The Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine was disconnected from the power grid due to Russian military actions, according to a tweet by Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s power grid operator.
- As stated in previous Deseret reporting, the International Atomic Energy Agency sees no critical impact on the safety of Ukrainians at this time.
But a disconnection could lead to a nuclear leak in the next 48 hours. Here’s what would happen.
What are the biological effects of radiation?: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that exposure to a low amount of radiation is normal in everyday life.
- Radiation is present in some materials we use to build homes and some foods that we regularly consume, like bananas. We even breathe in radiation that comes from the earth’s crust. These examples are all known as “background radiation,” per the commission.
- On the other hand, high doses of radiation could damage or even kill cells. Data has even shown that exposure to large amounts of radiation could possibly link to cancer, reported the commission.
Acute Radiation Syndrome: Exposure to high amounts of radiation in a short amount of time could lead to Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The cause of this syndrome is the loss of stem cells in certain tissues.
- Some symptoms of ARS include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and even anorexia.
- When a person develops ARS, the stem cells in their bone marrow begin to die.
- The recovery process of ARS can last up to two years, according to the CDC. But most patients who do not recover will die within a few months of exposure.
- The likelihood of people in Ukraine being exposed to ARS due to a leak is low, given ARS usually only infects when extreme amounts of radiation are released all at once, as it did during the Chernobyl explosion in 1986.
How dangerous could a leak be?: It is likely that a radiation leak due to the Chernobyl plant being disconnected from the power grid won’t be as catastrophic as the 1986 explosion was, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- “Understanding the type of radiation received, the way a person is exposed (external vs. internal), and for how long a person is exposed are all important in estimating health effects,” said the EPA.