JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - There's a grim update on the Japan nuclear crisis from the chief of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He says all the water is gone from one of the spent fuel pools at Japan's most troubled nuclear plant. This means there's nothing to stop the fuel rods from getting hotter and ultimately melting down.
Amid increasing worldwide concern over the situation at a Japanese nuclear plant, the company that operates the plant says it has nearly completed a new power line that could restore electric cooling systems there. Earlier today, white smoke poured from the reactor complex. And a surge in radiation levels forced workers who were trying to cool the reactors to retreat for hours.
The White House is recommending that U.S. Citizens stay 50 miles away from a stricken Japanese nuclear plant. Radiation exposure remains a very serious concern. Many are now wondering about the risk of earthquake damage to a nuclear reactor here in the U.S.
As it turns out, the nuclear reactor with the highest risk of core damage from a quake is not in California near the San Andreas fault. The reactor is on the east coast in New York. It is owned by the local corporation. Entergy. Entergy is the same utility giant that owns and operates the Grand Gulf Nuclear Power plant in Port Gibson. Entergy also owns and operates Indian Point Energy Center units 2 and 3 in New York.
We have learned, the reactor with the highest risk rating is 24 miles north of New York City. In fact, Entergy's reactor number three has the highest risk of earthquake damage in the country according to new U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimates. The chance of a core damage from a quake at Indian Point 3 is estimated at 1 in 10,000 each year.
Under NRC guidelines, that's right on the very edge of requiring "immediate concern regarding adequate protection" of the public. Of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States ranked by the NRC's estimate of risk each year that an earthquake would cause damage to the reactor's core releasing radiation we found this. Entergy's #2 plant in New York was 25th on the list. Entergy's Grand Gulf 1 in Port Gibson is listed as 57th. The latest information from NRC indicates the chance of an earthquake risk has been elevated 28 percent higher.
Jerry Nappi, Manager of communications at the Indian Point Energy Center in New York sent WLBT News this response Wednesday. "Indian Point's capability to withstand a seismic event far exceeds any that have ever been recorded in this region. The earthquake that struck Japan has 1,000 times more destructive force than the worst postulated earthquake for this area. (regarding this list) I think it important to recognize this list is a comparison of plants, all of which are at very low risk of damage from an earthquake event. At Indian Point we've never had a significant earthquake and the fault closest to us is described as "inactive."
Radiation Facts Q & A:
What is radiation? Radiation is energy that travels in the form of waves or high-speed particles. It occurs naturally in sunlight and sound waves. Man-made radiation is used in x-rays, nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants and cancer treatment. Source: NIH (national institutes of health): radiation exposure what is the difference between ionizing and non ionizing radiation? Non ionizing radiation comes in the form of light, radio waves, microwaves and radar. This kind of radiation usually does not cause tissue damage. Ionizing radiation produces immediate chemical effects on human tissue.
X-rays, gamma rays, and particle bombardment (neutron beam, electron beam, protons, mesons, and others) give off ionizing radiation. This type of radiation can be used for medical testing and treatment, industrial and manufacturing purposes, weapons and weapons development, and more. Source: NIH:
Medlineplus-Radiation sickness:What happens if you are exposed to radiation? If you are exposed to small amounts of radiation over a long time, it raises your risk of cancer. It can also cause mutations in your genes, which you could pass on to any children you have after the exposure. A lot of radiation over a short period, such as from a radiation emergency, can cause burns or radiation sickness. Source: NIH (national institutes of health):
Radiation exposure:What is radiation sickness? Radiation sickness is damage to your body caused by a very large dose of radiation often received over a short period of time (acute). The amount of radiation absorbed by the body — the absorbed dose — determines how sick you'll be. Source: Mayo Clinic
What are other names for radiation sickness? Radiation sickness is also called acute radiation sickness, acute radiation syndrome or radiation poisoning. Common exposures to low-dose radiation, such as x-ray or ct examinations, do not cause radiation sickness. Source: Mayo Clinic What are the differences between "chronic" exposure and "acute" exposure to radiation? Chronic exposure stochastic effects are associated with long-term, low-level (chronic) exposure to radiation. ("stochastic" refers to the likelihood that something will happen.) increased levels of exposure make these health effects more likely to occur, but do not influence the type or severity of the effect. Acute exposure non-stochastic effects appear in cases of exposure to high levels of radiation, and become more severe as the exposure increases. Short-term, high-level exposure is referred to as 'acute' exposure. Many non-cancerous health effects of radiation are non-stochastic. Unlike cancer, health effects from 'acute' exposure to radiation usually appear quickly. Acute health effects include burns and radiation sickness. Radiation sickness is also called 'radiation poisoning.' It can cause premature aging or even death. If the dose is fatal, death usually occurs within two months. The symptoms of radiation sickness include: nausea, weakness, hair loss, skin burns or diminished organ function. Source: EPA:
