Radiological Information For Farmers
Emergency Preparedness & Frequently Asked Questions
To get a printed, pamphlet-size copy of these special instructions, please call the phone number below and ask for your “Radiological Information for Farmers” brochure or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy.
New Jersey Office of Emergency Management 1-800-792-8314 or 1-609-882-2000, ext. 6471
This information will help you be prepared in the event of a nuclear power plant emergency.
Chances are, you'll never need to use this information. It's not likely that there would be a serious accident at a nuclear generating station affecting New Jersey.
But, like other emergency instructions such as first-aid and CPR it makes good sense to know what to do.
Your state, county, and local governments have very specific plans to protect your health and safety. In an emergency, state officials may ask you to follow special instructions. These instructions how to protect your family and your farm would by broadcast on your Emergency Alert System (EAS) radio and TV stations.
Again, the likelihood of a serious nuclear power accident is small. But it is important that you read this information carefully. Talk it over with your family. Then keep it in a handy place such as inside your phone book.
The following information was developed in cooperation with the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, the New Jersey Bureau of Nuclear Engineering and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
If you are notified of an accident at a nuclear power plant, do these things:
- First protect yourself and your family. Don't panic. Don't listen to rumors.
- Turn on your radio. Listen to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) station. Follow the directions given. You may be contacted by the County Extention Service and asked to initiate precautionary measures for livestock and animals.
- You may be told to shelter your farm animals. Give special attention to dairy cattle.
- Animal feed and water may need to be protected. Put the feed into buildings. Cover it if it must stay outside. Store as much water as possible for animals. Put covers on your wells, rain barrels, tanks and other water containers.
- Your own food and water may need to be protected. Store food and water inside a closed area of your house. If you bring uncovered food inside, clean it thoroughly. Eggs, potatoes, melons, peas, beans, and root crops require normal washing. Green vegetables should be washed carefully. Their outer layers should be removed if they were exposed to radiation. Wash your hands very well before you eat.
- Wear a dust filter over your nose and mouth if you must plow or cultivate dry land. Also use the dust filter if you harvest corn.
Two types of emergency planning zones (EPZ) may be referred to in an emergency:
- The Plume Exposure Pathway EPZ is the area within a 10 mile radius around a commercial nuclear power station in which people may be directly exposed to radiation.
- The Ingestion Exposure Pathway EPZ is the area within a 50 mile radius around a commercial nuclear power station in which people may be indirectly exposed to radiation by eating or drinking contaminated food, milk, and water.
The safety of the food supply within the 50 mile ingestion exposure pathway EPZ could be a concern to members of the agricultural community if a radiological release to the atmosphere occurred. During such a release, both water and land could become contaminated. Eating contaminated foods and drinking contaminated milk and water could have a harmful long-term effect on your health.
State and local government emergency response organizations are prepared to quickly notify and advise the agricultural community on what actions to take in the event of a radiological emergency. The decision to recommend protective actions will be based on the emergency conditions at the power station, available information on the amount of radiation that has been released to the environment, and consideration of the health, economic, and social impacts of the proposed actions.
There are two types of protective actions that will help to prevent or lessen the possibility of persons eating or drinking contaminated food or water:
Preventive Protective Actions
Preventive Protective Actions prevent or minimize contamination of milk and food products. An example would be washing, scrubbing, peeling or shelling fruits and vegetables to remove surface contamination.
Emergency Protective Actions
Emergency Protective Actions isolate or contain food to prevent its introduction into commerce by condemnation.
- How might a nuclear power plant accident affect my farm?
It is not likely to happen, but a serious accident could release radiation into the air. The radiation would be in the form of particles and gases. The wind could carry some of the particles to your farm. How your farm is affected depends on several things.
- How much radiation is released. A small amount may have no harmful effect. A large amount can cause a problem.
- The weather. A heavy rain could cause more particles to fall in a given area. Or, strong winds may spread the particles out, causing less to fall in a given area.
- Distance from the plant. The farther your farm is from the plant, the less it will be affected. Heavy particles, those with the most radiation, settle to the ground quickly. They fall close to the plant. Lighter particles stay in the air longer and lose some of their radioactivity. They may travel as much as 50 miles from the plant.
They may or may not be harmful. In an emergency, state and local officials will tell you if there is danger. They will also tell you how to avoid harmful effects. It is important to listen to the messages on your local Emergency Alert System (EAS) station on your radio or TV.
Protecting Farmland And Crops
- How could radiation affect my land?
- Can I get rid of contamination?
- How could radiation affect my crops?
- What growing vegetables would be safe to eat?
- Will the emergency affect my business?
