Prepping 101: Testing Geiger Counters with Cesium, Strontium, Cobalt – Inexpensive Built Kits


Geiger Counters:
Ebay Seller Impexeris
(This is the black GM tube bug from the video, which is a standalone as well as Iphone/Android, and the kits for GM tubes and Arduino)
The Black Phone Bug
RH Electronics
(The red and blue boards from the video, DIY kits you can pay $12 for him to build)
RH Electronics on Ebay
SBM-20 GM Tubes

CDV High Level Survey Meters:
Ebay CDV Meters
Shane Connor’s calibration service – $92 plus return shipping

Radiation is always my least popular topic here, but I’m going to keep at it in hopes that enough of you will pay attention. As I’ve explained many times, if you think a collapse is coming, most likely radiation will be a part of it. Someone has to run the nuclear reactors out there, and though most of them have a food supply of several months for the workers, eventually that food is going to run out. And this is assuming the workers don’t leave to go take care of their own families when the fighting in the streets begins.

Nuclear war? Yea whatever. I don’t think the oligarchs running this charade want that big a variable in the mix, but you never know. Anyway…

Geiger counters, and radiation detectors in general, come in two types, high level and low level. For high level there aren’t a lot of options. On most of our budgets, you can choose between the old 1960s Civil Defense (CDV) meters and..oh yea well nothing else it’s pretty much just those. If you don’t know what these are, I have made a special video to explain them, and I’ll link to Ebay to buy them as well. For the most part, CDV meters are in good working order, and you just have to send them out to get them calibrated. There is only one non-governmental place to do this as I write this, and the cost is $92 plus return shipping. I have had many meters calibrated over the years, and I usually just ship them directly in from Ebay.

As I explained in the video, there is no cheap or even expensive substitute for one of these “survey meters” that were built by the government during the Cold War. Any regular Geiger counter, including those that are the subject of this article, will blank out at extremely high radiation rates. Geiger tubes saturate at some point, and that point is about the level where the human body is badly affected in a short amount of time. This is a much higher level of radiation than people currently discuss, and it occurs only in the 48 hours after a nuclear explosion. High radiation relative to regular background radiation isn’t that uncommon. Any regular Geiger counter will go crazy on an airplane at 33,000 feet for instance. Comparatively, there is a ton of radiation up there. But it is not past the threshold of harm, and any regular Geiger counter will work. At nuclear bomb and nuclear reactor explosion levels, regular Geigers saturate and become useless in seconds.

After a nuke plant explosion, or after a nuclear bomb goes off, the radiation rates will skyrocket for at least 48 hours, then most of the radioactive materials will die, or transform to a less harmful isotope. It is during this first 48 hours that you have to know whether you are in a hot zone or a cooler zone, and/or if your fallout shelter insulation is working. For this you absolutely need a survey meter. I have covered some of the details of how the numbers work in prior articles.

I have looked into this, and the other options that seem like options aren’t as good as you would think. There is a Russian meter that I did buy but have not yet tested that can supposedly measure high and low radiation, but there is no calibration service for them. There is also the newly manufactured $150 NukeAlert keychain dongle, and it’s big brother, the $750 NukeAlert ER. I bought the dongle and the plastic broke and it fell of my keychain. The ER I also bought, at a discount from the creator, Shane Connor, but I had some batteries blow up in it and it hasn’t worked right since. I explained this in the video. My advice is to buy a survey meter and have Shane’s service calibrate it.

As for new meters coming into production, don’t hold your breath. Bill Clinton dismantled the American Civil Defense program in the 90s (hookers and blow are expensive), so what is out there is what is out there. The good news is that most people have no idea what these survey meters even are, and they are really inexpensive.

As I write this, there are working CDV-715 meters on Ebay bidding for as little as $17, and there are many buy it nows for $40 and up. There are several CD-717 auctions for ridiculous plices. And recently a lot of CDV-720 meters have shown up on Ebay that I had never seen beflore. They are also high level meters, with a sliding door for the chamber on the bottom. I ordered one and will send it out for calibration for an update at some point. I think the best meter is the CDV-717 because it has a remote sensor, and for me it is hard to believe that as many times as I’ve linked to these meters in my articles, with upwards of 100,000 readers per month just on this column, that as I write this you can still buy a brand new condition CDV-717 for $49 shipped in its original numbers matching box. There is also, right now, a deal for 2 meters for a total of $65 with shipping, and there are 4 of the pairs available. I hope my regular readers are up early this morning. These prices are crazy.

