Radiological Planning and Animal Agriculture

Guest blogger Curt Emanuel is County Extension Director in Boone County, Indiana. He is also an EDEN delegate representing Purdue University.

angus cross beef steers feed on grass on a ranch in northeastern Texas

Are you a livestock owner located within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant? Is there a site nearby where radiological materials are stored or manufactured? Is your farm near a highway or railway over which nuclear materials are transported? Are you near a nuclear waste storage facility, nuclear weapons complex, or shipyard where nuclear-powered vessels are docked or serviced? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then planning for a radiological incident should be part of your farm’s emergency plan.

Many people, on hearing the word, radiation, have visions of a nuclear holocaust. However, a radiological incident from a domestic source will most likely be a low level release involving contaminated airborne particles. The landscape will not begin to glow, your hair will not begin to fall out, and you won’t suffer immediate radiation sickness. But this does not mean this type of release poses no hazard. You should still protect yourself and your family and, if you own livestock, you should protect your animals.

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (U.S. NRC) is the lead agency for planning for a radiological emergency. In cooperation with other agencies, the U.S. NRC has developed a series of steps, known as protective actions, which livestock owners may be instructed to take in case of an incident. Knowing what these steps are and making sure you are able to perform them is the key to developing your emergency plan.

How to Protect Your Livestock

Protective actions for livestock are designed to keep the animals from getting radioactive materials in them, through inhalation or ingestion, or on them. If a radiological incident occurs you may be instructed to:

  • Bring your animals in to shelter
  • Only feed and water animals from protected sources
  • Restrict grazing on pasture
  • Reduce the ventilation in your livestock barns to prevent radioactive particles from entering buildings
  • Cover any unprotected feed and water sources

There are many resources available to help you develop your plan. States with a nuclear power plant have instructions on what to do in a radiological event, including information specifically for owners of livestock. Even states without a nuclear power plant have plans to address radiological emergencies. Check with your state Emergency Management Agency, Health Department, or Department of Agriculture.

Among other things, your plan should insure that you have enough protected feed and water for seven days. You should have tarps or six mil (minimum) thickness plastic to cover unprotected feed, such as hay stored outside, and water sources and water troughs. You should know how you will quickly move your animals to shelter and how low you can safely adjust the ventilation of confinement buildings.

Most importantly, you should be aware of how you can listen to emergency messages. Remember that you should never put you or your family at risk to protect an animal.

And always listen to and
follow
all emergency messages!

Free Webinar on this Topic

Curt and Dr. Julie Smith recently conducted a webinar on radiological events and animal agriculture. Watch the recording for additional tips on preparing for such an emergency.

Watch this Webinar

Washington Wildfires Wreaking Woe

The Sleepy Hollow fire near the north-central Washington State city of Wenatchee started in the afternoon of June 28, 2015. The cause is unknown but natural causes have been ruled out, leaving intentional or accidental human-origin causes to blame. Unseasonably high temperatures, early drought conditions, and high fuel loads have elevated fire risk in the area much earlier in the summer than normal. The fire started outside the city, but wind drove it into residential areas of this city of 33,000. Hundreds of residents were evacuated. It has burned 2950 acres and has destroyed 29 primary residences. Embers blew into the commercial business district and subsequent fires destroyed four businesses; some were large agricultural processing or storage warehouses, raising concerns about hazardous material involvement. Those areas have been secured and hazardous materials contained.

The Chelan WA County Commissioners have issued an emergency declaration of the area as a high danger area, banning all outdoor burning and the use of fireworks. Some roads are restricted to local resident and emergency use only. The evacuation center has been moved from a high school to a church.  The BNSF rail line (a major NW transportation corridor) was closed but has been re-opened.

The number of firefighting personnel involved with this fire is 336; they are primarily volunteers. They have incurred a few injuries including heat exhaustion; no injuries to the public have been reported. With limited numbers of firefighters available, four days of firefighting already, and new fires reported in the area, firefighting personnel is stretched to the limit. With the Sleepy Hollow fire 47% contained as of the evening of June 30 evening, some are being re-deployed to other emerging fire situations.

The majority of efforts have switched from response to recovery, assisting those who have lost their homes and businesses. A local footwear business is offering free shoes to all fire victims. A fruit packing business offered its facilities to a competitor whose fruit packing facility was destroyed, thereby helping the business continue operating during fruit harvest season. These responses demonstrate that even during periods of drought and wildfires, human hearts can contain bottomless wellsprings of compassion and hope.

–Submitted by Susan Kerr, WA State EDEN Delegate