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EMERGENCY PLAN

There are many safeguards and highly skilled people operating the Cook Nuclear Plant. It is very unlikely that a serious event will ever occur there. Chances of you having to seek shelter or evacuate because of a nuclear emergency are very remote. In the unlikely event that there is an emergency, the topics below will provide the necessary information on how to respond.

If you would like to access all of our emergency information please download the Cook Nuclear Plant Calendar.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What should I do if I receive an emergency alert?

In Berrien County, we use IPAWS wireless emergency alerts, B-WARN! alerts and alerts over TV or radio broadcasts to let you know a serious emergency is happening. Such emergencies include a nuclear accident, chemical spill, severe weather or other possible dangerous condition in our county that requires you to take action for safety. Learn more about IPAWS online by visiting the Emergency Management Division webpage at www.bcsheriff.org and look for the public warning system section.


If you receive an alert, tune to any TV station or radio station listed in the TV and Radio section on this website, or check your cell phone or another wireless communication device for emergency messages.


IPAWS is FEMA’s national alert warning system that delivers messages via WEA, EAS and NOAA weather radio. You need to sign up for the other alert system the county uses called B-WARN!

  • Cell phones and other wireless devices receive IPAWS Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). These are text-like alerts that loudly alert your phone if the setting to receive local emergency alerts is turned on. If your wireless carrier participates in the WEA system you will receive emergency alerts automatically. WEA messages are not charged to your wireless data plan. You may need to turn on this feature to receive the alerts and you may need to separately turn on the ability to receive a test alert. Contact your phone provider or store for assistance on how to turn these settings on.

  • Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages are sent through TV and radio stations. All of the TV and radio stations listed below are part of the EAS. Some of the stations may experience a delay in getting emergency information out due to computerized programming or limited broadcast scheduling. Check all of the listed stations until you find one that is broadcasting emergency information.

  • NOAA Weather Radios will also alert and broadcast emergency information when the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Northern Indiana activates them at the request of County officials.

  • B-WARN! is a system you sign up for. It allows you to enter landline phone numbers, cell numbers, text message numbers, pagers, email, and fax numbers to be alerted in an emergency. This system also allows you to enter addresses for places you want to be alerted even if you are not there, such as a child’s school or your home while you are away. Learn more and sign up at www.bcsheriff.org. Look for the section marked “Sign up for emergency alerts” on the Emergency Management & Homeland Security Division page. Or download, fill out and mail in a Functional Needs Card.

If you believe, for whatever reason, the above methods will not be able to alert you, please refer to the Functional Needs section below.


Vacationers and Visitors:

If you receive an emergency alert while vacationing or visiting in the area, seek shelter indoors. Tune to one of the TV or radio stations listed below. Follow all directions given by park officials, sheriff and police officers. If possible, during a weather emergency do not stay in your vehicle. It is not safe.


Boaters and Campers:

If you receive an emergency alert while boating, do not wait for further warning. Tune to the marine channel 16 (156.8 MHz) or to an area AM/FM radio station listed on this website for emergency information. Mariners are encouraged to keep their radios tuned to channel 16 when on Lake Michigan to receive emergency information. Marine patrol boats will also warn boaters on Lake Michigan if there is a serious emergency. You will be told the location of safe waterways and docking areas.


If you receive an emergency alert while camping, hiking, swimming or visiting area parks, follow all emergency instructions from park officials. At Warren Dunes and Grand Mere state parks, officials will use the public address system or mobile alert units to let you know what to do. At other local parks, immediately tune to an area radio station listed below and follow instructions.


IPAWS is tested on the first Friday of each month at 3 p.m.

How to register for Emergency Alerts

On February 5, 2021, the Berrien County Sheriff Department’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division will use two alert systems simultaneously, IPAWS and B-WARN!. Together, they will inform the majority of people in Berrien County of any emergencies or hazards. Messages will be sent to residents, workers, visitors, boaters, campers and travelers in the County.


IPAWS GETS YOUR ATTENTION ON THE VARIOUS COMMUNICATION DEVICES YOU USE SO YOU CAN TAKE ACTION FASTER IN AN EMERGENCY.
The Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) is FEMA's national system for local alerting. It delivers consistent, authenticated emergency and life-saving information to you and the public through mobile phones using Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), to radio and television via the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Radio (NOAA). IPAWS messages will tell you where to seek more information so you can act quickly.


To receive the test alerts, you likely will need to change the settings on your cell or mobile phone. See the instructions in the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) section on this page.