But what’s even crazier is that the few CDV-700s on Ebay right now are going for in the hundreds of dollars. These are just regular Geiger counters, and because they have been used in the field much more than the survey meters, they tend to be rough, or in clearly rebuilt condition. Even an inexpensive Russian Geiger based on the SBM-20 tube is better than an old CDV-700. The Geigers in this article are also better, at a fraction of the price

That brings us to the subject at hand, low level Geiger counters. As you’ll see from the video, as important as it is that you have a high level survey meter, it is equally as important to have a low level GM tube Geiger. After a nuclear event, radioactive particles will be thrown into the air, and these particles will drift with the clouds for potentially thousands of miles. We are still too close to Fukushima for the current coverup to be uncovered, but if you look back at Chernobyl in 1986, the secrets from back then have revealed that radiation showed up in food even here in the US. You can’t count on the government to tell you what is safe and what is not. The government of Ukraine forbid scientists to even take radiation measurements until 4 days after the explosions. The doctors were forbidden from listing radiation as a source of cancers for decades after people who had worked on the site began to die. Now, Fukushima radiation has been reported in the heartland of America as well, just not by official sources. After the collapse you are going to need to test the soil on your own property for long living isotopes, especially Cesium 134 and 137, Strontium 90, and Cobalt 60. I bought samples of all of these from a lab supplier, and you can see the video for the results.

My radiation samples are probably a good deal higher than radiation you would find in food, but I think it will show you that these inexpensive electronics kits will work just fine. Food and water themselves can’t become radioactive from being irradiated with gamma rays. Most of our imported fruits and veggies and actually irradiated with gamma radiation before they reach the shelves, to kill foreign bacteria. But food and water can be sprinkled with radioactive isotopes, which would be mostly invisible. Ingesting these, even in small quantities, will cause cancers within a matter of months.

Above I linked to both these new Geigers from Ebay seller Impexeris from Lithuania, and my old Geigers from RH Electronics/ located in Israel. If you have some history with soldering, all of these kits will be easy for you. All of the boards are hole through, and plated. You have to be careful with the close holes to not create a solder bridge, but I was able to get them right on the first try without any debugging. If you haven’t soldered before, just buy the completed kits. On the RH website you have to pay an extra $12, and he sells completed kits on Ebay as well. It doesn’t look like the plastic case kit is available for the Impexeris kit right now, but you could contact him directly and see if he has some. I have emailed back and forth with him and he is very nice. That little black bug with the GM tube is a big score at $74 including shipping. You don’t need a phone connected to use it. Inside there are watch batteries, and it will beep and blink all by itself. The pin diode Geiger that I reviewed is half that, and this is a real GM tube and extremely robust circuitry.

It’d really suck to survive the collapse then die two months later of cancer tumors. The mechanics of survival are complex, and you have to think about them, and act on them if you want to take this seriously. Most preppers, myself included, genuinely hope to be wrong. But with every passing day it looks more and more like we are correct, and this is all going to melt down in the near term. There are very few of us out here sharing real secrets with you, without trying to sell you anything. Just saying.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • dave May 2, 2016, 2:37 pm

    so what is a reasonably safe distance for farming from a US nuclear plant built in 1980?
    are newer ones safer?
    i suppose ground water contamination is unpredictable?

    • Julius Sessoms May 9, 2016, 1:45 pm

      We usually plan for a 50 mile agricultural fallout zone.

  • KennyMac February 2, 2016, 5:52 pm

    …A Direct reading dosimeter is a pen type radiation detection device that will give you immediate results….also, a Rate Alarm is a device about the size of the old pagers everyone used to have, and that will alert you immediately if you are in an area of 500m/r or more with an audible alarm.
    Having a working, calibrated, radiation survey meter, a dosimeter, and a rate alarm will cover all the bases in regards to not ending up with FLK’s….(Funny Looking Kids)…

  • Herman February 1, 2016, 7:21 pm

    Just a little side note: If you get close to something that makes you feel like ants are crawling all over you, it is probably a high voltage line (most likely) or some serious radioactive source. Either way you want to go back the way you came. There are some places around that have some really nasty stuff, Hanford for one. If things totally go caveman and you are wandering around the countryside, you might want to be aware of that sort of thing.

