Nuclear Power Plant Emergencies

nuclear reactorDid you know that nuclear power plants operate in the majority of states in the country and supply about twenty percent of the nation’s power?  Close to three million Americans are living within ten miles of an operating nuclear power plant.

All possible means and actions are worked out under immediate supervision and overseeing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to guarantee the safety and security of power plant operations; but nuclear plant mishaps can take place on account of internal or external factors. Any sort of accident could cause threatening degrees of radiation that may have an effect on the health and safety of the people located close to the nuclear power plant. Local and state governing bodies, federal agencies and the electric utilities have emergency response blueprints in the eventuality of a nuclear power plant incident. The plans define a couple of “emergency planning zones.” The initial response plan covers the immediate 10-mile radius surrounding the power plant where most residents will be around the direct path of contact with harmful radiation. The 2nd zone covers a wider area, commonly up to and including a 50-mile distance from the plant, where radioactive materials could contaminate water supplies, food crops and livestock.

Radiation Defined

Nuclear power plants use the heat produced from nuclear fission in a protected environment to transform water to steam, which powers generators to produce electricity. Radioactive materials are composed of atoms which are volatile. When atoms are unstable, they must radiate surplus energy until eventually they become stable. The energy emitted is radiation. While radiation from nuclear power plants can sound so frightening, we are actually subjected to radiation from natural sources just like the sun day in and day out. Minimal ranges of radiation can be found in water and food. You watch your favorite tv program, work on the laptop, heat a meal in the microwave oven or get your annual x-ray and all of these expose you to certain levels of radiation.

The effects of radiation occur over collective stages instead of immediate issues. You run significantly greater health hazards with extended exposure to radioactive materials. A high contact with radiation can lead to serious illness or demise. The potential threat from an incident at a nuclear power plant is contact with radiation. This exposure could result from the release of radioactive substance from the plant into the atmosphere, usually characterized by a plume (cloud-like) formation of radioactive gases and contaminants. Outside factors then pinpoint the degree of the accident which is commonly impacted by wind direction and speed as well as weather conditions in the involved area. The leading dangers to people near the plume are radiation exposure to the body from the cloud and dust deposited on the ground, inhalation of radioactive materials, and ingestion of radioactive materials.

If a major accident at a nuclear power plant were to release radiation in your area, local authorities would activate warning sirens or another accepted warning method. They will likewise instruct you through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on local tv and radio stations on the way to protect yourself. These incidents can happen at any time with little or no warning.  That is why it is so important to have items such as Potassium Iodide on hand to be able to take immediately after an incident.  The quicker you begin to block your thyroid from radiation the better.

Radiation exposure can be reduced in 3 ways


The greater distance between you and the source of the radiation, so much the better. When nuclear power plant accidents transpire, the first thing local authorities immediately implement is evacuation so you are taken farther away from the source of radiation.


Like distance, the heavier, dense material between you and the source of the radiation the better. That is why local authorities could give you advice to remain in the house if an accident occurs at a nearby nuclear power plant. The roofs and walls of the majority of modern residences are well enough to shield you in this situation.


Radioactivity quickly loses its concentration in most cases. In a nuclear power plant accident, local authorities will monitor any discharge of radiation and ascertain when the threat has transpired.

What To Do Before A Nuclear Power Plant Emergency

1. Understand the terms used to refer to a nuclear emergency:

•  Notification of Unusual Event - This will tell you that there's a small concern going on in the power plant. No radiation leak is predicted. Those in charge at the power plant will notify local, state and federal authorities of this abnormal occurrence promptly. You need not make any move yet as a homeowner.

•  Alert - A small issue has occurred, and small quantities of radiation could leak within the plant. This will not impact you. Still you needn't take any action yet.

•  Site Area Emergency - This suggests a more significant issue. Small amounts of radiation could leak from the plant. Local and state authorities will act in these instances to alert residents and assure their health and safety. Area sirens may perhaps be sounded. At your end, you should be checking out your radio or television set for information and advice concerning your safety.

•  General Emergency - The most serious issue. There is the immediate menace of radiation leaking beyond the plant site. Authorities will sound the sirens and give regular updates on local radio and tv stations. State and county officials will act to protect the public. You should be ready to abide by directions immediately.

2. Master your community’s warning system. It's a precondition for nuclear power plants to have sirens as well as other warning mechanisms like flash warning lights over the 10-mile plant radius. Determine when the warning systems will be tested in the future. You will then be in a position to determine if you can hear and see those alerts from your home.

3. Get in touch with the nuclear power company that operates in your area to get public emergency information content. Local emergency services in you place should likewise have these materials. Inhabitants inside the ten-mile radius of the power plant should receive these emergency information materials annually from the county or the power plant.

4. Educate yourself on the emergency plans for educational institutions, day care centers, nursing homes and other places where members of your household frequent. Find out where the nearest designated evacuation site are for these locations. Keep tuned in to your local tv and radio stations.

5. Get your home and household prepared for an evacuation. Every home must be equipped with an emergency and evacuation kit. Also consider your transportation options when the need to evacuate arises. Your local emergency planning administrator ought to have alternatives for residents with no private vehicles.

What To Do During A Power Plant Emergency

Be alert for warnings. Don't assume all incidents result in the release of radiation. It could mean that radiation can be contained within the plant so there's no danger to the inhabitants in the immediate vicinity.

Stay tuned to local radio or television. Local officials will be furnishing information to the public regularly. The advice given would be determined by the type of the emergency, how rapidly it is developing and how much radiation, if any, might be discharged. Nuclear power plant accidents are specific, so recommendations from your local authorities need to be heeded over any advice or guideline you'd previously learned about.

Evacuate if you are urged to do so. Close and lock windows and doors. When traveling to the designated evacuation site, be sure your car windows and vents are shut. Routes for evacuation along with other important instruction will be aired over the radio, so keep yours on.

Remain indoors if there's no advice for evacuation. Keep all windows and doors closed. Turn off the air conditioning unit, furnace, ventilation fans and all other devices that take in air externally. Remain in the cellar or an underground room if your home has one. Keep a battery-powered radio with you at all times. Shelter animals if possible.

Do not stay on the telephone. Use it only to make very important calls. Phone lines in your area will be essential for emergency calls so keep the lines accessible. Take a thorough shower if you suspect exposure to radioactive material. Have a change of clothes and put the ones you took off in a plastic bag and seal it.

Put food in covered bins or in the refrigerator. Food not earlier covered should be washed before being stored in containers.

What To Do After A Nuclear Plant Emergency

If you had been evacuated, don't go back home unless officials tell you to do so. Stay indoors if you have not been evacuated and don't head out until local authorities tell you it's safe to leave your residence. Obtain treatment for any unusual symptoms, like nausea or vomiting, that may be linked to radiation exposure.
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