Are you prepared? - Nuclear risk

Sei Preparato Rischio Nucleare

During an emergency, it is crucial to follow the directions of the authorities. With radiological and nuclear risks, this principle is even more essential, bearing in mind that we cannot perceive radiation, which can be detected and measured instead with specific equipment.
Accidents in nuclear plants can have different patterns and, in some cases, result in the emission of radiation outside the facility.
Depending on the type of accident, the substances released, the distance of the facility from the national borders, and the weather and climate conditions, the authorities may order different health and environmental protection measures, which also consider the data collected by monitoring networks for radioactivity and possible effects on the population.  

Specifically, supposing the accident occurs in a plant located 200 km from national borders, the competent authorities may provide directions regarding direct measures to be taken by the population (indoor shelter and iodoprophylaxis).  

In case of a major accident in a plant more than 200 km away, there are no direct protective measures but only indirect, such as restrictions on the distribution and consumption of food and measures to protect agricultural and livestock heritage. 

Finally, in case of an accident in a nuclear plant outside Europe, no direct or indirect measures are planned due to the great distance from the accident, but only measures targeted at assisting fellow citizens in the territory affected by the event, measures regarding the import of food and other products, and measures to control personal contamination for those returning from risk areas.

It's important always to stay informed about the evolving situation and follow the instructions given by the authorities through websites, social media, institutional hotlines, and updates in national and local news media.
Generally speaking, measures to be taken concern indoor shelter, iodoprophylaxis, and food consumption.  


During the passage of the radioactive cloud, building walls can block most of the radioactivity and minimize exposure from inhalation (which could occur even after the cloud passes), cloud dispersion, and contaminated soil. The indoor shelter indication can last approximately 48 hours.  

• avoid any outdoor stop;
• reach an indoor location as soon as possible;
• get the nearest people, with particular regard to children and frail individuals, and pets to shelter; 
• do not pick up children at school unless otherwise directed by the school or the authority: they are already in a safe place.  

• you may consume drinking water and food in your home unless otherwise directed by the authorities;
• do not eat food exposed to the outdoors, especially products from vegetable gardens; 
• do not leave your home or place of work; 
• close doors and windows; 
• turn off air conditioning systems and outdoor air intake systems; 
• close fireplaces, if possible;
• move to a basement, if possible;
• use the telephone or cell phone only if strictly necessary;
• if you must necessarily go outside, do not leave body parts uncovered, and wear a mask, cap, and gloves.  

If you re-enter your home or other building after being outdoors: 
• remove your clothes and shoes;
• place clothes in a plastic bag and seal it tightly; 
• place the bag far from people and animals or in a separate room to avoid radioactive contamination; 
• take a shower and wash the body with soap and water, especially exposed parts such as hair and hands;
• if a shower is impossible, still wash the eyes, ears, and mouth with soap and water within a few minutes of contact. Just water on the body is not enough; 
• be careful not to irritate or injure the skin by washing;
• wear clean clothes.  


In case of a radioactive iodine release into the atmosphere, public health authorities may activate the distribution of potassium iodide tablets (iodoprophylaxis) to the population at the highest risk to protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine absorption.
Iodine administration is only considered in case of major accidents at nuclear plants near the Italian border and only for certain age groups and specific population groups. If not, the intake of potassium iodide may be unnecessary and harmful. Citizens should refrain from purchasing, in advance, potassium iodide tablets, whose sale is restricted.  

Potassium iodide must be taken by:
• infants/children; 
• teenagers; 
• population between 18 and 40 years old;
• pregnant or breastfeeding women.   

Adults over 40 years old, based on currently available data, benefit less from stable iodine intake.
The administration of potassium iodide tablets will be enabled by the criteria established by the National Plan for the management of radiological and nuclear emergencies; thus, it is advised to follow the directions of the authorities managing the emergency through official information channels.  


A precautionary ban on local food consumption, production, and sales will be enforced in areas where indoor shelter and iodoprophylaxis are implemented, as well as measures to protect livestock.

The population should inform itself about the instructions given on food consumption, which may concern:
• the exclusive consumption of packaged foods, protected from radioactivity, whose food chain is traceable;
• the ban on consumption of goods from local gardens or fresh vegetables;
• the ban on the consumption of milk;  
• the restrictions established by municipal ordinances or notices on drinking water consumption usually drunk at home.


Radioactivity released following a nuclear accident moves into the environment; it cannot be confined to limited territories or contained within specified areas, and some of it settles on the ground, especially in case of rain, resulting in soil contamination.
Radioactivity in the soil is then absorbed by plants through leaves and roots and thus enters the food chain, causing ingestion. Consuming contaminated food can lead to increased radiation exposure and health risks. That is why countermeasures for food are established in the most contaminated areas identified through monitoring activities.   

Authorities managing the emergency, also through their monitoring networks and laboratories for sampling and analysis of environmental and food matrices, examine agricultural products and food for human and animal consumption for contamination.  

Hence, it is important to follow the directions the relevant authorities gave and comply with any restrictive measures on food and beverage consumption. The authorities may also plan to block food imports from the country affected by the emergency.   

The population will have to inform themselves about the indications that are given on food consumption, which may concern:
• the exclusive consumption of packaged foods, protected from radioactivity, whose supply chain is traceable; 
• the prohibition of consuming food from local gardens or fresh vegetables;  
• the ban on the consumption of milk;  
• the restrictions, provided by municipal ordinances or notices, on the consumption of drinking water usually drunk at home;  
• the recall and ban on the sale of products.  

Based on the monitoring, the authorities can provide the public with indications that may change over time as the scenario and the affected territories evolve. It is also recommended always to follow the instructions provided by the authorities even in return to everyday life, which involves assessing the level of contamination and the beginning of clearance activities in the contaminated territories. The authorities will indicate measures for termination and the end of the emergency.