    • Paul Helinski February 2, 2016, 7:31 am

      More likely it is the federales shooting a microwave energy weapon at you.

  • shane connor February 1, 2016, 5:47 pm

    One of the cheapest, non-electrical, practical rad instruments is the common and wearable pen type Civil Defense dosimeter, where you look through the end of it to see what your total accumulated dose is since you last zeroed it out. They come in different ranges, but for nuclear threats, I’d go with the high range CD V-740 (0-100R) or 742 (0-200R). They can be used as a rate meter, too, by timing dose increases. If it were to show an increase of 10R in a half hour, then you are in a 20R/hr radiation field. New, they are $125 or more, surplus Civil Defense recently tested/certified $45, or buy them off ebay for much less and get tested/certified for $25 each. BTW, even without getting them radiation tested, if they will pass the FEMA five day electrical leakage test, that you can do at home with a food dehydrator or oven, odds are high they will be radiation accurate, too. You zero them out and then put in heater and they need to not creep up scale more than 5% of full scale for that 50 degree C (122F) five day heat test. (Maximum leakage limit is 1% of full scale per day.) And, if you’ve got more than a few that passed and they are all together afterwards, and in nuke disaster most were all showing similar radiation reading, you’d just ignore or discard any rare ones that were crazy high/low compared to the rest. It’s kinda like when you buy a thermometer off the rack, you don’t buy the one that is not reading anywhere close to all the others up there. Regardless how many dosimeters you have, you’ll also need just one CD V-750 or 756 dosimeter charger (cheap on ebay) to re-set all your dosimeters to zero. More info here

  • shane connor February 1, 2016, 1:05 pm

    Being able to measure how much radiation you are exposed to is most useful when you also know what the meter numbers mean, how much is too much to try hardest to avoid. There is a chart here that shows total accumulated doses and their physical effects. Radiation dose is cumulative over time, and that’s what you’ll need to be calculating. You take the exposure rate your meter reads and multiple it by the time you’d been exposed to it, to get your total dose received, same as figuring distance traveled in a car, you take your mph speed and multiply it by the time you’d traveled at that mph speed. For instance, 3 hours in a poor shelter or evacuating through a fallout zone where average readings were 20R/hr means you’d gotten an accumulated dose of 60R in those three hours. If your meter suddenly indicated you’d stumbled into a hot spot of 200R/hr, but you quickly backed out or got through it or found effective shelter in 15 minutes, you’d of gotten a total dose of 50R. Good rough rule of thumb, while always striving to get as little exposure as possible, is to try hard not to exceed a double digit total accumulated dose, or 100R, which is 100% fully recoverable, if not exceeded, even if you had some of the minor transient radiation sickness symptoms at that higher end of 100R. The thing to remember is, while peacetime acceptable safe maximum levels are 5 rad per year and 25 rad for lifetime and emergency workers to 50 rad, downwind of a nuke detonation, you could have 5R/hr everywhere and your goal then is to just avoid, best as you can, anything higher for too long a time. Good news is, with every passing hour, the fallout gets weaker quickly. Seven hours after detonation it’s only 1/10th as lethal, and in two days, 1/100th. For most, they could safely exit their shelters after just two days.
    – Shane

  • shane connor February 1, 2016, 11:04 am

    Really disappointed to read this…
    “I bought the dongle and the plastic broke and it fell of my keychain. The ER I also bought, at a discount from the creator, Shane Connor, but I had some batteries blow up in it and it hasn’t worked right since.”
    #1 – The keyhole tab breaking off the NukAlert is very rare, but regardless, anytime and every time a customer has had this happen we have promptly replaced the unit at no cost.
    #2 – Your report here is the first we’ve ever heard of a NukAlert-ER that “had some batteries blow up in it” and we’ve always eagerly gotten any NukAlert-ER’s that have had issues back in here to make them right, again, usually at no cost to the customer, unless they’d obviously or admittedly been abused.
    If there’s one thing our customers over the last 16 years will attest to, is that we’ll do whatever it takes to make them happy and eager to brag on us, if they ever have issues with our products.
    Shane Connor

