Author: Peter Okafor.
When a major earthquake, a 15-metre tsunami that shook and disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi reactors, causing a nuclear accident on 11 March 2011. All three cores largely melted in the first three days When Fukushima Nuclear plant catastrophically exploded in Japan 6 years ago. According to the estimates by Asahi newspaper based on the data from TEPCO, the amount of radioactive materials released into the air were 770,000 tera Bq until beginning of Apr.11,2011, and still going on with high risk. It is said that this amount is about 20% of the Chernobyl accident. On April 12th, 2011, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency raised the rate of the accident from level 5 to the level 7, the same level as Chernobyl, causing tremendous damage to the northern part of Japan, especially in the prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate. The government issued an evacuation instruction for residents within 3km radius in the beginning. Eventually it was expanded to within 20km, and the residents of a range of 20km -30km were instructed to stay indoors. The movement of the radioactive plume and the information in the radiation dose based on SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information) was not released immediately. In the afternoon of the 16th, The U.S. government ordered its citizens to evacuate from 80km radius from the plant based on their own information obtained through US military’s surveillance activities. The contamination greatly differs based on the direction of the wind and the terrain rather than spreading concentrically.
Eskom has released the 2017 emergency plan with a program code-named ‘Zero Harm’ to ensure that citizens are well prepared in case of any emergency which is very common with any technology old and new. This program has the following definitions and plans:
- Accident- Nuclear power is a safe and effective means of producing electricity, they are run under strict regulatory measures to make sure it’s use is according to design, also they are built in a way that the reactor can be shut down in case of accident. Although nuclear accidents are unlikely to happen and the chances are very rare, but external factors such as earthquakes, tsunamis or even an air craft crashing into the reactor can lead to untended events and mishaps which could release radioactive substances into the environment.
- CONTAMINATION- Radioactive substances are harmful and undesirable to the human body, any contact with the body must be prevented at all cost. During radiological emergencies, there are emissions of radiative materials or radiation plumes, some dust-like particles that are formed in the environment. One can be contaminated when these clouds comes in contact with the skin, clothes or hair.
- DOSE- This is the amount of radiation absorbed by the body or organ. During a radiological emergency, the nuclear particles that are released into the air can be breathed into the lungs, taking it into the body through drinking water or even food.
- EMERGENCY PLANS- Although the chances that any of the above will occur are very slim, but there are already sophisticated plans laid down in case of any emergency and it includes; the siren test taking place 1 March 2017 in preparedness by the City’s emergency department against any such occurrences. Also a team of Eskom emergency crew will be deployed both locally and regionally to deal the situation. The Team is led by the City of Cape Town Emergency Controller, who is authorized by law to decide on the measures to be taken as regards, Sheltering, evacuation and there will also be provision of Potassium iodate tablets to be issued in events of being exposed to the radioactive materials.
- EVACUATION PLANS- The rapid, temporary removal of people, crops and livestock from an area to avoid or reduce the exposure to radiation in case of emergency has been put in place. But being prepared in case of such occasion is very important as well.
- PLANT- The Keoberg Nuclear power station is a very big project with associated machinery, equipment, infrastructural component and devices that make up the Nuclear reactor. As the only kind in Africa, it is expected to set a standard in the continent, situated in the West Coast of Cape Town.
- POTASSIUM IODATE- When radioiodine is released into the environment; it may be inhaled or ingested into the lung. Taking Potassium iodate tablets saturates the thyroid gland with stable iodine. This reduces the amount of radioiodine that has been taking or prevents it from getting to the thyroid gland.
- RADIATION- An accidental discharge or release of energy in a form of tiny electro-magnetic waves during a breakdown of radioactive atoms. The impact of radiation on the environment can be devastating. From destruction of livestock and crops that can lead to food banning, to the deteriorating effect on the human body when they are exposed to it.
- SHELTERING- A protective action taken whereby members of the public stay indoors with windows and doors closed to reduce or prevent being exposed to radioactive materials that may be harmful in the case of emergencies. These include switching off systems that draws in air such as air-conditioner, fireplaces and dampers also minimizing the use of telephone.
- WHERE YOU SHOULD GO- This will depend on whether the release of radioactive material has occurred or not. The location of available Mass Care Centers will be specified using local radio and televisions channels. At Mass Care Centers, there are meals and place to live, the sick, elderly and physically challenged will be taken good care of and trained medical staffs will be there to assist.
It is better for people to be prepared ahead of any emergencies than to be caught totally unaware… The time to be ready is now.For more information, visit http://www.eskom.co.za ro call: +27215505758/5227.