Nuclear Energy - Disaster ManagementNuclear technology is utilized in many applications – medicine, power and military among others. Among these, power generation based on nuclear energy is gaining ground. At present, nuclear installations at an industrial scale can be found across the globe.
Nuclear installations are complex and have control mechanisms to avoid major incidents. Yet, accidents do occur. Though nuclear accidents are not frequent, once an accident occurs, the consequences can be disastrous.
Major nuclear accidents in the past:
- Three Mile Island, H Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA, 1979.
- Chernobyl, Current Ukraine, 1986.
The serious issue with nuclear installation accidents is that radioactive material that is released into the environment could enter human bodies through:
- Breathing contaminated air
- Consuming contaminated food/water
The critical factor in preparing for any nuclear disaster is to have an authority structure in place (identify the person issuing instruction during a disaster). This ensures that information is received from those in authority. Again, the mode of communication should also be efficient to avoid misinformation.
Nuclear installations have authorized personnel to manage disaster communication. For e.g.: at nuclear installations, sirens/public address systems can be used to warn of any disaster. Secondly, the risk to residential/commercial properties is on the basis of the location from the nuclear installation.
Nuclear installations are segregated into zones: Central, intermediate and outer. The zones can be further classified as sub-zones. On the basis of criticality of incident, zones would be at varying risk levels and would require varying mitigation actions. It would be appropriate to confirm the zone in which one operates.
Nuclear installations use distinct terminologies to communicate risks:
- Early Warning: though the impact is less as of now, the nuclear facility is functioning under conditions that the issue may become serious.
- Disaster alert: hazardous release of radioactive material has taken place/will take place.
Precautions and Guidelines
- Only technically competent personnel should manage disaster relief/mitigation.
- Stay in closed rooms, avoid doors/windows. Any component for air-circulation should be switched off.
- Consume iodine tablets – they ensure any radio-active material doesn’t accumulate in the thyroid gland, but avoid over dosage.
- Evacuations should happen before radioactive clouds are formed.