escalation and instead a quick capitulation.

If Russia uses tactical nukes against Ukraine, it matters how it uses them. Presumably it would like to use them as the US did, so it can take Ukraine without destroying it and put a faster end to the war than otherwise possible.

The US can then concede, escalate the proxy war by giving Ukraine tactical nukes, or strike Russia directly. The latter still looks mostly like MAD to me.

A nuclear proxy war limited to tactical nukes is.. unfortunately all too easy to imagine, with some precedent in the Turkish/Cuban missile crisis. That could then escalate until Russia dominates with its strategic nukes, but presumably Ukraine would capitulate before that. The lesson of high cost to Russia would also be there for future reference.


Seems more likely that every country would shut down trade with Russia, and Ukraine would keep fighting a conventional war with even better weapons than they have now.




> Putin appears to not care.

Putin wants everyone to think that, the reality is that this is almost certainly a ruse. I believe it was Nixon that wanted the Soviets to think he was mad and might press the button at the slightest provocation but it was a lie to get them to back off. There’s no evidence that Putin is suicidal. This is a nuclear steering contest which you can only win by not blinking because Putin doesn’t want Russia to be a smoldering ruin with his own bones a melted pile in the middle.


Putin also said that West only respects power and that the US only talks to Russia because Russia is the only country that can destroy it in half an hour. He might be going to demonstrate his power next so that the West "finally understands".


> Putin appears to not care.

Or maybe he's just better at "madman theory" than Nixon?


MAD hasn’t been breached until a nuclear weapon is deployed in a way that would guarantee a nuclear response under existing treaties.


> Putin has ended that era because appears unconcerned by the prospect of MAD.

I think you should read up on the Cuban missile crisis.


They say Putin (and TFG) is a master of 10-dimensional chess but what they don't tell you is that the game always ends with everyone dead.


That sounds like it should be in Rick and Morty.


Please. Putin has not yet launched a nuclear attack, and I can assure you he would have already if he didn't care about MAD.


You'll be soooo embarrassed if you're wrong!


Nplate was apparently only approved for this purpose last year, and HHS has been talking about acquiring it since then. That might be the whole story here.

If you Google around, you'll find HHS documents from 2021 talking about this allocation.


It looks like they may traditionally buy these types of drugs around this time of the year. Here’s one from 6 years ago.


I mean, as much as one can read into this, I appreciate the preparation.


After almost 3 years of hearing about things our government could have and should have done, it's nice to see a little foresight.

That being said, I don't love what the foresight sees.




forewarned is forearmed


And great generals are forewarned. That's how we know that Alexander the Great had four arms.


Gotta have those stocks of Radaway of course. Where are the vaults though? I want to sign up.


No, no you don't.


Aren't like 95% of the vaults expirements?


Yes, IIRC all but 76 were, and that's only because they wanted 76, as MMO, to be neutral. All the others were.


My take on the current situation as someone who's watched the conflict since 2014 (both professionally and casually):

Russia's nuclear weapons arsenal is serving its intended purpose right now: Scaring Westerners. If you listen to Putin's speeches, he's been remarkably consistent. He cares about Russia's place in the world, addressing how it's not treated as an equal partner (by his and other Russians' measure), the desire for a multipolar world, and general nationalistic sentiments.

Nuclear threats raise the ambient level of seriousness with which the general Western public, and by extension its governments, must take Russia. Getting that benefit only costs vocalizing the occasional reminder. So, from a game theoretic perspective, it makes sense to do so. Those purposes aren't served by actually using nuclear weapons.


The problem is that everyone is aware of this, which in turn makes the threat useless - because if everyone agrees that its primary purpose is to scare and not to be used, nobody is scared anymore. This can only be countered by increasing the threat, and there are not so many ways to do it. So we are still quite close to having dramatic consequences that are not primarily intended but more the consequence of still ultimately ignoring the gravity of this all


I'm using an old backpack as an earthquake kit (or for any emergency) and I have some potassium iodide tablets in there just in case.

