What a radiological emergency is
¿Qué es una emergencia radiológica?
A nuclear emergency is a state that can be declared by the authorities when an event in a nuclear power plant disturbs the normal functioning to the point that it could cause an accident with consequences for the facility, its workers, the public or the environment.
Emergencies in radioactive facilities normally have consequences of a lower scale than in nuclear facilities since both the amount of radioactive products and its activity are much less than in nuclear power plants. There is a very wide range of facilities that handle these types of substances:
• Spent nuclear fuel storage facilities (either centralised or individual, temporary or definitive).
• Nuclear fuel assembly manufacturing facilities.
• Nuclear facilities in the decommissioning stage.
• Radioactive waste storage facilities.
• Radioactive facilities (for industrial, medical, research, teaching and commercial purposes).
Radioactive emergencies also encompass those known as "unregulated activities." In these, the undesired or unexpected presence of radioactive sources that are out of control may have consequences that would require the declaration of a radiation emergency. Some examples are:
• The accidental fusion of sources in steelworks inadvertently mixed with scrap.
• Situations in which there is a radioactive discharge from a foreign facility such as an accident in a nuclear ship on Spanish coasts or in its ports or locations close to them.
• Accidents in a foreign nuclear facility resulting in a radioactive cloud that could reach Spain.
There are also exceptional events that give rise to the declaration of radiation emergencies, originating in illicit activities the intention of which is to cause damage to persons or property such as, for example, the use of the so-called "improvised radiological dispersion devices" also known as "dirty bombs." These devices are designed to produce the release (for example, using an explosive) and dispersion of large quantities of radioactive substances.