Public Health: Protecting Our Communities
In the nuclear energy industry, our responsibility each day is to produce electricity safely. In doing so, containing radiation with layer upon layer of redundant safety systems is among the industry’s top priorities. Keeping communities safely protected is our number one priority, which is why we never take chances when it comes to safety, The industry is continually strengthening its multi-layered protections against radiation – beyond the four-feet thick containment domes with steel reinforcements at nuclear energy facilities; lead vests and clothing to keep medical personnel and patients safe during diagnostic testing; and constant oversight and enforcement by expert scientists whose sole priority is safety. We don’t assume the best when it comes to radiation and use every means necessary to protect our plant workers, our environment and our communities. In fact, since most plant workers live in close proximity to a nuclear plant, they have an added interest in ensuring that their families and homes are safe.
“We live in a radioactive world… All the foodstuffs we eat that contain potassium also contain a small amount of radioactive potassium…These examples are not to minimize the health consequences of high-level exposures…There is a need for better public understanding and better communication on the health effects of radiation exposures.”
— John Boice, Jr., Sc.D.
Professor of Radiation Epidemiology
Department of Medicine
Scientists and experts have been studying and analyzing the effects of radiation for more than 100 years and their findings have helped the United States become well equipped to monitor and control radiation even at trace levels. Several federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have monitoring stations set up around the country to monitor for radiation in the environment, including in food products, which could pose a risk to the public. These agencies have set stringent federal limits to ensure that Americans are protected from unsafe levels of radiation year round.
The nuclear power industry also monitors for radiation each day. We have several radiation monitors inside and outside of each nuclear power plant site and abide by strict federal safety limits as set by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We constantly monitor radiation so there are no surprises. Computerized radiation monitoring was adopted in the 1980s. Nuclear power plants have many computerized radiation monitors throughout facilities – some plants have hundreds. Roughly every few seconds, high-tech “area radiation monitors” feed data to control room operators. This continuous monitoring is vital because, if a section of a plant experiences an abnormal radiation level – within a matter of seconds – monitoring devices signal that irregularity to control room operators. Our technology is extremely sophisticated and is continually becoming more so.
All nuclear facilities are staffed by some of the best radiation safety and environmental protection experts in the country. Their primary role is to ensure that plants are operating safely and do not pose a health or safety risk to the plant workers or their communities. The experts’ daily reports are verified by onsite federal nuclear regulators who ensure that the levels never exceed the NRC’s limits for plant workers or the environment.
At each step of the way, all operations at a nuclear facility are designed to safely contain radiation—from the plant structures to plant worker training to ongoing monitoring. We believe that the communities we serve have the right to know all the facts about radiation, the risks and benefits alike.
In the wake of the accident in Japan, Americans rightfully are wondering whether U.S. reactors face the same risks. The fact is: American nuclear energy facilities are subject to more regulatory scrutiny and requirements than in any other country. The U.S. nuclear energy industry’s safety culture includes a commitment to continuous improvement, sharing of information and employing lessons learned. Plants are continuously upgrading, and procedures have been improved repeatedly over the years as a result of advancing technology and lessons learned. The ability to detect radiation levels is extremely sophisticated.
Radiation is one of the most researched elements in nature. We have the responsibility to safely control radiation, and we safely contain radiation inside nuclear facilities so that we can harness immense benefits for energy production. America needs more American-made, cost efficient, emission free energy to meet our growing demand. By keeping radiation safely contained, we can deliver that energy to American families.
- Radiation exists in nature and in the world around us, from sources ranging from the sun to granite to potassium. It’s truly a part of nature and – in small doses – is not a health threat.
- Radiation from nuclear power plants is less than one percent of the amount we receive annually from natural sources.
- Nuclear power plant radiation standards in the United States are set by the Environmental Protection Agency and enforced by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- Nuclear power plants are designed to contain and control radiation and plant monitors measure for radiation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Scientists have studied radiation for more than 100 years and know how to detect, monitor and control even the smallest amounts. In fact, scientists know more about the health effects of radiation than nearly any other physical or chemical agent.
- Nuclear power plants maintain radiation levels even lower than permitted by federal regulation.
- Unlike nature’s radiation, the use and handling of man-made radiation is strictly controlled and regulated. Most of the public’s exposure to man-made radiation comes from medical applications, such as computed tomography (CT) scans.
- If you stood at a nuclear energy facility’s boundary 24 hours a day, seven days a week for an entire year and consumed the local water and food – you would receive less than one-tenth of the radiation exposure you receive from the sun’s cosmic rays during a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Cleveland.