- How long could radiation affect my land?
- Would I need soil treatments?
It depends on the circumstances. Radiation could contaminate your land. The contamination could be on the surface. Or it could go deeper into the soil. If the contamination is severe, you may not be able to work your land for awhile.
"Contamination" is a word that means harmful amounts of radioactive particles are present. "External contamination" means they are outside of something. This happens when people plants or animals are exposed to radioactive particles in the air.
"Internal contamination" means the particles get inside the body. This happens when people or animals eat food or drink liquids that are contaminated.
Generally yes. External contamination can usually be removed by washing. Washing does not destroy radiation. It moves it to a place where it is less harmful.
Animals can be washed with soap and water. If you must wash animals, wear protective clothing. Clothes you wear to apply pesticides are best. State officials will tell you what to do if your buildings are contaminated.
Radioactive particles could cause external contamination of your plants. You may not be able to harvest some ripe fruits and vegetables. Fruit that doesn't have to be picked right away can be saved. It can be picked after the contamination is gone. County agricultural agents will tell you if the crops are safe.
Vegetables that have leaves, pods, or fruit can be cleaned and eaten. Washing is the best way to clean them. The outer layers of green vegetables should be removed and thrown away.
Roots and tubers like potatoes and carrots don't absorb much radiation. Underground crops can be eaten after normal cleaning or peeling.
A serious accident may affect your business for several weeks. As mentioned before, you may not be able to harvest ripe fruits or vegetables. If there are delays in milk pick-ups, you may have to throw away milk you can't store. Another effect might be public reaction. People may not want to buy products from farms near the power plant. State officials will tell you how much contamination your farm experienced. They will also tell how to market your crops and dairy products.
Generally, several weeks. After that, most land could go back to its normal use. State and federal officials will check your land. They will tell you when it is safe.
Probably not. Even the most serious accident won't affect farm land for more than a few weeks. Iodine-131 would be the most troublesome radioactive material released in an accident. It loses its radioactivity quickly anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
State officials will tell you what to do to the land. Use soil treatments only if the officials tell you to do so.
Protecting Farm Animals And Products
- Why is it so important to protect dairy animals?
- How can I protect my dairy animals? Products?
One of the materials a nuclear accident could release is Iodine-131. If a person or animal eats food or drinks water with Iodine-131 it gets into the body. Cows with Iodine-131 produce contaminated milk. Humans can be harmed if they drink the milk or eat the dairy products. So, protecting your dairy animals is important. By protecting them, you keep the supply of dairy products pure. And you protect people from the harmful Iodine-131.
You should do these things to protect your dairy animals:
- Take the animals out of the pasture. Don't let them graze.
- Keep them inside if possible.
- Feed them only stored food.
- Water them only from protected water supplies.
- Use protected self-feeders and automatic waterers if you have them.
Again, take care of your dairy animals first. Shelter them. Give them protected feed and water. Other livestock can be protected the same way. If you have extra shelter, feed and water, give it to them.
Poultry can be given the same care as other animals. If they are outside, move them indoors. Give them protected feed and water.
Taking care of poultry may be less of a problem. They are usually raised indoors and given stored feed. This means they are already well protected. Also, poultry have more resistance to radiation.
Fish and other marine life raised in ponds may continue to be harvested unless appropriate State or local government officials have determined through laboratory analysis of samples that they are contaminated. Samples of water, fish and marine life from open bodies of freshwater and saltwater should also be analyzed to ensure that they are safe.
Honey should be stored unused until the State has a chance to inspect it.
Feed that has been covered or stored indoors is protected. Radioactive particles are like dust. A cover stops them from mixing with the feed.
Grain stored in a permanent bin hay stored in a barn...fodder stored in a covered silo.
All these are examples of protected feed:
- A haystack in an open field can be protected. Put a cover on it. Use a tarp, plastic sheet, or something like that.
- Large rolled bales of hay stored outside should not be used as feed unless absolutely necessary. If you must use them, remove the outer layers. Do not give the outer layers to animals.
- Don't let your animals graze. Shelter them if possible. If you are told to use stored feed and don't have any, remember that animals can survive for a long time on water alone.
- In an emergency, turn to your EAS radio or TV station. You will be told if you need to use protected feed.
A covered well...a tank...a cistern...or a freely running spring. All these are examples of protected water. Use this water for your animals.
If you use tanks, use all the water that is in the tanks first. Do not refill them unless the water comes from a protected well or spring.
Water in a pond may be contaminated. But the contamination could decrease quickly. Surface water from a pond or river should be safe a few days after an accident. If it rains, the water may be safe sooner.
