Preparing for a Nuclear Accident

A nuclear plant accident can be the result of the “accidental melting of the core of a nuclear reactor”. This can occur when nuclear reactors generate more heat than what is being removed by cooling systems put in place to prevent this from happening. The heat can cause the core to partially or completely collapse. One of the main examples of a nuclear reactor accident is the Chernobyl Disaster, which occurred in 1986. The cause of this accident was damage to a reactor core that caused large amounts of radioactive materials to be released.

Often called a nuclear meltdown because when the core is damaged by heat or the loss of coolant, the fuel, which is typically plutonium, uranium or thorium leaks into the coolant. Steam inside the core of the reactor can cause hydrogen explosions and radioactive materials to be emitted into the environment. Loss of pressure or loss or coolant in reactors are two of the main causes of nuclear reactor accidents.

What Areas would a Nuclear Accident Affect?

A nuclear plant accident can affect many areas of the world. Those who live close to nuclear power plants should be more concerned. Living in an area that is more prone to natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes or hurricanes increases the risk. There are 437 nuclear power plants located in 31 countries. As of 2013 there were 100 nuclear power plants in the United States. The following are some of the nuclear power plants across the U.S.

  • Beaver County, Pennsylvania
  • Calvert Cliffs, Maryland
  • Haddam Neck, Connecticut
  • Ontario, New York
  • Lower Alloways Creek Township, New Jersey
  • Buchanan, New York
  • Scriba, New York
  • Burke County, Georgia
  • Athens, Alabama
  • Southport, North Carolina
  • Crystal River, Florida
  • Hamilton County, Tennessee
  • Surry County, Virginia
  • Claiborne County, Mississippi
  • San Diego County, California
  • Two Creeks, Wisconsin

Past Occurrences of Nuclear Accidents

Chernobyl nuclear plant after 2nd explosionOf course, one of the most well-known nuclear plant accidents was the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine in 1986. This accident resulted in the immediate death of 30 people and the potential for 4,000 deaths from cancer. The projected deaths will be a result of exposure to high radiation levels.

From 1952 to 2009, it has been estimated that 99 nuclear accidents have occurred worldwide. Of these accidents, 57 have been after the Chernobyl disaster and 56 were in the United States. On January 3, 1961 in Idaho Fall, Idaho, an explosion at the National Reactor Testing Station killed operators.

On March 28, 1979 at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, a partial nuclear meltdown occurred as the result of operator error. According to official reports, the amount of radiation leaked was comparable to having a chest X-ray performed. There are some people who believe the effects were more severe; however, there have been no studies to support this theory.

In Oak Harbor, Ohio in March 2002, workers at the David-Besse Nuclear Power Station found a hole in the reactor vessel head. There were no explosions due to the hole, but this was considered a very serious incident that could have resulted in a nuclear plant accident. The station was closed until March 2004 to perform maintenance.

Are more accidents likely? This has been debatable since nuclear stations began being built and since the first accident. Although technical measures have been adopted to reduce this risk, there have been many accidents as well as some that were avoided. Nuclear reactor accidents will always be a possibility when there are nuclear power stations.

How can You Prepare for a Nuclear Accident?

The thought of a nuclear reactor accident is distressing to say the least. Although many people believe it would be disastrous, it is possible to survive a nuclear plant accident or attack. Preparing for this type of event is quite similar to preparing for a hurricane or disaster of another sort. There are basic items that need to be collected as well as some that are specific to a nuclear disaster. The following are just some of the things that need to be stocked up and stored to help increase your chances of surviving a nuclear accident.

What to do in the Event of a Nuclear Accident

One of the first things that must be decided if a nuclear plant accident is imminent is to decide whether you are going to stay where you are or evacuate to another area. If you have prepared your supplies, it may be best to remain at home. If you try to evacuate, keep in mind that there can be all sorts of complications with this choice. From congested roads to not knowing what is waiting ahead, evacuation can be a dangerous situation.

This is a list of what you should do if you are going to remain at home.

  • Designate tasks – Each member of the family should have specific tasks. They will know what they are supposed to do thus eliminating chaos. Assign each of the tasks to particular members.
  • Getting supplies – One person should be in charge of making a trip to the grocery or other stores to get anything that is needed. This can include items on your preparation list such food, both ready to eat and some perishables, canned food, drink mixes, multi-vitamins, over the counter medications, etc. Getting there quickly and collecting items that will be needed is imperative. The supplies will not last long.
  • Cash – Go to the ATM and get cash. It is best to use credit or debit cards to pay for any supplies that are needed so you can conserve your cash.
  • Water – Those designated for this task should fill every available container with water. It is vital that enough water is stored for drinking, cooking and sanitation purposes. Water is even more necessary than food because without clean water, disease and illness could cause more problems. New garbage cans with lids and liners make excellent storage for water.
  • Shelter – A shelter that can protect everyone from radiation fallout is a must. A safe place to wait while the radioactive fallout lessens in intensity can save your life. Fallout that is emitting radiation of a lethal amount – over 500 R/hr – is fatal within an hour of being exposed. The fallout weakens over time. Within 7 hours, it is only 1/10th as strong and in two days it is only 1/100th as strong. A basement is a good shelter if enough mass can be put between the fallout and the people to absorb the radiation.

The Road to Recovery after a Nuclear Reactor Accident

Recovering from a nuclear plant accident can take an emotional toll on people in addition to the physical aspects. It is normal to feel anger, sadness, grief and anxiety. These are normal reactions to disasters. Recovery will take some time. There is no an overnight solution and acknowledging these feeling will help in your recovery. Following a nuclear reactor accident, there will be a chaotic period because people will not know what to expect. Part of the preparations that were made for the nuclear accident are going to be needed for recovery.

  • Food that was stored in preparation for the nuclear disaster will help to keep people alive after a nuclear reactor accident. The safe storage of this food will provide supplies for your family that are not contaminated, which is essential to survival. Take stock of what is left and how long it will last. The same is true for the water that was stored.
  • Containers of water or food that have fallout dust can be rinsed. As long as the food or water inside has not been contaminated, it is safe. If the need for drinking water arises, water that may have been contaminated by bacteria can be boiled. It should boil for at least 10 minutes, preferably a little longer. If there is not a way to boil the water, each gallon can be treated with 10 drops of bleach and after a half-hour to an hour, it is drinkable.
  • When venturing outside, if your clothes come into contact with fallout, take them off before entering your shelter. This is one of the reasons for the hooded rain ponchos that were recommended for a disaster kit. They are more easily rinsed off and can be removed and left outside if necessary.
  • A short wave radio or a hand-crank radio should have been part of your preparedness kit. This will allow you to listen for emergency broadcasts that will inform you about the radiation levels in your area. This is how you will know when it is safe to leave your shelter. Information about relief and recovery efforts in your area will also be broadcast.