Radiation protection:What are the symptoms of acute radiation exposure? Bleeding from the nose, mouth, gums, and rectum bloody stool bruising dehydration diarrhea fainting fatigue hair loss inflammation of exposed areas (redness, tenderness, swelling, bleeding) mouth ulcers nausea and vomiting open sores on the skin burns (redness, blistering) sloughing of skin ulcers in the esophagus, stomach or intestines vomiting blood weakness source: nigh: medlineplus-radiation sickness how is exposure from x-rays or gamma rays measured? Exposure from x-rays or gamma rays is measured in units of roentgens. For example: total body exposure of 100 roentgens (or 1 gy) causes radiation sickness. Total body exposure of 400 roentgens (or 4 gy) causes radiation sickness and death in half the individuals. Without medical treatment, nearly everyone who receives more than this amount of radiation will die within 30 days. 100,000 rads causes almost immediate unconsciousness and death within an hour source: NIH:
Medlineplus-radiation sickness is fallout from a nuclear bomb the same as fallout from a nuclear plant accident? No. Due to differences in nuclear fuels and the resultant reactions that take place when a reactor accident occurs, the radioactive elements of this fallout (called isotopes) from a nuclear power plant accident are not the same as those found in fallout from the detonation of a nuclear device. Source: US Dept of State:
Radiological and nuclear incidents fact sheet how can I determine the severity of exposure to radiation? The severity of symptoms and illness (acute radiation sickness) depends on the type and amount of radiation, how long you were exposed, and which part of the body was exposed. Symptoms of radiation sickness may occur immediately after exposure, or over the next few days, weeks, or months. Because it is difficult to determine the amount of radiation exposure from nuclear accidents, the best signs of the severity of the exposure are: the length of time between the exposure and the onset of symptoms, the severity of symptoms, and severity of changes in white blood cells. If a person vomits less than an hour after being exposed, that usually means the radiation dose received is very high and death may be expected. Source: NIH:
Medlineplus-radiation sickness is any amount of radiation safe? There is no firm basis for setting a "safe" level of exposure above background for stochastic effects ....however, there do appear to be threshold exposures for the various non-stochastic effects. (please note that the acute affects in the following table are cumulative. For example, a dose that produces damage to bone marrow will have produced changes in blood chemistry and be accompanied by nausea.) source: EPA:
Radiation protection; How can I calculate my radiation dose? Rhe environmental protection agency provides a calculator that enables you to calculate your total yearly dose in mrem. Source: EPA: Understanding radiation-calculate your dose what is the usual "rate of exposure" for the average person? "Most people receive about 3 tenths of a rem (300 mrem) every year from natural background sources of radiation (mostly radon).
Source: EPA: Radiation protection who is protecting us from the dangers of radiation exposure? state and local authorities maintain off-site emergency response plans, which are closely coordinated with the plant's on-site emergency response plan. They also conduct off-site radiological emergency preparedness exercises at each commercial nuclear power station every two years. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issues licenses and policies governing safe operation of nuclear reactors and the commercial use of radioactive materials. NRC also performs inspections and oversees emergency response programs for licensees. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1989 under the Clean Air Act, EPA published standards limiting radionuclide emissions from all federal and industrial facilities. EPA also sets environmental standards for offsite radiation due to the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) FEMA evaluates both the state and local off-site emergency response plans and the off-site radiological emergency preparedness exercises that are conducted at each commercial nuclear power station every two years.
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for the development and implementation of the disposal system for spent nuclear fuel from the nation's nuclear power plants. This activity is totally funded by a tax paid by the users of nuclear-generated electricity.
Source: EPA: nuclear power plants: What limits does EPA set on exposure to radiation? Health physicists generally agree on limiting a person's exposure beyond background radiation to about 100 mrem per year from all sources. Exceptions are occupational, medical or accidental exposures. (medical x-rays generally deliver less than 10 mrem). EPA and other regulatory agencies generally limit exposures from specific source to the public to levels well under 100 mrem. This is far below the exposure levels that cause acute health effects.
Source: EPA: Radiation protection what is the difference between radiation exposure and radioactive contamination? A person exposed to radiation is not necessarily contaminated with radioactive material. A person who has been exposed to radiation has had radioactive waves or particles penetrate the body, like having an x-ray. For a person to be contaminated, radioactive material must be on or inside of his or her body. A contaminated person is exposed to radiation released by the radioactive material on or inside the body. An uncontaminated person can be exposed by being too close to radioactive material or a contaminated person, place, or thing. Radiation exposure occurs when a person is near a radiation source. Persons exposed to a radiation source do not become radioactive. For example, an x-ray machine is a source of radiation exposure. However, you do not become radioactive when you have an x-ray taken.
