Nuclear Radiation Exposure

An accident could result in dangerous levels of nuclear radiation exposure that could affect the health and safety of the public living near the nuclear power plant.

And depending on the level of the accident, it can even affect people on the other side other earth.

Nuclear Radiation Exposure Warning

The severity of signs and symptoms of radiation sickness depends on how much radiation you've absorbed.

How much you absorb depends on the strength of the radiated energy and the distance between you and the source of radiation.

The absorbed dose of radiation is measured in a unit called a gray (Gy). Diagnostic tests that use radiation, such as an X-ray, result in a small dose of radiation — typically well below 0.1 Gy, focused on a few organs or small amount of tissue.

Signs and symptoms of radiation sickness usually appear when the entire body receives an absorbed dose of at least 1 Gy. Doses greater than 6 Gy to the whole body are generally not treatable and usually lead to death within two days to two weeks, depending on the dose and duration of the exposure.

“The rays of high-energy radiation are like little bullets that shoot through the body... If any of the special molecules [that control the process by which the cell divides] happen to be damaged by a single little bullet of radiation from a single radioactive atom, it may... cause the cell to divide much more rapidly than the other cells... Then the human being may die from cancer—perhaps leukemia, bone cancer, some other kind of cancer—caused by the single radioactive atom that produced the single little bullet of radiation.” - Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling

What to Do If You Are Exposed

The population closest to the nuclear power plant that is within the 10-mile emergency planning zone is at greatest risk of exposure to radiation and radioactive materials.

Beyond 10 miles, the major risk of radioiodine exposure is from ingestion of contaminated foodstuffs, particularly milk products.

If there is a threat of nuclear radiation exposure public health officials may advise you to shelter-in-place by remaining in your home, school, or place of work or they may require you to evacuate the area.

Be prepared by having a disaster preparedness plan in place so you won't be caught without emergency food and water.

You may also be told not to eat some foods and not to drink some beverages until a safe supply can be brought in from outside the affected area.

Following the instructions given to you by these authorities can lower the amount of radioactive iodine that enters your body and lower the risk of serious injury to your thyroid gland.

Depending on the level of nuclear radiation exposure you and your family may be asked to take potassium iodide. If taken properly it will help reduce the dose of radiation to the thyroid gland from radioactive iodines, and reduce the risk of thyroid cancer.

Potassium iodide is a salt, similar to table salt. Its chemical symbol is KI. It is routinely added to table salt to make it "iodized." Potassium iodide, if taken within the appropriate time and at the appropriate dosage, blocks the thyroid gland's uptake of radioactive iodine and thus reduces the risk of thyroid cancers and other diseases that might otherwise be caused by thyroid uptake of radioactive iodine that could be dispersed in a severe reactor accident.

FDA Potassium Iodide Dosing Recommendations

The FDA has approved two different forms of KI—tablets and liquid—that people can take by mouth after a nuclear radiation emergency.

  • Tablets come in two strengths, 130 milligram (mg) and 65 mg.
  • The tablets are scored so they may be cut into smaller pieces for lower doses.
  • Each milliliter (mL) of the oral liquid solution contains 65 mg of KI.

Click here for FDA regulations for using Potassium Iodide as a Thyroid Blocking Agent in Radiation Emergencies.

According to the FDA, the following doses are appropriate to take after internal contamination with (or likely internal contamination with) radioactive iodine:

  • Adults should take 130 mg (one 130 mg tablet OR two 65 mg tablets OR two mL of solution).

  • Women who are breastfeeding should take the adult dose of 130 mg.

  • Children between 3 and 18 years of age should take 65 mg (one 65 mg tablet OR 1 mL of solution).

  • Children who are adult size (greater than or equal to 150 pounds) should take the full adult dose, regardless of their age.

  • Infants and children between 1 month and 3 years of age should take 32 mg (½ of a 65 mg tablet OR ½ mL of solution). This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing infants and children.

  • Newborns from birth to 1 month of age should be given 16 mg (¼ of a 65 mg tablet or ¼ mL of solution). This dose is for both nursing and non-nursing newborn infants.

Fighting Effects of Nuclear Radiation Exposure

While nuclear radiation exposure can produce radiation sickness that is serious and often fatal, it's rare.