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
Things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a nuclear power plant emergency:
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.
Guidelines for the period following a nuclear power plant emergency:
If You are Directed to Evacuate
If You are Advised to Shelter-In-Place
If You Think You Have Been Exposed to Radiation
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.
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