WEA - MAKE SURE THE SETTING TO RECEIVE LOCAL EMERGENCY ALERTS ON YOUR CELL PHONE IS TURNED ON.
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are short, text-like emergency messages that come from authorized federal, state, local, tribal and territorial public alerting authorities. These alerts are broadcast from cell towers to any WEA-enabled mobile device in a locally targeted area. WEA have a unique tone and vibration, both repeated twice.


If your wireless carrier participates in the WEA system you will receive emergency alerts automatically. There is no need to download an app. To find out if your phone can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts, contact your wireless provider. All the major providers participate in WEA voluntarily. There is no charge to your wireless data plan when you receive WEA messages.


MAKE SURE YOU CAN RECEIVE WEA AND TEST ALERTS ON YOUR CELL PHONE.
To ensure that you receive WEA as well as test alerts at 3 p.m. on the first Friday of the month (starting February 5, 2021):


  • Contact your cell phone provider to see if they participate in WEA.
  • Turn off your "airplane mode" setting.
  • Check your notification settings menu. Turn on "optin to receive alerts" setting.

If your cell phone provider does not participate in WEA, make sure to sign up for Berrien County’s B-WARN!. It’s easy. See the instructions below.


EAS MESSAGES ARE SENT THROUGH TV AND RADIO STATIONS.
All of the 24-hour TV and radio stations listed on page 3 are part of the EAS. Some of the stations may experience a delay in getting emergency information out due to computerized programming or limited broadcast scheduling. Check all of the listed stations until you find one that is broadcasting emergency information.


NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION'S WEATHER RADIO (NOAA)


This is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous, 24-hours per day, weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service (NWS) office. (Our station is in Northern Indiana.) NOAA Weather Radio can send out warnings and post event information for all types of hazards including weather (tornadoes, blizzards); natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, forest fires); chemical spills or releases, nuclear power plant emergencies and national emergencies (terrorist attacks).


Boaters, if you receive an emergency alert, immediately tune to the marine channel 16 (156.8 MHz) or an area radio or TV station listed on page 3. You will be told the location of safe waterways and docking areas. Marine patrol boats will also warn boaters on Lake Michigan if there is a serious emergency.


B-WARN! SENDS ALERTS TO MORE THAN YOUR WIRELESS DEVICES. SIGN UP ONLINE TODAY.


B-WARN! is an “Opt-In” notification service that allows the Berrien County Sheriff's Office to alert you during an emergency. When you sign up you choose how you want to be notified. This includes receiving voice messages on your landline phone, text messages on your cell phone as well as pager, email and fax messages. When you sign up you also can designate the locations where you want the County to send the B-WARN! messages.


Sign up at www.bcsheriff.org.


On the site’s homepage:

  • Click on the Divisions tab and select Emergency Management & Homeland Security Division from the sidebar.
  • Click the B-WARN! Button.
  • Click the Sign-Up Today button.
  • Create an account.
  • Fill out the online form and submit it.

IPAWS is tested on the first Friday of each month at 3 p.m. starting in February 2021. If you believe, for whatever reason, the above methods will not be able to alert you, please refer to the Functional Needs section below.

Nuclear Emergency Terms

In the unlikely event that there is an emergency at the Cook Nuclear Plant, four terms will be used to describe each situation. Those four terms are explained below. They are listed in order of least serious (1) to most serious (4). Because of the many safeguards and highly skilled people operating the Cook Nuclear Plant, it is very unlikely that a serious event will ever occur there. Chances of you having to seek shelter or evacuate because of a nuclear emergency are very remote. In most cases, evacuation is ordered as a safety measure before any danger can come to you or your family. Federal law, however, requires that the public be told what to do in case of a significant release of radioactive material from the Cook Nuclear Plant. Please keep this Emergency Information Calendar handy and become familiar with its contents. Sometimes you will hear news about a drill or an exercise involving the Cook Nuclear Plant. That is because federal, state, county and plant officials are required by law to participate regularly in drills and exercises so they are prepared in case of an emergency.


Remember, you will receive an emergency alert if sheltering or evacuation is necessary. See page 16 of the Emergency Calendar.


If you receive an emergency alert, listen to an area TV or radio station for emergency information listed below and follow instructions.


  1. Unusual Event: a minor problem at the Cook Nuclear Plant that varies from normal or routine operations. No release of radioactive material is expected. Cook Plant officials will notify federal, state and county officials. You will not have to do anything.

  2. Alert: an abnormal plant condition that could result in a small release of radioactive material inside the plant. This is still considered a minor event. Cook Plant officials will notify federal, state and county officials to stand by. It is not likely that you will have to do anything.

