Unintentional Events: Radiological Events

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Unintentional Events: Radiological Events

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Nuclear reactors use a process called fission, or atom splitting, to produce energy. Nuclear reactors control the fission process by slowing it down, cooling it off, and controlling the number of splitting atoms in the reactor.

Nuclear reactors cannot explode like a nuclear bomb; they use different materials and structures. Nuclear power plants are designed to prevent the release of radioactive materials and include multiple protective barriers placed around reactors, making the accidental release of radiological materials extremely unlikely. However, when developing emergency response plans, it is still important for businesses to address such events.

State and local emergency officials along with Dominion Virginia Power have prepared nuclear emergency response plans for areas within 10 miles of the power stations. If your business is in a locality within 10 miles of a nuclear power station, you will need to take some basic precautions and learn about your local evacuation procedures. To learn more about the evacuation plans for your area, contact your local emergency manager.

Classifications of radiological events

Virginia's two nuclear power stations have four classes of radiological events, increasing from least to most serious. These terms are used in Emergency Alert System announcements.

  • Notification of Unusual Event: There is a problem at the nuclear facility. No action is necessary.
  • Alert: There is a problem at the nuclear facility that has the potential for a radiological release. No action is necessary.
  • Site Area Emergency: A more serious problem has ocurred at the plant, and small amounts of radiation might have or could leak into the envirnoment. Area sirens might sound, and state and local officials will act to ensure public safety. Listen to your local EAS station.
  • General Emergency: A very serious problem has occurred at the plant, and radiation could leak outside the plant and off the plant site. Area sirens will sound. Listen to local radio or television stations for information. State and local officials will act to ensure public safety. Be prepared to follow instructions promptly.

Nuclear power stations in Virginia

Virginia has two nuclear power stations: one in Surry County and one in Louisa County, called North Anna.

Virginia localities within 10 miles of a nuclear power station:
  • Surry Station: Surry County, Isle of Wight County, City of Newport News, York County, James City County and City of Williamsburg
  • North Anna Station: Louisa County, Spotsylvania County, Orange County, Caroline County and Hanover County

Read about responding to radiological events.

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