What happens when there is a nuclear power plant accident?
A nuclear power plant uses uranium fuel to produce steam for generating electricity. This process changes uranium into other radioactive materials. If a nuclear power plant accident occurs, heat and pressure build up, and the steam, along with the radioactive materials, may be released.
How am I protected from a nuclear power plant accident?
What are the health effects of a nuclear power plant accident?
No immediate health effects would be expected in the general public from a nuclear power plant accident. That is because the amount of radiation present would be too small to cause immediate injury or illness. However, there is a risk of long-term health effects. Cancer may develop many years after the exposure.
How do I prepare for a nuclear power plant accident?
What should people do if a nuclear power plant accident happens?
People cannot see, smell, feel or taste radiation. Special equipment is needed to detect radiation. In the event of a nuclear power plant accident, the power company will notify state and local officials and provide information about the seriousness of the accident. Emergency workers will measure the radiation released in the environment. Sirens may be used to alert people living or working near the power plant to listen to emergency broadcast messages. Officials may recommend any of the following:
Can people take potassium iodine (KI) or other drugs to protect themselves from radiation?
Drugs are not available to protect a person from most radioactive materials. Potassium iodide, also called KI, only protects the thyroid gland from exposure to radioactive iodine, which could lead to thyroid cancer years after exposure. KI does not protect a person from the immediate effects of radiation.
Where can I find additional information about nuclear power plant accidents?
More information about nuclear power plant accidents can be found through the Virginia Department of Health at www.vdh.virginia.gov/oep/Agents/Radiation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/, or the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at www.nrc.gov/what-we-do/emerg-preparedness/prepare-for-radiological-emerg.html.