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Radiological emergencies

Due to human errors, technical reasons or forces of nature, accidents may occur with nuclear devices or devices containing radiation sources as a result of which a great amount of radionuclides may be released into the environment which may cause high radiation doses in people. These situations are called radiological emergencies.

In Estonia, such an emergency can be caused by an accident:

  • in a nuclear power station of a neighbouring country (Loviisa nuclear power station in Finland, Leningrad nuclear power station in the Russian Federation);
  • in the management of radioactive waste;
  • in traffic with a truck transporting radioactive substances;
  • in working with a radiation source due to the disregard of safety requirements.

A radiological emergency may also be caused by:

  • spillage of stolen radioactive substance in the environment;
  • blasting “a dirty bomb” (radioactive substances are added to an ordinary bomb);
  • a satellite that operates on nuclear fuel falling on the Estonian territory or near it;
  • intentional or accidental blasting of nuclear charge.

Upon radioactive contamination of the environment, a person may be externally exposed due to the radionuclides which are in the air or deposited on the ground or be internally exposed due to such radionuclides which have entered the body via breathing or the use of contaminated food or water.

Information on the possible occurrence of a radiological emergency is managed by the Rescue Board and the Environmental Board. Upon radiological accidents in Estonia, the population is notified by the Rescue Board that is also a leading institution in organising the protection of the people. Warning information on radiological accidents in other countries is mainly received by the Environmental Board. Also, the Radiation Department of the Environmental Board monitors the level of radioactivity of the atmosphere round-the-clock across Estonia and alerts the Rescue Board of the movement of possible contamination clouds to our borders, if necessary.

Upon a radiological emergency, the people are notified via all official communication channels of where the accident happened, what is the danger, how far does it spread and what to do to avoid exposure.

What to do to protect yourself in a radiological emergency?

If the public authorities notify of a serious air contamination, then:

  • take shelter in the nearest room: at home, in a work place or at the house of your acquaintances. Close the windows, doors and other ambient air entrances tightly. If possible, store food and beverages packaged in plastic or glass containers;
  • follow the instructions of the police and rescue workers carefully. Do not leave the place at your own initiative, do this only if the public authorities recommend it;
  • listen to the programmes of the local radio or Estonian Radio or watch the programmes of Estonian Television constantly to obtain objective information. These sources forward the most accurate instructions;
  • try to avoid or decrease the incurred radiation dose.

When protecting yourself from external exposure, consider the following principles:

  • the shorter the time of exposure, the smaller the dose;
  • the farther you are from the radiation source, the smaller the dose;
  • any shielding decreases the exposure dose.

In order to avoid internal exposure, avoid radionuclides from entering the organism. For that:

  • stay in the radioactively contaminated areas as short a time as possible; protect the respiratory tract and the skin while being there;
  • do not eat, drink or smoke in the contaminated area;
  • after leaving the contaminated area, check the contamination of the clothes and skin, if possible;
  • do not pick berries or mushrooms in the contaminated area.

Final EPREV Report (PDF)

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