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Information About Radiation

Radiation: A Fact Of Life

Radiation is a form of energy like sunshine or light. It is all around us and we receive very small amounts of radiation, known as background radiation, each day. It is in the air we breathe, the food we eat, our homes, and even in our bodies.

In addition to background radiation, there is artificial radiation from such things as medical and dental X-rays and nuclear medicine treatments.

Very small amounts of radiation come from the generation of nuclear power.

Sources Of Background Radiation

How Radiation is Measured

Radiation is measured in units called millirems. The average person receives about 360 millirems of background and artificial radiation per year. The additional amount a person might receive from living near an operating nuclear power plant is about one half millirem per year. Even though radiation is invisible and cannot be smelled or tasted, it is easily detected and measured with instruments.

Types of Radiation

The main types of ionizing (higher energy) radiation are: alpha particles, beta particles, gamma rays and neutron particles. Alpha particles are the least penetrating and can be stopped by a sheet of paper. Beta particles can be stopped by a thin sheet of metal. Gamma rays and neutron particles are the most penetrating. Gamma rays can be almost completely stopped by three feet of concrete. Neutron particles can be stopped by water, concrete and metal.

Benefits of Radiation

Radiation is used to benefit modern society in hundreds of ways by improving the quality of life. These beneficial uses - in medicine, industry, and agriculture - are possible because radiation can be precisely measured and controlled.

STP Nuclear Power Plant Radiation Barriers

STP has three separate barriers that protect against radiation releases. The fuel cladding, reactor coolant system, and the containment building, illustrated below, safely isolate radioactive material.

In the unlikely event of an incident at STP, the plant safety systems are designed to control and contain the release of radiation. The emergency plans for Matagorda County and STP are designed to further minimize the public’s exposure by using the protective actions of sheltering and/or evacuation.

For additional information about radiation and nuclear power see NRC and NEI websites and

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