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

Weather Wednesday – The Family Go Kit

From time to time on Weather Wednesday we will step away from purely meteorological topics to address preparedness. This week we’ll discuss one of the most basic preparedness items, a personal or family Go Kit.

A Go Kit should be assembled and customized according to individual needs following some general guidelines from FEMA. Be sure to look under the tabs for additional suggested items.

AP_fairdale_tornado_14_sk_150410_16x9_1600Let’s look at some of the items which should be included:

Water, one gallon per person per day for three days for drinking and sanitation. For long term storage the crystal clear containers hold up better, but water and food stocks should be rotated out regularly.

Food, a three day supply of non-perishable food. If using canned food, be sure to include a can opener. Specialty meals designed for use by campers are also a good option. Check preparation instructions to be sure you have all of the necessary equipment.

Battery powered, hand cranked and/or solar powered radio capable of receiving NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio and standard broadcast. Carry extra batteries.

Flashlight and extra batteries. Batteries will generally last considerably longer in LED flashlights.

Washington, DC, July 22, 2008 -- A Red Cross "ready to go" preparedness kit showing the bag and it's contents. Red Cross photograph
Red Cross via FEMA

First aid kit. A good basic kit will suffice unless special needs are involved.

Whistle to signal for help. A small air horn is also a good addition, but you can’t beat a whistle for convenience. It takes less volume of air to blow a whistle than to yell which can be important if one is trapped by debris. A whistle or horn also has a better chance of being heard over heavy equipment.

Dust mask.

Plastic sheet and tape if asked to shelter in place.

Local maps. Remember, familiar landmarks may be destroyed in some disasters.

Cell phone with chargers, inverters, solar power, charging packs, etc. Note, avoid using accessories such as the built in flashlight which tend to run down the battery rapidly.

Prescription medications and glasses. Setting aside medication can be problematic so work with your physician and pharmacist to see what can be done.

Cash and change. If the power is out or communications lines down, ATMs will be out of service.

Copies of insurance papers, account numbers, etc. Do keep these in a special place in the kit so you can keep track of them.

Infant formula, diapers, pet food, etc if applicable. Include a leash for your pet and count their water needs as well.

Change of clothes. Err on the side of warmth and waterproof items.

A couple of items recent experience has shown to be very valuable. Sturdy shoes or boots. Sandals and flip flops are not at all useful when walking through debris. If you have identified a shelter area in your home, you might want to keep the spare shoes/boots there.

Bicycle helmets or hard hats may also be useful if easily accessible to your shelter area.

Remember a Go kit should be able to do just that, pick up and go, should the need arise. It is important to temperate the desire to plan for all contingencies with the practical need to perhaps carry the kit for some distance. Kits are also available from retailers, but make sure to customize to your needs.

Fukushima Nuclear Facility: What About Food Safety?

Damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima facility resulted in elevated radiation levels near the power plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Most recently, questions from the United States have focused on the safety of food imported from Japan. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  have answered the call for information. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) have also issued food safety statements.

 

A few answers from the FDA

What food products come to the US from Japan?

Foods imported from Japan make up less than 4 percent of foods imported from all sources. The most common food products imported from Japan include seafood, snack foods and processed fruits and vegetables. Dairy products make up only one-tenth of one percent of all FDA-regulated products imported from Japan.

Is there any reason for concern about radiation from these products when they are imported into the US?

There are no concerns for products that were already in transit when the explosion occurred at the reactor. Right now, due to the damage to the Japanese infrastructure, FDA believes export activity is severely limited. FDA is monitoring all import records for Japan to determine when importation will resume.

How does the FDA protect the US food supply?

There are more than 900 investigators and 450 analysts in FDA’s Foods program who conduct inspections and

An FDA micorbiologist mixes seafood samples with an enrichment broth to test for microorganisms
FDA microbiologist

 collect and analyze product samples. The FDA oversees the importation of regulated products, including food and animal feed, among other responsibilities. The Agency carries out targeted (those that may pose a significant public health threat) risk-based analyses of imports at points of entry. Although FDA doesn’t physically inspect every product, the Agency electronically screens 100 percent of imported food products before they reach our borders.

What are the current procedures for measuring radiation contamination in food?

FDA has procedures and laboratory techniques for measuring radionuclide levels in food, and can also use the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN). FERN integrates the nation’s food-testing laboratories at the local, state and federal levels into a network that is able to respond to emergencies involving biological, chemical or radiological contamination of food. FDA is working with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to share resources and techniques for measuring contamination. FDA and other domestic regulatory labs have validated analytical methods to detect radiological contamination in food.

How will the radiation affect fish and seafood that have not yet been fished or harvested?

The quantity of water in the Pacific Ocean is great enough to rapidly and effectively dilute radioactive material, so fish and seafood are likely to be unaffected. However, FDA is taking all steps to evaluate and measure any contamination in fish presented for import into the US.

Related EDEN page: Nuclear Release