What are the effects of a Nuclear Power accident or a blast? This question gains significance as Russian troops bombed and seized Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe.
In the ongoing Ukraine war, Russian missiles hit a building within Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and caught fire. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the fire was put out without having caused any direct harm to the reactors and normal radiation levels was only detected. IAEA Director General Rafael Mario Grossi said that the nuclear power plant continued to be operated by its regular staff and there had been no release of radioactive material
WHAT HAPPENS IN CASE OF A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ACCIDENT?
Uranium is used as fuel in nuclear power plants for generating electricity. In the reactors, uranium converts into radioactive materials. In case an accident occurs, heat and pressure build up, and the steam, along with the radioactive materials, may be released.
HOW MUCH NULCEAR REACTORS ARE PROTECTED?
The Nuclear power plants across the world are designed with several mechanisms to prevent the leak of radioactive materials. Most of the plants are built inside of concrete buildings, which are capable of containing radioactive material.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF AN ACCIDENT?
Scientists note that no immediate health effects is seen. However, there is a risk of long-term health effects. Cancer may develop many years after the exposure. Radiation damages DNA. This means the tissues that contain many dividing cells, such as the bone marrow, gut lining and skin are most at risk of damage. High enough doses also damage brain cells and such doses are invariably fatal.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ACCIDENT?
The people who are living within ten miles of a nuclear power plant should know their designated evacuation zones and routes. Sirens are located in residential areas near nuclear power plants.
WHAT TO DO IF A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT ACCIDENT HAPPENS?
People cannot see, smell or feel radiation. For detecting radiation, special equipment is needed. It is better to stay inside, close all windows and turn off the air conditioner. Before leaving the place, it is better to take prescription medicines. If travelling in a vehicle, better close all windows and vents to prevent radioactive material from entering the car.
MAJOR ACCIDENTS AT NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
The world has so far only seen two major accidents where a large amount of radioactive material was emitted. The first one was the Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 and the second at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan in 2011. The Chernobyl nuclear accident is the only nuclear accident that caused fatalities from radiation. Reactor design issues and poor safety led to two explosions, a fire that lasted for over a week, and the release of a large amount of radioactive material. With respect to Fukushima Daiichi, the destruction was caused because of a Tsunami. As a consequence of the flood caused by the tsunami, the backup generators at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which were meant to pump cooling water through the reactor, were destroyed. As a result, three cores largely melted over the following three days and there were several hydrogen explosions, as well as the release of nuclear material into the environment.
ZAPORIZHZHIA: DAMAGE UNLIKELY
Coming in modern design, the reactor is enclosed in a pressurised steel vessel, which in turn is housed inside a massive reinforced-concrete containment structure. (The design is called VVER – the Russian acronym for water-water energetic reactor). Operational since 1984, The Zaporizhzhya consists of six pressurised water reactor (PWR) units. The spent nuclear fuel from the reactors is stored in cooling pools for four to five years until the residual energy and radioactivity decrease. It is then transferred to the spent-fuel dry storage facility