Nuclear Power Plant Incidents

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.

Know the Terms
Notification of Unusual Event 
-A small problem has occurred at the nuclear power plant. No radiation leak is expected. No action on your part will be necessary.
Alert- A small problem has occurred and small amounts of radiation could leak inside the plant. This will not affect you and no action is required.
Site Area Emergency- A more serious problem has occurred. Small amounts of radiation could leak from the plant. Area sirens may be sounded. Listen to your local radio or television stations for safety information.
General Emergency- A very serious problem has occurred. Radiation could leak outside the plant and off the plant site. Sirens will sound. Listen to your local radio or television stations for further information and instructions.

Actions to Consider 

BEFORE
Things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a nuclear power plant emergency:

  •  Build an Emergency Supply Kit
  • Minimize your exposure by increasing the distance between you and the source of the radiation. This could be evacuation or remaining indoors to minimize exposure.
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan
  • Obtain public emergency information materials from the power company that operates your local nuclear power plant or your local emergency services office. If you live within 10 miles of the power plant, you should receive the materials yearly from the power company or your state or local government.

DURING
If an accident at a nuclear power plant were to release radiation in your area, local authorities activate warning sirens or use another alert method. Adhere to instruction through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on local television and radio stations on how to protect yourself.
  • Follow the EAS instructions carefully.
  • 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.
  • Shield yourself by placing heavy, dense material between you and the radiation source. Go to a basement or other underground area, if possible.
  • Do not use the telephone unless absolutely necessary.
  • Stay out of the incident zone. Most radiation loses its strength fairly quickly.
AFTER
Guidelines for the period following a nuclear power plant emergency:
  • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • Act quickly if you have come in to contact with or have been exposed to hazardous radiation.
  • Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities. You may be advised to take a thorough shower.
  • Change your clothes and shoes; put exposed clothing in a plastic bag; seal it and place it out of the way.
  • Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms, such as nausea, as soon as possible.
  • Listen to local radio or television stations for the latest emergency information.
  • Help a neighbor who may require special assistance - infants, elderly people and people with access and functional needs may require additional assistance. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.
  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Keep food in covered containers or in the refrigerator. Food not previously covered should be washed before being put in to containers.
If You are Directed to Evacuate
  • Close and lock doors and windows in your home. Turn off the air conditioner, ventilation fans, furnace, and other intakes.
  • Keep vehicle windows and vents closed; use re-circulating air.
If You are Advised to Shelter-In-Place
  • 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.
  • Listen to local radio or television stations for further information and instructions
If You Think You Have Been Exposed to Radiation
  • Remove clothes and shoes.
  • Put exposed clothing in a plastic bag.
  • Seal the bag and place it out of the way.
  • Take a thorough shower.
  • Seek medical treatment for any unusual symptoms.
Minimizing Exposure to Radiation
Time -The less time you spend exposed to the source of radiation, the better.
Distance - The more distance between you and the source of the radiation, the better.
Shielding - The more dense material between you and the source of the radiation, the better.

Did You Know...
Nuclear power plants operate in most states in the country and produce about 20 percent of the nation's power. Nearly 3 million Americans live within 10 miles of an operating nuclear power plant. Also local and state governments, federal agencies, and the electric utilities have emergency response plans in the event of a nuclear power plant incident. The plans define two "emergency planning zones." One zone covers an area within a 10-mile 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 radius from the plant, where radioactive materials could contaminate water supplies, food crops and livestock.

Contact your local or Installation's Office of Emergency Management for more information.