  3. Site Area Emergency: a more serious situation that could result in a release of radioactive material around the plant site. All federal, state and county officials will be ready to help if needed. Protective measures may be required to ensure the safety of the public in a limited area near the plant site boundary. If so, you will receive an emergency alert. Tune in immediately to an area TV or radio stations listed below to learn whether you will need to seek shelter or evacuate.

  4. General Emergency: the most serious situation possible at the Cook Nuclear Plant. It could result in the release of a large amount of radioactive material outside the plant boundary. All federal, state and county officials will provide help as needed. Protective measures may be required to ensure the safety of the public as far as 10 miles from the plant. The wireless emergency alerts, IPAWS, B-WARN! and NOAA marine radios direct you to tune into area TV and radio stations listed below if shelter or evacuation is necessary.

Two other key terms: radiation and contamination


  • Radiation refers to the particles and waves given off by radioactive material. It is a form of energy that occurs naturally and artificially. We are exposed to it every day. However, radiation could be harmful to your health and safety if the levels are high enough and the exposure lasts long enough.

  • Contamination is when radioactive material is where it is not supposed to be. Food, water or air is considered contaminated if it contains more or different types of radioactive material than would be normally present. Our bodies, for example, contain very small amounts of the radioactive elements potassium-40, carbon-14 and tritium. We are not considered to be contaminated because these elements exist within us naturally. However, the presence of strontium-90 (a possible byproduct of a nuclear power plant emergency) in food, air or water can indicate contamination.
Facts About Radiation

Natural Background Radiation is in the Air We Breathe
The sun covers our planet with cosmic radiation. Some rocks and minerals give off small amounts of radiation. One source you may be familiar with is radon gas. Many building materials contain radiation. In fact, radioactive particles are in the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. Even our bodies are slightly radioactive. These sources of radiation are called natural background radiation.


Natural background radiation sources (measured in mRem per year)

  • Air: 200
  • Cosmic rays: 30
  • Earth & rocks: 46
  • Food & water: 40
  • Building materials: 7

We Make and Use Radioactive Sources Every Day
Besides naturally occurring radiation, there is also artificial (man-made) radiation. Radioactive materials are used in medical and dental X-rays. They are used to help diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer. Science and industry use radioactive materials for research and to do such things as X-ray welds. Other sources of radioactive materials are TVs, smoke detectors, some luminous-dial watches and clocks. Very small amounts of radiation come from generating electricity with nuclear power.


Artificial radiation sources (measured in mRem per year)

  • Chest X-ray: 10
  • Coast-to-coast airline flight: 2.5
  • Viewing TV 1 hour/day: 1
  • Living by the Cook Plant: < 1

Types of Radiation
Radiation includes such things as light, heat and radio waves. However, when we speak of radiation we usually mean “ionizing” radiation. This radiation can produce high energy, charged particles called “ions” in the materials it strikes.


The Main Types of Ionizing Radiation Are:

  • Alpha particles, which can be stopped by a sheet of paper.
  • Beta particles, which can be stopped by a thin sheet of metal.
  • Gamma rays, which can be stopped almost completely by three feet of concrete.
  • Neutron particles, which can be stopped by water, concrete and metal.

Effects of Radiation
Just as too much exposure to the sun can cause painful sunburn, too much exposure to certain levels and types of radiation can have harmful effects. You would, however, have to be exposed to radiation doses over 20,000 mRem within a day to produce effects measurable by a trained doctor. Very large doses of 50,000 to 100,000 mRem are required before you would feel any ill effects.


The amount of exposure from radiation depends on:

  • Length of time you are exposed.
  • How far you are from the source of radiation.
  • Which part of your body is exposed.
  • How much material you inhale or take into your body.

Your health or physical condition can affect your reaction to radiation exposure. For example, you should be aware that unborn babies and very young children are more likely to be harmed by radiation exposure. The less radiation you are exposed to, the less chance you have of receiving any harmful effects. That is why it is so important to have an emergency plan in place near a nuclear power plant. We need to treat radiation with both caution and common sense.


Cook Nuclear Plant workers regularly check radiation levels both inside and outside the plant. In the unlikely event of a serious nuclear accident at the plant, state and federal health experts would be called in to take radiation readings beyond the plant site boundary. These readings would determine what steps, if any, you, your family and coworkers would need to take to protect yourselves.


State of Michigan Potassium Iodide Distribution
Radioactive iodine (radioiodine) is one of the products that could be released in the unlikely event of a serious nuclear power plant accident. Potassium iodide (KI) is a nonradioactive form of iodine that may be taken to reduce the amount of radioactive iodine absorbed by the body’s thyroid gland. KI offers protection only to the thyroid gland and its use would be to supplement evacuation and in-place sheltering. Evacuation and in-place sheltering are the primary means of protection in a radiological emergency.

