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Nuclear Power Plants
Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant
Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is radiation?
    Radiation is a form of energy that is all around us. Radar, radiowaves, microwaves, ultraviolet (sun) rays, and X-rays are all forms of radiation. Some radiation is energy released from radioactive matter. Radioactive matter is present in the fuel in nuclear power plants.

    People must take care to avoid too much exposure to most kinds of radiation. One class of radiation can cause changes in the atoms that make up the human body. This class includes ultraviolet rays, X-rays, and radiation from radioactive matter. As with other types of radiation, care must be taken to protect people. People should limit their sunbathing, the number of X-rays they receive, and their contact with highly radioactive matter.
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  • Where does radiation come from?
    Most radiation comes from natural sources. This is called background radiation. Rocks, water, the sun, and objects in space give off radiation. The ground we walk on, the buildings we live in, and nearly everything we touch contains some radioactive matter. The food we eat and the air we breathe give off radiation. Even our bodies are mildly radioactive.

    Some radiation also comes from man-made sources. Man-made radiation comes from things like medical, industrial, and dental X-rays. It also comes from such as the mantles in camping lanterns, some kinds of smoke detectors, and wood stoves. And some radiation comes from nuclear and even coal-fired plants that generate electricity.

    The amount of radiation that a person gets is measured in "millirem." See the chart on page 32. This chart shows the average amount of some types of radiation received by the general public in one year. You can see from the chart that a nuclear power plant adds very little to how much radiation we receive.
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  • What kind of protection does a nuclear power plant offer?
    A commercial nuclear power plant in the US has a series of barriers to keep radiation inside the plant.

    The nuclear fuel is in pellet form. The pellets are put into long metal tubes. The metal tubes are bundled together. These bundles are placed in water inside the reactor vessel, which is steel eight inches thick and is lined with stainless steel. The reactor vessel is inside the containment building.

    Seabrook’s containment building is one of the strongest in the US. It is called a double containment. This is because it has two steel-and-concrete domes with a five-foot airspace in between. The first dome is of steel and concrete four and one-half feet thick. The outer dome is 15 inches thick. In addition, there is a steel containment liner three-eighths of an inch thick. The containment could withstand the crash of a fighter bomber jet. It could also withstand an earthquake right under the building or other natural disasters. The diagram on page 32 shows the barriers against a release of radiation.
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  • Can a nuclear power plant explode like an atom bomb?
    Absolutely not. A nuclear explosion is impossible in a commercial nuclear power plant. A power plant doesn’t contain the type of fuel in the amount which is needed to make atomic bombs.
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  • What if there were a major accident at Seabrook Station?
    In the event that all the safeguards failed, radiation could be released. That is why the emergency plan described in this brochure would be put into action to protect you.
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  • Would there be any health effects from a major release of radiation?
    It is well known that exposure to high levels of radiation may cause observable health effects. Possible health effects from lower levels of radiation are unknown, and consequently, the present philosophy of radiation safety is to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure. Most evidence shows that radiation doses in low levels do not cause observable health effects. However, they can increase the chance of health problems later in life. To be especially careful, sheltering and evacuation would be recommended if the public might be exposed to low levels of radiation, using the Environmental Protection Agency’s protective action guidelines. This would protect you and your family with an ample margin of safety. Be sure to follow the instructions in this brochure and information provided on the Emergency Alert System.
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Nuclear Power Plants

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