If you're curious about building a kit, I'd consult if you're in the Bay Area.


"Fortunately" I have a super power now that removes my need for PI tablets!


I wonder what members of congress traded on advanced knowledge of this.


What you mean? Our free markets are efficient and universally fair to all its participants...


Probably most of them. You'll find out in 3 months after they are re-elected.


A side question: how does one plan urban surviving? I'm sure even a nuclear war won't wipe out any of the major governments out there so stability would be re-established maybe in a few weeks. But the initial chaos could be deadly to whoever survived the initial blast.

Does anyone know where to hide if sirens sound?


I would not rule out the chance to preserve a nucleus of human specimens. It would be quite easy at the bottom of some of our deeper mineshafts. Radioactivity would never penetrate a mine some thousands of feet deep, and in a matter of weeks, sufficient improvements in dwelling space could easily be provided possibly for one hundred years.

Nuclear reactors could provide power almost indefinitely. Greenhouses could maintain plant life. Animals could be bred and slaughtered. A quick survey would have to be made of all the available mine sites in the country, but I would guess that dwelling space for several hundred thousands of our people could easily be provided.

A computer could be set and programmed to accept factors from youth, health, sexual fertility, intelligence, and a cross-section of necessary skills. Of course, it would be absolutely vital that our top government and military men be included to foster and impart the required principles of leadership and tradition. Naturally, they would breed prodigiously. There would be much time, and little to do. With the proper breeding techniques and a ratio of say, ten females to each male, I would guess that they could then work their way back to the present Gross National Product within say, twenty years.


Is this still technically true? Since the movie was released, both sides developed bunker busters to dig deep into fortified military installations. If salt mines did become part of the continuation strategy, you would think they would be likely to be targeted in an exchange.


I don’t know that this plan was ever technically true at any time. Instead it highlighted to me the absolute futility in avoiding destruction in the event of thermonuclear war. It may still be a plausible best bet in this abhorrent scenario. Surely you must imagine any perceived reinforced bunker gap would have been addressed in some inconspicuous military funding bill in the past 60 years.


I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.


Water gets anywhere, mineshafts are unlikely to be safe after a while.


A submarine seems like the best place to be.


Mister President, we must not allow a mine shaft gap!


In 20 years the first generation would be only a couple years into their careers


Isn’t this a movie?


Indeed this is from the conclusion of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). It’s by far my favorite movie.


Nuclear War Survival Skills (1987) has a lot of suggestions about what to do:

I'm no expert, but I think the general idea is: don't be caught out in the open when the blasts go off -- you're likely to be blinded and/or burned even before the shock wave gets to you.

If you survive the initial blast, then "skyshine" becomes the main threat. Radioactive elements resulting from the nuclear reaction emit gamma rays that can go through most materials including walls. Best bet is to either be underground or under something made of cement. Basements generally aren't very good shelter, but you might be able to improvise something workable -- like hiding under a sturdy table surrounded and covered by sand bags or whatever dense materials are immediately at hand.

Fires also might be a problem. You might be forced to leave your shelter if everything is burning.

The worst radiation is in the first hour or so, and unfortunately that's time you'd normally be spending trying to get somewhere safe or improvising shelter. It falls off over the next few days or weeks. It's hard to know exactly when it's safe to come out without a device to measure gamma radiation (which can actually be built out of basic materials) or government reports which you might be able to receive by radio or something.

Radioactive ash is a problem. Use masks to avoid breathing it in, and don't eat or drink anything that might be contaminated. Peeling fruit is usually good enough. If you can leave the area, it's probably a good idea to wash yourself thoroughly and throw away your contaminated clothes.

Being near a nuclear blast isn't necessarily certain death. For some people it will be, but there will always be a large radius around the blast where people could survive if they're reasonably lucky and/or do the right things.


I live in the DC area.

If there's a confirmed warhead inbound, I'm standing on a rooftop. I don't want to live in the hellscape that'll follow.