Again, in an emergency turn to your EAS radio or TV station. Your will be told if you need to use protected water.
Animals that eat contaminated food or water get radiation into their bodies. If we eat the meat or products of these animals, we can get this radiation. By protecting animals, we also help protect ourselves.
It's not likely. Even the most serious accident won't cause your animals to get sick. There's even less chance any of them would die.
State officials will tell you which animal products are safe. In general, you can follow these guidelines:
- Do not destroy any food products unless they are spoiled and cannot be eaten.
- Livestock with external contamination can be used for food. Before they are slaughtered, they must be washed and checked by state officials.
- Animals with internal contamination cannot be slaughtered until state officials say they are safe.
- Milk may be safe if it comes from protected cows. State officials will sample milk and milk stations. They will also take samples from the farms. You will be told if your milk is contaminated.
You will receive special instructions from state officials. You may have to hold milk longer than usual. If the delays are long, you may have a problem storing all the milk that is produced. Milk that cannot be stored or processed may have to be thrown away.
About Nuclear Power Plant Accidents
- Can a nuclear power plant explode?
- What about accidents involving the release of radiation?
- But what if a serious accident happens?
No. That's impossible. An explosion happens when a large amount of enriched uranium is forced into a compact shape. Nuclear power plants can't explode because only about 3% of the fuel is enriched uranium. And it can't be forced into a compact shape because of the reactor's design.
All nuclear plants release some radiation. The amount is very small. It's controlled. And it's regulated by the government. In fact, people get more radiation by watching color TV than they do from a nuclear plant.
It's not likely, but higher amounts of radiation could be released. How farms are affected depends on a variety of things. These include: 1) the amount of radiation released 2) the weather during the accident 3) distance from the plant. If a serious accident happens, state officials will tell you how your farm is affected. The following sections of this pamphlet give more information about radiation.
- What is radiation?
- How much radiation do we get?
- When does radiation become harmful?
- How long can radiation be harmful?
Radiation is a kind of energy. Heat, light and radio waves are common types of radiation. Some kinds of radiation occur naturally. They have been here since the Earth began. Natural radiation comes from the air and water. It also comes from the air and water. It also comes from our food, our homes and the ground we walk upon. Other kinds of radiation are man-made. X-rays and radiation from nuclear plants are examples.
Radiation from nuclear plants is made by particles which come from the center of some kinds of atoms. There are three kinds. Alpha particles travel about an inch. They can be stopped by a sheet of paper. Beta particles travel a few feet. They can be stopped by an inch of wood. Gamma rays travel farther. They can be stopped by lead or concrete.
Low level radiation is measured in a unit called a millirem. The sun gives us 50 millirems a year. We get another 50 millirems from air, buildings and the ground. Our food and water add about 25 more millirems. The average person gets about 125 millirems per year. This amount does not threaten anyone's health.
There are other sources of radiation which are man-made. A person who watches color TV for three hours a day gets 1.5 millirems a year. Dental and medical X-rays give another 90 millirems a year. People who live just outside nuclear plants rarely get more than 1 additional millirem a year. It would take 20 years to get as much radiation as in a single dental X-ray. It would take several lifetimes to get as much radiation as in a medical X-ray.
Very large amounts far above the levels found in daily life can be harmful. Large amounts can damage body cells. If the damage is slight, the body can usually make repairs. But if the damage is severe, the body may not be able to repair or replace cells.
The effects of radiation on a person depend on a few things. These include: the kind of radiation; how long a person is exposed; how much of the body is exposed; and how much radioactivity remains in the body.
The effects of radiation decrease with time. Generally, they are the greatest during the first few days. Then they begin to decrease quickly. This happens because all radioactive materials are unstable. This means they constantly lose their radioactivity. In time, they lose all the radioactivity they had. Some do this quickly in a matter of minutes. Others take much longer up to thousands of years. The material most likely to be a problem for farmers is Iodine-131. It loses its radioactivity quickly. Most would be gone in a few days.
New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management
P.O. Box 7068
West Trenton, New Jersey 08628-0068
For information about STATE ACTIVITIES in New Jersey, call 1-800-792-8314
For information about PLANT STATUS, NJ residents call 1-800-443-7392
Ocean County Office of Emergency Management
Salem County Office of Emergency Management
Cumberland County Office of Emergency Management
New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management
P.O. Box 7068
West Trenton, NJ 08628-0068
New Jersey Department Environemental Protection
Bureau of Nuclear Engineering
P.O. Box 415
Trenton, NJ 08625-0415
Police, fire and ambulance
Salem County 911
Cumberland County 911