Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Concerns 

Concerns: Frequently Asked Questions | Resources |Radiation and KI

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the impact of the event in Japan on people in the United States?

Answer: At this time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) says there is no indication that materials from the incidents in Japan have the potential to have any significant radiological effect on the U.S.

Q. What’s the risk for Arkansas from the current nuclear power emergency in Japan?

Answer: At present, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) says Japan’s nuclear emergency presents no danger to the United States. The NRC is involved in the Japan emergency both at home and in Japan.

Q. What are you doing to assess the risk?

Answer: The Arkansas Department of Health is monitoring the situation closely in conjunction with many state and federal partners. The department will continue to follow the effects of the damaged nuclear power plants as long as there are potential concerns. The department will share verified information through its website, Twitter and Facebook pages as it becomes available.

Q. Does Arkansas have a plan in place to respond to a radiological emergency? 

Answer: The Arkansas Department of Health works closely with Arkansas Nuclear One and Entergy, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and other state agencies in all emergencies, and there is a plan in place that is regularly exercised and reviewed by federal agencies.

Q. Should I be taking potassium iodide (KI) to protect myself?

Answer: No. Potassium iodide (KI) tablets are not recommended at this time and can present a danger to people with allergies to iodine, shellfish or who have thyroid problems. Dosages can vary and should only be taken as advised by a medical professional.

Q. Does the ADH have KI for all Arkansans in response to the Japanese event?

Answer: No. At this time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) says there is no indication that materials from the incidents in Japan have the potential to have any significant radiological effect on the U.S.

Q. Does the ADH have KI for Arkansans in the 10-mile emergency zone around Arkansas Nuclear One?

Answer: During the past several years, KI stockpiling for distribution to the general public has been considered by the state and local governments in the 34 states directly impacted by nuclear power reactors. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has offered free KI to state and local governments requesting it. Twenty-one states have taken the NRC KI for distribution and/or stockpiling for general public use.  Most of these states have highly dense population bases living near the nuclear power plants. Thirteen states have chosen not to distribute and/or stockpile KI for the general public. Arkansas is one of those 13 states. The State of Arkansas and the county government officials from the five counties impacted directly by Arkansas Nuclear One (ANO) have closely reviewed the KI stockpile and distribution issues.  The joint decision reached has been to not stockpile KI for the general public. All of the officials have agreed that the best protective policy is to continue to be very proactive in the evacuation of the general public if there is ever an event at ANO. Early evacuations of the general public will minimize the potential radiation exposure that includes potential radioactive iodine uptake.

Q. What are the health effects of radiation exposure?

Answer: 

  • The risks from radiation always depend on the amount of radiation in the atmosphere, the distance from the radiation source, and whether there is any shielding between the source and a person.
  • Radiation can be dangerous if the dose of radiation exceeds a certain level. If a nuclear power plant is damaged, health effects are most often seen among the first responders and nuclear power plant workers. This is because they are working in the accident area and they are more likely to be exposed to the high levels of radiation that must be present to cause immediate effects. Some of the immediate effects show up as skin redness, hair loss, and burns.
  • In a nuclear power plant accident, the general population is not likely to be exposed to enough radiation to cause these effects. Arkansas’s distance from Japan reduces our risk of exposure to the radiation that has been released as a result of this accident.

Q. What are the long-term effects from radiation exposure?

Answer: 

  • Exposure to high levels radiation could increase the risk of cancer. For instance, among the atomic bomb survivors after World War II, the risk of leukemia increased a few years after radiation exposure. The risks of other cancers increased after more than 10 years following the exposure to high amounts of radiation. 
  • Radiation can be released into the air during nuclear emergencies. Until the radiation is analyzed by experts, there is not enough information to predict the potential impacts of the radiation upon people and the environment.

Q. Is it true that we are all exposed to radiation daily?

Answer: 

  • Yes. It is important to understand that people are exposed to natural radiation on a daily basis. The radiation comes from the sun, from natural materials found in the ground, water and air, from our televisions, cell phones and computers, and from every structure around us. Levels of exposure to natural radiation also depend on the local geology and elevation. 
  • People can also be exposed to radiation from chemotherapy or medical equipment such as X-ray machines.

Q. How does radiation become a health hazard during a nuclear power plant accident?

Answer:

  • If radiation is released from a nuclear power plant during an accident, the radioactive particles might become airborne.
  • Those particles that drift in the atmosphere could settle on water and land. If the particles come in contact with people, there is a possibility of radiation contamination both internal (breathing and eating) and external.
  • It is important to monitor the instructions from the authorities to determine if there is a risk. You may be advised to stay indoors for a period of time. 
  • If there has been external contamination, such as radioactive particles falling on the skin, you may be advised to take a shower.

Q. Who is at highest risk of exposure in the Japanese nuclear power plant accident? 

Answer:  The Japanese nuclear power plant workers may be exposed to higher radiation doses due to their professional activities and direct exposure to radioactive materials inside the power plant.

Q. What will public health be doing in an emergency involving radiation? 

Answer: 

  • In the case of a nuclear power accident, protective actions may be implemented within an area around the site. Those could include staying indoors, and in more extreme cases, evacuation.
  • The public health impacts depend on the amount of radioactivity released in the atmosphere and the prevailing weather conditions such as wind and rain. It may be helpful to evacuate people within a certain distance of the nuclear power plant and to provide shelter in order to reduce exposure These steps are determined by authorities after consultation with radiation experts.
  • If warranted, steps such as restricting food use of vegetables and dairy products produced in the area of the power plant can help reduce exposure.

Q. How can I protect myself?

Answer:

  • It is important to remember that according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, there is no risk to anyone in the United States at this time. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has permanent radiation monitoring stations on the West coast, and the EPA is keeping federal agencies informed.
  • Keep yourself and your family informed by obtaining accurate information. Know where to get information, such the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, rather than relying on unverified websites, where invalid information may spread quickly. 
  • Follow the instructions of your local government authorities after any emergency. The Arkansas Department of Health communicates with local media, such as newspaper, radio and TV, regularly. The department also shares information on its website, Twitter and Facebook.

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