Civilian Radiation Hazards
The number of nations that have invested in nuclear power and nuclear research is extensive and increasing. With this increase, the potential for US forces to operate in or around areas that have these facilities also increases. Damage to one of these facilities will present unique challenges to US and allied armed forces and the citizens of the host nation (HN). Radiation hazards released into the environment may cause immediate casualties or casualties years later. To safeguard friendly forces and civilians from these potential hazards, peacetime and tactical nuclear contamination avoidance principles must be carefully blended.
If a nuclear facility (power plant, research facility, etc.) is damaged or destroyed, alpha and beta particulants are of the utmost concern. As discussed in Chapter 3, alpha radiation is not considered to be of tactical significance. However, alpha contamination is considered to be of prime importance in peacetime radiation safety. This is due to the alpha particles ability to cause ionization of cells within the body.
Alpha particles cannot be detected with normal tactical radiac instruments (AN/PDR27, IM174, or AN/VDR2). Alpha contamination can be detected only with the AN/PDR56 or AN/PDR60 radiac instruments. These instruments are generally assigned to special teams. These teams, called NAIRA teams (or nuclear accident/incidence response and assistance teams) have the mission to respond to the unwanted or unexpected release of radiological material into the environment.
Beta particles are also of concern. These particles may cause skin burns, similar to sunburn, or cause internal damage to the body. Furthermore, beta particles can cause damage to the eyes, normally manifesting itself as cataracts later in life.
To minimize the effects or hazards resulting from the damage or destruction of a nuclear facility, prior planning must occur. When friendly units are required to operate in an area where such a facility exists, the chemical staff must accomplish the following:
The following steps should be taken immediately by the tactical unit within the area of a civilian radiation hazard:
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