What do we see on the risk map?
Many companies in the Netherlands use radioactive material. The risk map is confined to nuclear power stations, research reactors and several companies that use highly radioactive material. There are three nuclear power stations just across the border: in Lingen (Germany, just across the border from Denekamp in Overijssel), in Tihange (close to Liège in Belgium) and in Doel (close to Antwerp in Belgium).
What is the risk?
If the cooling system of a nuclear reactor fails and the reactor melts, radioactive material may be released. If water, air, soil and crops become contaminated, this will have consequences for the entire food chain. The effects on public health may be serious and felt for some time. The seriousness depends on the exposure to radiation. The greater the exposure, the greater the risk of illness and death.
What can you do yourself?
In the case of a nuclear accident, the sirene [siren] will sound:
- Follow the recommendations of the government and the emergency authorities.
- Close ventilation grilles, including in walls, toilets and ventilation ducts. Switch off the exhaust hood and adjust the mechanical ventilation system to the lowest position. Stay indoor until the alarm has officially been cancelled. If you are in a car, switch off the ventilation;
- Do not touch people or animals that have been outside with your bare hands, they may be contaminated. If touching is necessary, wear gloves. Rinse people and animals that have been outside with water. The quicker any contamination is removed, the lower the exposure to radiation.
- Switch on the radio or TV and follow the reports and instructions of the rampenzender.
- Do not use the telephone. Overloading the telephone lines may seriously hinder the work of the emergency services.
What safety measures are there?
The government imposes strict safety requirements on nuclear plants, including when permits are issued. The institutes and companies that use radioactive materials are responsible for safety on site. They have emergency plans and carry out exercises. They sometimes have their own fire brigade (Petten). The government checks whether the systems meet the requirements imposed.
The Nationaal Meetnet Radioactiviteit [National Radioactivity Measurement Network] of the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) measures the radiation level – every ten minutes, 24 hours a day – at a great many measuring points in the Netherlands. The system raises the alarm automatically if radioactive levels increase. There are international agreements about reporting possible accidents.
The government has emergency plans for dealing with a nuclear accident. The area around the accident location is divided into three zones; every zone has its own measures. This means, for instance, for the nuclear power station in Borssele: evacuation up to 5 kilometres from the power station; swallowing iodine tablets up to 10 kilometres and sheltering up to 20 kilometres. These measures may be deviated from if the situation at the time is a reason for doing so. Those involved are given information and advice about the radioactive substances in question, how they spread, the seriousness of the radiation and what can be done.
- General information about what to do in the case of a nuclear accident can be found at www.nederlandveilig.nl;
- Questions and answers about radiaton and nuclear accident can be found on the website of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment.
- The following websites contain information from Belgium and Germany:www.fanc.fgov.be en www.kernenergie.de/kernenergie/.