|Find out what
could happen to you. If
there is a nuclear power plant in your area, contact the plant’s community
relations officials or contact local, state, or federal emergency planners. Ask
about specific hazards that could affect people in your area, and find out about
your area’s warning system.
Why talk about
nuclear power plants?
power plants operate in most states in the country and produce about 20 percent
of the nation’s power. Nearly three million people live within 10 miles (16
kilometers) of an operating nuclear power plant.
Nuclear power plants use
the heat generated from nuclear fission in a contained environment to convert
water to steam, which powers generators to produce electricity. Nuclear
radiation is a by-product of nuclear fission, and radioactive particles released
into the air can be harmful to people, animals, crops, and the environment.
Although the construction and operation of nuclear power plants are closely
monitored and regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), accidents at
these plants are possible. An accident at a nuclear power plant could release
dangerous levels of radiation that could affect the health and safety of the
people living near the plant.
What plans are
in place in case of an emergency?
and state governments, federal agencies, and electric utility companies have
emergency response plans that would be activated in the event of a nuclear power
plant emergency. The plans define two “emergency planning zones.” The first zone
covers the area within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) radius of the plant, where it is
possible that people could be harmed by direct radiation exposure. The second
zone covers a broader area, usually up to a 50-mile (80- kilometer) radius from
the plant, where radioactive materials could contaminate water supplies, food
crops, and livestock.
Find out if you live in a nuclear power plant “emergency
planning zone,” and, if you do, determine if you are in the first or second
zone. Learn what actions you should take if there is an accident at the nuclear
materials are composed of atoms that are unstable. An unstable atom gives off
its excess energy until it becomes stable. The energy emitted is radiation. Each
of us is exposed to radiation daily from natural sources, including the sun and
earth. Small traces of radiation are present in food and water. Radiation has a
cumulative effect. The longer a person is exposed to radiation, the greater the
risk. A high exposure to radiation can cause serious illness or
What is the
potential danger from a nuclear power plant
potential danger from an accident at a nuclear power plant is exposure to
radiation. This exposure could come from the release of radioactive material
from the plant into the environment. The area the radioactive material may
affect is determined by the amount released from the plant, wind direction and
speed, and weather conditions. The major hazards to people in the vicinity are
radiation exposure to the body and inhalation and ingestion of radioactive
How can I
protect myself in case of a nuclear power plant
three basic ways to reduce your exposure are through:
the amount of time you spend near the source of radiation.
your distance from a radiation source.
the shielding between you and the radiation source. Shielding is anything that
creates a barrier between people and the radiation source. Depending on the type
of radiation, the shielding can range from something as thin as a plate of
window glass or as thick as several feet of concrete. Being inside a building or
a vehicle can provide shielding from some kinds of
What is the
best source of information in case of a nuclear power plant accident?
an accident at a nuclear power plant were to release radiation in your area,
local authorities would activate warning sirens or another approved alerting
system. They would also use the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on local television
and radio stations to advise you about how to protect
Be Prepared for a Nuclear Power Plant
CORE ACTION MESSAGES
• Determine your risk.
Prepare household members.
• Learn the alert system.
• Make plans and
general preparedness, every household should create and practice a Family
Disaster Plan and assemble and maintain a Disaster Supplies Kit. In addition,
every household should make specific plans for what to do in the event of a
nuclear power plant accident and practice the plans.
• Learn the
terms used to describe nuclear power plant emergencies so
you will quickly understand what actions you and members of your household
should take in case of a nuclear power plant accident. See the box below for a
list of important terms.
• Learn about
your community’s warning system. Nuclear
power plants are required to install sirens and other warnings (for example,
flash warning lights) to cover a 10-mile (16- kilometer) area around the plant.
