Nuclear Power Plant Accidents

Nuclear power plants have safety and security procedures in place and are closely monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). An accident at a nuclear power plant could release dangerous levels of radiation over an area (sometimes called a plume).

vector graphic of smoke coming out of nuclear power plant stacks
What are the main dangers of nuclear power plant accidents?
Radioactive materials in the plume from the nuclear power plant can settle and contaminate people who are outdoors, buildings, food, water, and livestock.

Vector graphic showing radiation plume from a nuclear power plant settles and contaminates people who are outdoors, buildings, food, water, and livestock.

vector graphic showing radioactive materials entering a person through breathing

Radioactive materials can also get inside the body if people breathe it in, or eat or drink something that is contaminated.

People living close to the nuclear power plant who are exposed to radiation could experience long-term health effects such as cancer.

What should I do to protect myself during a nuclear power plant accident?

If you live near a nuclear power plant, you can get emergency information materials from the power company that operates your local nuclear power plant or your local emergency services office.

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Page last reviewed: December 16, 2019