Inside, in the most inside part of wherever you can get to within 10 minutes of the blast (before the fallout starts snowing down). If you stay sheltered, you can survive. Try to minimize airflow. Try to stay inside for 2 weeks. The first hours are by far the worst.

If you're outside 10 minutes after the blast, and it starts snowing, you've probably already gotten a fatal dose and will likely die a painful death from acute radiation syndrome within the next two weeks.



What kind of structure can you avoid the initial flash and heat wave (if not the concussive / overpressure blast wave)?

Concrete? Brick? Can you just get behind a 6 inch concrete wall and you are OK from the flash and heat wave? What if you dive under the water (in a pool or whatnot)?


Heavily-reinforced concrete and/or underground. The more rebar, the better.

Jumping in a pool won't help much if you're in the big part of a pressure wave, I'd guess, since the water would probably all be removed.

Anywhere near a 20 psi overpressure thermonuclear blast near the target is going to be rough. Survivors will likely be on the outskirts of wherever it hits, being honest.

The amount more powerful a modern big fusion bomb is than what we dropped on Japan in 1945 boggles the mind. It's almost impossible to conceive of how bad they are.

Like, if a huge one was dropped on San Fran, about a million people would be dead immediately, plus some unknown potentially large number more due to fallout.

Simulated map here:


You need about two weeks for radiation levels to drop. Ideally you are underground or have several walls and air filtering between you and contaminated regions.

Past that, food becomes a meaningful issue since your topsoil is quite irradiated.

You will probably have a shorter lifespan by a decade or so but obviously much longer than perishing immediately.


You will almost certainly die either in the first few minutes, or in the first few weeks following nuclear war, because our society is built on a house of cards of global supply chains, which will all go directly, and irreversibly (at least, within timelines that will matter to your survival) straight to shit.

Some of the architects of the war might survive in their hardened bunkers, if they are out of the way enough. I'm of a mind that they should not be allowed to outlive their constituents, but this does not seem to be a popular opinion.


Sounds like my brick and wooden basement is not going to work. Also the air filtering is not good enough. I guess the real chance is to learn survival, live far away from cities, preferably close to mountains and try to live by hunting for two weeks? Guess I can also keep a vehicle and some gas too after those two weeks. Anything more would need a proper shelter.


Just make sure the air situation is sorted. You really don't want to leave cover during that time. Two weeks is not a lot of food to stock.

Even experienced hunters have bad days. Hunting requires cooking and hunting is a riskier activity for injury. Nobody is around immediately post nuke to sew you back together.


Air filtering is partially helped by the fact that most people nowadays have some supply of good masks, which can ensure that any radioactive dust stays outside of you instead of giving you lung cancer.


Underground (reinforced concrete) is the only chance to survive, albeit slim. After you lucked out, you'd still need prepared bags of water, long-term rations, radiation monitor, heavy-duty tools to dig out, mask + hazard suit, batteries, Faraday cage for any electronics to survive etc. Sirens are unlikely to help, the government would have to interrupt any broadcasts and tell you about nukes coming.


It really depends on how far you are from the nearest blasts, and how big they were, and which way the winds are blowing. Even in a massive nuclear exchange, there will still be places in the United States hundreds of miles from the nearest blast. Those people could be fine if they take adequate protection from fallout, and if they can survive supply chain collapse and who knows how long of nuclear winter and poor agricultural output.




Many buildings which were constructed during the cold war era tend to have reinforced concrete shelters in the basement.

Prepped wisdom is to have a bag ready to go with everything you need to survive for 24 hours after a major incident.


Makes sense. I'll start surveying the buildings in surrounding areas. Could also be fun to search for building records. I guess I also need an axe to cut open the doors because those buildings are usually locked.


Be sure to get a vintage print edition that has the schematics to proper scale:


Hmm. This got me thinking. What does the SAS survival handbook say?


"If you're in action, you're gonna be close to something we're hitting. Bye.

If you're not deployed, your base is about to get hit. Bye."