Find out when the warning system in your area will be tested. When it is tested,
determine if you can hear the sirens and/or see the flash warning lights from
your home. If you cannot, contact plant officials and let them
• Obtain public
emergency information materials from
the power company that operates your local nuclear power plant or from your
local emergency services office. If you live within 10 miles of the power plant,
you should receive these materials annually from the power company or your state
or local government.
• Learn the
emergency plans for the schools, day care centers, nursing facilities, offices,
and other places where members of your household spend time.
out where people in these places would go in case of
• Stay tuned to
local radio and television stations. Stay
aware of events and conditions in your area by tuning to a local radio or
• Consider your
transportation options in case you have to evacuate. If
you do not own or drive a car, ask your local emergency manager about plans for
people without private vehicles.
• Practice your
Family Disaster Plan and
practice the steps recommended by the power company to protect yourself from
radiation in the event of a nuclear power plant incident.
Sheltering, and Post-disaster Safety” for more information.
|Terms Used to
Describe a Nuclear Power Plant Emergency
of Unusual Event—A
problem has occurred at the plant, but no radiation leak is expected. Federal,
state, and county officials will be told right away. No action on your part is
problem has occurred at the plant, and small amounts of radiation could leak
inside the plant. This will not affect you. No action on your part is
• Site Area
more serious problem has occurred at the plant, and small amounts of radiation
could leak from the plant. If necessary, state and county officials will act to
ensure public safety. Area sirens may sound. Listen to local radio or television
stations for information.
very serious problem has occurred at the plant, and radiation could leak outside
the plant and off the plant site. Area sirens will sound. Listen to local radio
or television stations for information. State and county officials will act to
ensure public safety. Be prepared to follow instructions
What to Do During
a Nuclear Power Plant Emergency
CORE ACTION MESSAGES
• Follow local
• Evacuate or stay inside as advised.
carefully to the warning. Not
all incidents result in the release of radiation. The incident could be
contained inside the plant and pose no danger to the public.
• Stay tuned to
a local radio or television station. Local
authorities will provide specific information and instructions. The advice given
will depend on the nature of the emergency, how quickly it is evolving, and how
much radiation, if any, is likely to be released.
• Be aware that
local instructions should take precedence over any advice given on national
broadcasts or in books.
• Review the
public information materials you received from the power company or government
• Evacuate if
you are advised to do so.
and lock doors and windows.
car windows and vents closed; use re-circulating air.
to a local radio station for evacuation routes and other
your pets with you and take them with you if you evacuate. You will not be
allowed to return for them until local authorities say that it is safe to
return. See “Evacuation, Sheltering, and Post-disaster Safety” for important
• If you are not
advised to evacuate, remain indoors.
livestock and give them stored feed, if time permits.
pets indoors with you.
doors and windows.
off the air conditioner, ventilation fans, furnace, and other air
to a basement or other underground area if possible.
a battery-powered radio with you at all times.
the telephone only to report life-threatening emergencies. Lines will be needed
for emergency calls.
uncovered food before eating it.
• If you suspect
you have come into contact with radioactive
a thorough shower.
your clothes and shoes.
exposed clothing in a plastic bag.
the bag and place it outside.
you suspect that your pets have also come into contact with radioactive
materials, shower with your pet if at all possible. If you shower first and then
deal with your pet, you may re-contaminate yourself. Be sure to lather fur and
rinse thoroughly. Afterward, keep direct control of your pet to control what it
What to Do After a
Nuclear Power Plant Emergency
CORE ACTION MESSAGES
• Stay where you are until
local officials say otherwise.
• Get medical treatment for unusual
• If you were
told to evacuate, do not return home until local authorities say it is
• If you were
advised to stay in your home, do not go outside until local authorities say it
• Get medical
treatment for any unusual symptoms, like nausea, that may be related to
• Until local
authorities say it is safe, do not return home or, if you are sheltering at
home, do not allow your pets to go outdoors for any
exposed to radiation “glow” with radioactivity.
material can burn the human body, but exposed people do not become radioactive
themselves. Radiation never causes a person to “glow.”