Be Prepared: Radiation Safety

IEMA Programs Protect People from Radiation Hazards

SPRINGFIELD – While the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is widely recognized for its efforts in emergency preparedness and response to events such as floods, tornadoes and blizzards, the agency also administers more than two dozen nuclear and radiation safety programs that help protect public health and safety and the environment by preventing unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation, whether naturally-occurring or man-made.

Each day in Illinois, thousands of people undergo medical procedures involving x-rays or radioactive materials.  These diagnostic or therapeutic procedures are often critical for saving lives.  Yet the radiation used can be harmful if equipment isn’t functioning properly or personnel aren’t adequately trained on the machines or in administering radioactive materials.  IEMA works to ensure that these procedures are safe by licensing and inspecting more than 600 radioactive materials licensees and 34,500 radiation-producing machines, 350 mammography facilities and accrediting more than 14,000 medical radiological technologists.

IEMA also promotes awareness of radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in soil throughout Illinois.  Radon, the second-leading cause of lung cancer, can seep into homes through tiny cracks in the foundation, around sump pumps and other avenues.  Because radon is colorless, odorless and tasteless, the only way to know if your home has high levels is to conduct a test.  Residents can buy radon test kits and conduct the test themselves or hire a radon measurement professional.  IEMA licenses radon measurement and mitigation professionals to ensure they have the right knowledge and skills for the job.

Nuclear Power
With 11 operating nuclear power reactors at six sites, Illinois is home to the most commercial nuclear power of any state in the U.S.; therefore, nuclear safety is a top priority for the state of Illinois.  IEMA maintains a robust remote monitoring system around each of the reactors.  It is an advanced, integrated, computer-based system that continually monitors selected plant operational parameters and is capable of identifying and measuring the presence of radioactive materials in the surrounding environment.  IEMA also collects a variety of sample types in the environs of each nuclear power station that are analyzed in IEMA’s radiochemistry laboratory.  All of this information is analyzed by experts and can be used to develop protective action recommendations for the public following an incident.

A comprehensive emergency plan, known as the Illinois Plan for Radiological Accidents, has been developed for each of the six operating plants.  The plan details actions local and state response organizations will take to protect the public during a nuclear power plant incident. The plan for each plant is practiced every two years through a graded exercise evaluated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

People who live within a 10-mile radius of each nuclear power plant, known as an Emergency Planning Zone, receive information each year from owner of the nuclear power stations containing information about their local plants and emergency information, such as evacuation routes and radio stations that will broadcast emergency instructions during an incident.

For more information about IEMA’s radiation safety programs, visit the Ready Illinois website at

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