Reactor accidents usually cause human radiation in three different ways: internal contamination, external contamination, and partial or total body exposure because of nearness to a source of radiation. These three kinds can have an impact on someone involved in a radiation accident, which is why Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory usually helps these patients.
Total or Partial Body Exposure
This happens when an outside element gets exposed to the body either deep into the internal organs or onto the skin. The depth will mainly depend on the energy of the radiation itself. For instance, beta radiation can only move to a short distance in the tissue, but it will still rely on the amount of energy it gives off. This can cause a weighty dose to the skin. On the other hand, high-energy gamma radiation can pierce through deeply.
People who have experienced partial or total body exposure without contamination aren’t radioactive, so they won’t pose a threat of exposure to their caregivers.
External contamination happens when the fission products land on a certain person, leading to exposure of their internal organs or skin. To reduce the dangers of external contamination, residents who live near a reactor accident site have to stay indoors for a certain amount of time.
Internal contamination happens when a person inhales or ingests fission products. It can also come into contact with the body through open wounds. Massive populations surrounding a reactor accident can be exposed to radiation through this primary mechanism. After the Chernobyl accident, around five million people in the area could have excess radiation exposure. Reactor accidents can discharge an assortment of radioisotopes into the atmosphere.
Nuclear plant workers lead dangerous lives, but knowing the different types of radiation exposure may prepare them for unexpected accidents.