    • Paul Helinski February 1, 2016, 11:50 am

      I’ll email you Shane. As I’ve said in the past, I have the luxury that I don’t sell anything. In this column, if there is one thing I try to do, it is to share my actual experiences with my peeps, and try to figure out this vs. that vs. this when it comes to the many ways to skin a cat. I wouldn’t even understand the differences in meters if it wasn’t for the information on I bought my first potassium iodide from you probably two decades ago, and had my first meter calibrated back then as well. The NukeAlert is a great product, but I feel like I need to share with people that if you are hard on keys like me, it can break off. The ER is also a great product, but when I tried to use it for a sensor detector on sleep after I lost my dongle, the Costco alkaline batteries blew up in it and even though I cleaned the terminals it just hasn’t worked. I’m glad you came on here to explain that you stand behind products, which I never doubted, but I bought my NukeAlerts from some dufus on Ebay who sold them at a fraction of the price, and I got my ER from you at a discount as well. I don’t abuse friendships like that Shane.

      More importantly, my peeps here are on a limited budget. I know that from talking to the people who sell the products I cover. Last week I did what is probably the best buy in a Ham radio in the world, and from what I can tell, nobody even bought one. You can hear me sniffling in these videos from being out in the freezing cold testing my antenna idea. I’m sure you would agree that with a CDV meter you can do your own dose counts, so it is really all you need, and that for under $200 total, including your calibration service, it is a better investment than the NukeAlert. Do I wish I still had that dongle on my keychain? Yeah of course I do! And maybe I’ll get another one. But my peeps here don’t have that kind of budget. I can only justify this stuff because the advertisers here support our editorial budget, so I buy several of things I only need one of for myself.

      My regular readers know that I brag on Shane Connor at every opportunity, and I will continue to do so. But in my experience the best investment for meters is what I covered here. 🙂

      • shane connor February 1, 2016, 12:15 pm

        No argument regarding cheapest way to skin a cat needs to be known and shared so more might do so, that’s why we still calibrate and offer CD meters and dosimeters, the KFM kit and even $5 & $25 dosimeter SIRAD cards. But, when day comes that more wake up in a panic to the need for nuke preps, there won’t be anything left, except knowledge, and fortunately that alone could save most, just knowing what to do and, especially, not do. That’s why we push so hard and appreciate you having educated folks to the life-saving guidance in it, too.

  • ttabs February 1, 2016, 10:01 am

    So Paul, I have a whole kit of these things I purchased several years ago. I still don’t know what the information on the dial is telling me other than there’s radiation. What I’d like to know is what’s a safe level, what’s a ‘do not go outside’, and what’s a ‘we’re screwed’ level? Do you have any info we could download, print off, and put with our instruments to reference if/when we need it? I’m thinking of a fast reference card so to speak.

  • Stevie February 1, 2016, 9:42 am

    If the radiation decreases to non-harmful levels 48 hours after a nuclear explosion, wouldn’t it be simpler to just look at your watch? I assume you’d notice the mushroom cloud to know when to start timing it.

    • Paul Helinski February 1, 2016, 9:49 am

      Sure if you are in a fallout shelter behind two feet of concrete. But only most of the isotopes degrade. What if you are in a hot zone of the longer lasting ones? Wouldn’t you want to know that?

  • barry powers February 1, 2016, 9:28 am

    what about the polish DD66 , is there anyone state side that can fix and calibrate this machine?

  • Tom W February 1, 2016, 7:16 am

    Thanks for continuing to share this info. It is important and up until this point I’ve slacked on this facet of preparedness. Just got into reloading. Not saving any money there. But a thousand 308’s and months of food and water mean nothing if you and your family die of cancer. I think I’m going to order a pair of cdv-717s this week and within the next month or so (as the budget allows) send them to be calibrated. Thanks again for staying on this topic and keeping it fresh in the mind. Keep up the good work!

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend