Nuclear Radiation - How To Minimise The Effect

April 18, 2011
(This post is in the series of posts about Disaster Management.  I wrote about preparedness for Earthquake earlier in another post. In this post, let's talk about nuclear radiation - what is it and how can we minimise its effect, in case we have the threat to get exposed to it.)

Who does not know about the Fukushima Nuclear Plant of Japan, and the hardships the people are facing there due to fear of radiation in food and water of their city?

It's time we know about Nuclear radiation and what can we do to minimise the effect and safeguard ourselves in case of a nuclear radiation.

image from

What is radiation?

Radiation is any form of energy propagated as rays, waves or energetic particles that travel through the air or a material medium.  Radioactive materials are composed of atoms that are unstable.  An unstable atom gives off its excess energy until it becomes stable.  The energy emitted is radiation.  the process by which an atom changes from an unstable state to a more stable state by emitting radiation is called "radioactive decay" or "radioactivity".

Are we receiving some radiation naturally too?

Yes, we do get exposed to some natural or background radiation exposure each day from the sun, radioactive elements in the soil and rocks, household appliances (like TV sets and microwave ovens), and medical and dental x-rays.  Even the human body itself emits radiation.  These levels of natural radiation is normal.  The average person receives 360 millirems of radiation each year, 300 from natural sources and 60 from man-made activities (A rem is a unit of radiation exposure)

What are the precautionary measures to safeguard from accidental nuclear radiation ?

If you are residing in an area close to a nuclear plant, then you should be regularly informed about the educational information on radiation and evacuation plan etc.  (I could not search about the safe distance of residence from a nuclear plant, as prescribed by authorities.  If you find it, pl add in the comment)

The three factors that minimise radiation exposure to your body are :

Time - Most radio activities lose its strength fairly quickly.  Limiting the time spent near the source of radiation reduces the amount of radiation exposure.

Distance - the longer the distance between you and the source of the radiation, you will receive less radiation.

Shielding - Like distance, the more heavy, dense material between you and the source of the radiation, the better.

A nuclear plant

How can we protect ourselves from nuclear radiation and attacks?

- Common indicators of radioactivity are nausea, dizziness, vomiting and disorientation, with no odour but a wave of heat.  A nuclear explosion is followed by a 'blast' like a mushroom cloud.  Don't panic in the event of a nuclear attack or accident.

- Don't look at the fire blast as it can cause instant blindness.

- Close all doors and windows, and stay indoors till further communication from the Government.  Radioactivity does not penetrate solid structures, though fire may cause damage to building.  It's even better to basement or underground area.

- Cover all food and water.  Don't consume water, milk, food obtained following a nuclear blast.

- If coming from outdoors - take shower and change clothing and shoes.  Put worn items outdoors in a plastic bag and seal it.

Why does the thyroid gland need special protection after a release of radioactive material?

The thyroid gland located in the neck produces thyroid hormones which help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working normally.

The thyroid gland is vulnerable to the uptake or radioactive iodine. The thyroid gland needs iodine to produce the hormones that regulate the body's energy and metabolism. The thyroid absorbs available iodine from the bloodstream. The thyroid gland cannot distinguish between stable (regular) iodine and radioactive iodine and will absorb whatever it can.

In babies and children, the thyroid gland is one of the most radiation- sensitive parts of the body. Most nuclear accidents release radioactive iodine into the atmosphere which then can be absorbed into the body. When thyroid cells absorb too much radioactive iodine, it can cause thyroid cancer to develop several years after the exposure. Babies and young children are at highest risk. The risk is much lower for people over age 40.

Stay Aware - Stay Safe



Alka Gurha said...

Very informative once again....

Prateek said...

Post was super informative.

Jack said...


As earlier posts on Disaster Management this too is very informative. I had read long ago that those staying deep in jungles or in mud houses using cowdung as paste on walls are less prone to dangers of nuclear holocaust. Is it true?

Take care

BookWorm said...

Well. this was indeed informative... we do need to fear the hazards of a nuke fallout... for me, more than a threat of a nuke fallout, the danger lurks in the way people have been displaced and forests cleared to make way for such big nuke plants... its a great danger to both our ecology as well as the social set up...

...also, talking about dangers.. are we not living with radiations already.. you talked about microwave oven and TV Sets... well, i would say they are minimal.. but what about the ugly towers that 'beautify' our terraces...? yeah, i am talking about the cell phone towers.. they pose more dangers than an assumed threat of a nuke fall out... these days infact, people fall for the lure of some quick money and give their permission to these private cell phone providers to install towers on their terraces, but many often, these companies dont follow the guidelines and norms.. and end up causing harm to the whole neighbourhood...

vivek chamoli said...

Hi Friend,

Very Informative , thanks.

Take care. :)

Bhavin Sangoi said...

There are high chances of people absorbing radio active iodine those who are already deficient of Iodine, rather than those in whose body Iodine is in sufficient amount. Hence patient of Hypothyroidism are more likely to absorb Radio active Iodine and and get affected from Thyroid Cancer. As per the Wikipedia 2 Billion people world wide suffers from this disease and because diet related problems women are highly vulnerable to this disease.


Thanks for adding this info Bhavin.




Actually, I was searching what is the distance prescribed by authorities between a Nuke plant and residential colonies, but couln't find that.

Yes, these towers pose a serious threat to us all. thanks for adding this point.


Jack uncle, now sure about this one... as whatever I read (mostly sites of other countries) did not (couldn't have!!) talked of this. Indian site of NDMA does not have material about it. So can't say! But as said in the article, staying indoors(concrete houses) and in basement minimised the effect.





Just tried to put things at one place... thanks!

Shilpa sharma said...

It was indeed an informative post.Stay aware- stay safe is what we should do.

Thanks for visiting my blog and appreciating my efforts. It was sure encouraging. :) cheers, keep blogging.


Welcome to this blog Shilpa!

In fact, I'm inspired by your post and ur efforts!

tk care

Bhavin Sangoi said...

According to the rules of Depart of Atomic Energy are around 1.6 KM of Nuclear plant is called as as Exclusion zone in which no habitation is permitted and the whole area is fenced. Beyond this is the public domain and an area of 16 km radius around the plant site is called the Off Site Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ), where there are some chances of spreading Radiation.


ok great! Thanks for the info!

Angry Ganu said...

Yes. In fact, governments provide iodine pills in such situations. The intake of these pills will give sufficient iodine to the body so that it does not try to absorb the radioactive iodine.


Thanks for telling about this...

Reema S said...

 very infomative post!

Shyam Kumar said...

Energy produced from radio active elements is always harmful. But, we
should also understand that nuclear power reactors are the high source
for electricity production.

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