Radioactive contamination results when loose particles of radioactive material settle on surfaces, skin, or clothing. Internal contamination may result if these loose particles are inhaled, ingested, or lodged in an open wound. Contaminated people are radioactive and should be decontaminated as quickly as possible. However, the level of radioactive contamination is unlikely to cause a health risk to another individual.
Source: NY Department of Health: Radiological terrorism rapid response card and CDC: Radiation emergencie what are the different routes, or pathways, by which people can be exposed...and what are the effects of each? The various methods of exposure to radiation are inhalation, ingestion, and direct (external exposure)
Source: EPA: Radiation protection-exposure pathways inhalation: What are the causes and effects? Exposure by the inhalation pathway occurs when people breathe radioactive materials into the lungs. The chief concerns are radioactively contaminated dust, smoke, or gaseous radionuclides such as radon. What happens to inhaled radioactive materials? Radioactive particles can lodge in the lungs and remain for a long time. As long as it remains and continues to decay, the exposure continues. For radionuclides that decay slowly, the exposure continues over a very long time. Inhalation is of most concern for radionuclides that are alpha or beta particle emitters. Alpha and beta particles can transfer large amounts of energy to surrounding tissue, damaging DNA or other cellular material. This damage can eventually lead to cancer or other diseases and mutations.
Source: EPA: Radiation protection-exposure pathways-inhalation ingestion: what are the causes and effects? Exposure by the ingestion pathway occurs when someone swallows radioactive materials. Alpha and beta emitting radionuclides are of most concern for ingested radioactive materials. They release large amounts of energy directly to tissue, causing DNA and other cell damage. What happens to ingested radioactive materials? ingested radionuclides can expose the entire digestive system. Some radionuclides can also be absorbed and expose the kidneys and other organs, as well as the bones. Radionuclides that are eliminated by the body fairly quickly are of limited concern. These radionuclides have a short biological half-life.
Source: EPA: radiation protection-exposure pathways-ingestion direct (external exposure): What are the causes and effects? The third pathway of concern is direct or external exposure from radioactive material. The concern about exposure to different kinds of radiation varies: Who is protecting us from the dangers of radiation exposure? State and local authorities maintain off-site emergency response plans, which are closely coordinated with the plant's on-site emergency response plan. They also conduct off-site radiological emergency preparedness exercises at each commercial nuclear power station every two years. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issues licenses and policies governing safe operation of nuclear reactors and the commercial use of radioactive materials.
Radiation protection are children more sensitive to radiation than adults? Nuclear power plants use the heat generated from nuclear fission in a contained environment to convert water to steam, which powers generators to produce electricity.
Source: FEMA: nuclear power plant emergency how much of our power is generated by nuclear plants in the U.S.? Nuclear power accounted for about 20% of the total net electricity generated in the united states in 2008, about as much as the electricity used in California, Texas, and New York, the three states with the most people.
Source: EIA energy kids-uranium (nuclear) How many nuclear power plants are there in the united states? In 2008, there were 66 nuclear power plants (composed of 104 licensed nuclear reactors) throughout the United States. Most of the reactors are east of the Mississippi. Worldwide, over 400 reactors provide 17% of the world's electricity.
Source: EIA energy kids-uranium (nuclear) and EPA: Nuclear power plants how many Americans live near power plants? Nuclear power plants operate in most states in the country. Nearly 3 million Americans live within 10 miles of an operating nuclear power plant.
Source: NRC facility info finder: What danger do nuclear power plants pose? 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. The major hazards to people in the vicinity of the plume are radiation exposure to the body from the cloud and particles deposited on the ground, inhalation of radioactive materials, and ingestion of radioactive materials.
Keep a battery-powered radio with you at all times and listen to the radio for specific instructions. If you are told to evacuate, keep car windows and vents closed; use re-circulating air. If you are advised to remain indoors: close and lock doors and windows. 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. If you expect you have been exposed to nuclear radiation: change clothes and shoes. Put exposed clothing in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and place it out of the way. Take a thorough shower. Keep food in covered containers or in the refrigerator. Food not previously covered should be washed before being put in to containers.
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists: Nuclear accident ABC's: Keep a battery-powered radio with you at all times and listen to the radio for specific instructions. If you are told to evacuate, keep car windows and vents closed; use re-circulating air. If you are advised to remain indoors: close and lock doors and windows. 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. If you expect you have been exposed to nuclear radiation: change clothes and shoes. Put exposed clothing in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and place it out of the way. Take a thorough shower. Keep food in covered containers or in the refrigerator. Food not previously covered should be washed before being put in to containers.
Copyright 2011 WLBT. All rights reserved.