Nuclear accidents

A major nuclear accident can have serious consequences for both people and the environment. At nuclear power plants, safety always comes first. All nuclear facilities are extra carefully protected against various attacks and sabotage that cause an accident. Theft of nuclear materials and waste is also prevented.

All nuclear facilities are extra carefully protected against various attacks and sabotage that cause an accident. Theft of nuclear materials and waste is also prevented.

In Sweden, nuclear power plants are located in:

  • Forsmark, Uppsala County
  • Oskarshamn, Kalmar County
  • Ringhals, Halland County.

The Barsebäck nuclear power plant in Skåne was finally closed in 2005. In total, there are about 400 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide. In addition, there are many submarines, surface ships and satellites with nuclear reactors on board.

How to prepare for a nuclear accident

Anyone living or working near a nuclear power plant, in the so-called inner emergency planning zone, must be prepared according to specific procedures.

How to be alerted if an incident occurs in Sweden

In the event of a malfunction or accident at a Swedish nuclear facility, a warning alarm from the nuclear power plant goes out to everyone living in the inner emergency planning zone. All households in the zone have a special radio receiver connected to the RDS system via Swedish Radio. RDS stands for Radio Data System, a technology also used in car radios, among other places. Via RDS, information can be broadcast on an FM-radio channel.

Each radio receiver located in homes within the inner emergency planning zone emits a loud signal and a warning message is read out. The system consists of both indoor and outdoor alarms and the RDS receivers are tested quarterly.

In the event of an emergency alarm, a siren also sounds to warn the public in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant. The police have loudspeaker-equipped cars and helicopters that can supplement the information provided to those living in a risk area. In the event of a serious incident, an emergency response organisation is put in place, led by the County Administrative Board. The emergency organisation works according to a specific and rehearsed emergency plan.

If the alarm goes off near you:

  • Go inside - you're better protected inside than out.
  • Close doors, windows and ventilation. This prevents polluted air from entering.
  • Listen to your local Swedish Radio P4 channel. You'll hear what happened and what you should do.
  • Help others. For example, provide shelter for those outside.
  • Stay indoors.
  • Do not go outside until Swedish Radio P4 or outdoor warning announcements indicate that the danger is over.

New emergency planning zones to be introduced around Swedish nuclear power plants

The Government has decided on new emergency planning zones for Swedish nuclear power plants as of 1 July 2022. There will be an inner and an outer emergency planning zone around the nuclear power plants with an approximate extent of five and 25 kilometres respectively. There will also be an extended planning distance zone of approximately 100 kilometres. People living in these zones should have access to iodine tablets and communication channels for urgent warnings. There should also be a plan for evacuation and indoor sheltering. The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority has additional information on emergency and planning zones.

Iodine tablets protect the body

Taking iodine in tablet form is one way to protect the body during a radioactive emission. If you already have iodine in your body, your thyroid gland will not absorb the radioactive iodine from a release. People living near nuclear power stations have been given iodine tablets to take in case radioactive iodine is released into the air. For best protection, iodine doses should be ingested as soon as possible after the known release of radioactive iodine. Those older than 40 years do not suffer a risk of developing thyroid cancer from radioactive emissions. Thus they do not need to take iodine. Iodine tablets should not be given to animals. In the event of a nuclear accident, iodine tablet instructions are broadcast over the radio.