Improvised Nuclear DevicesRadiation Emergencies
CDC: Radiation EmergenciesMaryland Department of the Environment: Radiological IncidentsMaryland Emergency Management Agency: Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies
Expand the sections below to learn more about radiological emergencies and how you can prepare.
Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD): a device that spreads radioactive contamination.
Dirty Bomb: explosives used to spread radioactive powder or pellets.
A dirty bomb is not the same as a nuclear weapon and does not have the force and destruction of a nuclear blast. The main danger from a dirty bomb is from the explosion, which may cause serious injuries and property damage.
Immediate serious illness from radiation exposure is very unlikely unless people are extremely close to the blast. Contamination, inhalation, or ingestion of radioactive dust may create an increased risk of illness.
Improvised Nuclear Device (IND): an explosive nuclear weapon.
While not as powerful as Cold War-era nuclear weapons, improvised nuclear devices can cause significant injury and damage.
A nuclear explosion involves a large blast that produces an intense wave of heat, light, air, and radiation. Anything immediately near the explosion, including buildings, roads, and cars, will be destroyed.
The resulting radioactive dust and debris cloud, known as fallout, can be carried long distances before falling to the ground. This can expose many individuals to high levels of radiation.
Industrial incidents involving radiological materials may be accidental or intentional. Radioactive material used for commercial, industrial, or medical purposes could be released from its protective container. The radiation risk to individuals who are not immediately close to the accident is low.
Nuclear power plants have protections in place to prevent the release of radiation. However, a serious incident could allow some radiation to escape, most likely as a plume of steam carried by the wind.
The risk to residents would depend on plume size, direction, and wind speed. Parts of Maryland lie within a 10-mile radius of two nuclear power plants: the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Calvert County and the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in southern Pennsylvania. These areas are known as plume exposure zones and could be affected if a plume of radiation were released during an accident or attack.
Additionally, parts of the state are less than 50 miles from four other plants in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Virginia. These areas, known as ingestion pathway zones, could be affected by contaminated food or water in a radiation emergency.
Radiological Exposure Device (RED): a terrorist threat intended to expose people to significant radiation without their knowledge. Also called a hidden sealed source.
A Radiological Exposure Device is constructed from an unprotected radioactive material. It could be hidden in a public place, exposing those who sit or pass close by to potentially harmful levels of radiation.
If the radioactive contents are released from the container, the device could be capable of causing radiological contamination.
The health impact of radiation exposure depends upon the type of radiation, length of exposure time, and protection provided by surrounding materials.
Short-term effects: could impact the brain, skin, intestines, and blood system.
Long-term effects: could include an increased risk of cancer.
Any emergency, including those involving radiation, can cause emotional and psychological distress. Many more people will experience the mental health effects than the physical effects during a radiation emergency.
Because people cannot see, smell, feel, or taste radiation, you should take immediate steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. The most important steps you can take are:
Potassium iodide (KI) protects a person’s thyroid gland from exposure to radioactive iodine. Potassium iodide will not protect a person from other types of radioactive materials. It will not protect any part of the body other than the thyroid from exposure to radiation.
Taking potassium iodide may have no benefit, depending on the radiation emergency. It could also be dangerous for some people to take.
Do not take potassium iodide unless and until state and local authorities advise you to do so.