(What to do before, during, and after a nuclear accident)
The heat of nuclear fission in a closed environment converts water into steam. Then the generators use the steam to produce electricity. Now many countries use these power plants to generate electricity. People living within 14 km of a nuclear power plant are at risk. Although the construction and operation of this organization is under the supervision of international atomic energy agency, or IAEA, there is still the probability of a nuclear accident. This event can cause the release of radiation and consequently affects the health and security of people living in the vicinity of power plants negatively.
To deal with the accident at a nuclear power plant, the government, provincial authorities, aid organizations and electric power offices should have emergency plan. Two emergency zones are defined in this plan. In zone 1, an area within 15 km radius of a power plant, there is the possibility of injury due to direct impact of radiation. The second area, that is zone 2 is wider and is within 75km radius of the power plant. In this area, water sources, food products and livestock may be contaminated with radioactive materials.
The potential risk of a nuclear power plant accident is exposure to radioactive radiation. The situation due to release of radioactive materials leads to the existence of radioactive particles or gases in the environment. The most important threats to the people adjacent to radioactive cloud include the impact of radiation on the surface of body, its deposit on the ground, and inhalation and ingestion of radioactive materials. Radioactive materials include unstable atoms. An unstable atom loses energy by emitting radiation as long as it is not converted into a stable one. All of us are exposed to the radiation of natural sources such as sun or earth every day. There are small amount of radiation in water and in our food. In addition, the man-made sources (like X-ray machines, TV and microwave) also emit radiation. Radiation has cumulative effect i.e. the more you are exposed to radiation the more you may take the risk. Exposure to high radiation may cause serious illness and death.
Minimizing radiation effect
- Distance: the more distance there is between an individual and a radiation source, the less exposure he receives. With leaving the place and staying indoors, we can minimize the impact of radiation on our body.
- Protection: the heavier and thicker the protection between the individual and radiation source is, the less risk may exist.
- Time: most radioactive materials lose their strength over time. If a nuclear incident occurs and radioactive materials release at the location, local authorities should immediately turn on the sirens and inform people. Through media, people should be told how to protect themselves.
Protection and care measures to be taken before the accident
- It is necessary to obtain general information from the management of nuclear power plant in the region or emergency centers about radioactive materials. If someone lives within 15 km of a plant, he/she should obtain this information from the authorities or government agencies responsible for the power plant.
Protection and care measures to be taken during the accident
- You should always have a radio with you and be alert to special news.
- You should close all doors and windows.
- If you were recommended to leave the place, it’s necessary to block windshields or valves and turn on the air conditioning system.
- If you were recommended to stay at home, it’s necessary to observe the following:
- Turn off home fans and any device which may bring the air into the house.
- If possible, go to the basement or lower floors.
- Don’t use the telephone except in emergency.
If someone feels that he/she has been exposed to radioactive materials, he/she should observe the following:
-he/she should change the clothes and shoes.
-he/she should close the handbag and put it in a safe place.
-he/she should take a shower immediately.
-food should be kept in closed containers or in refrigerator. Food that hasn’t been already placed in closed containers should be washed before being placed in these containers.
Protection and care measures to be taken after the accident
- Any unusual symptom should be treated (for example nausea) because it may be due to exposure to radioactive materials.