Radiation Exposure

The 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, usually characterized by a plume (cloud-like formation) of radioactive gases and particles.  

Hazards: to people and animals in the vicinity of the plume are 

        Radiation exposure to the body from the cloud and particles deposited on the ground
        Inhalation of radioactive materials, and 
        Ingestion of radioactive materials.


Minimizing Exposure to Radiation

Distance – The more distance between you and the source of the radiation, the better. This could be evacuation or remaining indoors to minimize exposure.

Shielding – The more heavy, dense material between you and the source of the radiation, the better

Time – Most radioactivity loses its strength fairly quickly.


During a Nuclear Power Plant Emergency

The following are guidelines for what you should do if a nuclear power plant emergency occurs. Keep a battery-powered radio with you at all times and listen to the radio for specific instructions. Close and lock doors and windows.

If you are told to evacuate:

  • Keep car windows and vents closed; use re-circulating air.

If you are advised to remain indoors:

  • Turn off the air conditioner, ventilation fans, furnace, and other air intakes.
  • Go to a basement or other underground area, if possible.
  • Do not use the telephone unless absolutely necessary.

If you expect you have been exposed to nuclear radiation:

  • Change clothes and shoes.
  • Put exposed clothing in a plastic bag.
  • Seal the bag and place it out of the way.
  • Take a thorough shower.

Keep food in covered containers or in the refrigerator. Food not previously covered should be washed before being put in to containers.

After a Nuclear Power Plant Emergency

Seek medical treatment for any unusual symptoms, such as nausea, that may be related to radiation exposure.  Helpful guidelines are below

Accute Radiation Syndrome – A fact Sheet for the Public, via CDC
Triage Guidelines for Health Care Professionals – Radiation Emergency Medical Management Guidance from HHS.gov and CDC
Medical Decontamination Procedures for health care professionals – Radiation Emergency Medical Management Guidance from HHS.gov and CDC

Source:  FEMA

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  1. March 14, 2011 at 1:57 am

    “Japanese public broadcaster NHK told evacuees to wear clothes that cover as much skin as possible and keep a wet towel over their noses and mouths. Rescuers were distributing iodine tablets” http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2011/03/13/2011-03-13_japan_disaster_scientists_look_to_avert_nuclear_crisis_as_humanitarian_catastrop.html

  2. March 17, 2011 at 10:42 am

    A specialist medical team at the Nagasaki Red Cross hospital is on standby, ready to receive patients if people become ill as a result of radiation poisoning. Other hospitals in the area are monitoring radiation levels to protect the patients they are currently treating
    http://www.redcross.org/portal/site/en/menuitem.94aae335470e233f6cf911df43181aa0/?vgnextoid=3f22acbbc26be210VgnVCM10000089f0870aRCRD

  3. March 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    March 17 http://Twitter.com/sandiegocounty

    @San Diego County
    State/SD County Public Health officials say that potassium iodide (KI) tablets are not recommended at this time: http://1.usa.gov/e0aINy

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