State and county officials will use the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to notify the public of the need to evacuate, to seek shelter in place, or to take KI. KI is available to persons within 10 miles of the Cook Nuclear Plant through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Detailed instructions on the MDHHS distribution of KI can be found on page 21 of the Emergency Calendar or www.michigan.gov/KI. It is necessary to pick up your KI prior to an emergency situation at the plant. Complete your voucher and pick up your KI at a participating pharmacy at your earliest convenience. You will NOT be able to get KI from the pharmacy during a nuclear plant emergency.

People who are allergic to iodine should not use KI. In the event of an allergic reaction, contact a doctor.

Advanced Planning Guide

Emergency situations often catch people off guard. A good way to stay safe in an emergency is to know what to do ahead of time. Here are five steps you can take now to make sure you, your family and your co-workers are prepared to handle any emergency.


  1. After you read this Emergency Information Calendar, please share it with your family or co-workers. Then display it where you can find it quickly when you need it.

  2. Keep the following items together in a safe, easy-to-get-to place:
    • Emergency cash
    • Important papers
    • First-aid kit
    • Extra keys
    • Prescription medicines
    • Checkbook
    • Debit cards
    • Portable radio
    • Extra batteries
    • Flashlight
    • Pet supplies
    • Credit cards
    • Personal identification
    • Potassium iodide (KI) if obtained in advance

  3. Make a list of personal instructions that you, your family or co-workers will need to follow in an emergency. Keep a list of supplies you may need with the instructions. Include on your supply list the items in step 2 above and the evacuation supplies listed on page 17 of the Emergency Calendar.

  4. Keep your vehicle in good running order. Fill your gas tank whenever it gets below half. If you do not have a car or do not have someone to drive you in an emergency, fill out a Functional Needs card. Mail the card right away. You do not need a stamp.

  5. If you know people who have functional needs, make sure they mail in a Functional Needs card. This may include anyone with vision or hearing impairments, physical or mental disabilities, or someone who has no means of transportation. Please help them fill out the Functional Needs card and return it right away. You can also fill out the form online at www.bcsheriff.org. We have an emergency team ready to help people reach safety. If you know someone who is vision impaired or has difficulty reading, please assist them with the information in this calendar. Help display it in a visible location if others need it to assist the person with functional needs

For additional emergency preparedness tips and an online planning guide: On the www.bcsheriff.org homepage, click on the Divisions tab and select Emergency Management & Homeland Security Division from the sidebar. Then click Resources & Guides for links to helpful Federal, State and local websites.

What if I have Functional Needs?

People with functional needs in an emergency include those with vision or hearing impairments, physical or mental disabilities, or no means of transportation. To get help in an emergency, please fill out the Functional Needs card which can be printed using the link below. If you need a physical copy you can find one in the Emergency Calendar or you can request one by contacting the Berrien County Emergency Management Office the Cook Energy Information Center using the contact information below.


Since transportation resources will be limited in an emergency, only people who truly need help should send in a card.


When you mail the Functional Needs card, the Berrien County Health Department will keep the information on file for one year. Special warning or protective actions then can be taken for you (or whomever you identify) in a serious emergency in Berrien County. Since cards are only kept on file for one year, anyone with special needs must obtain, complete and return a card annually. These cards need to be renewed when the Emergency Planning Calendar is issued. If you or someone with special needs requires a copy of the calendar, one can be obtained from the Berrien County Emergency Management Office or by emailing cookinfo@aep.com.


If you know people with functional needs, please volunteer to help them in an emergency. If they do not live nearby or you are not able to help them, please make sure they fill out and mail in the functional needs card.


Download and print a copy of the Functional Needs Card HERE.


Berrien County Emergency Management
Division of Berrien County Sheriff’s Office
919 Port Street
St. Joseph, Michigan 49085
(269) 983-7141 Ext. 7215


Cook Energy Information Center
One Cook Place
Bridgman, Michigan 49106
1-800-548-2555 (Does not have an answering service)
cookinfo@aep.com

What Radio and TV stations should I get emergency information from?

All of the stations listed below take part in the local News Media Notification System (which is similar to the national Emergency Broadcast System) and will broadcast emergency information. However, some stations could experience a few minutes delay in getting out emergency information due to computerized programming or limited broadcast scheduling. Check all listed stations until you find one broadcasting emergency information.


AM Radio
WHFB - 1060
WNIL - 1290
WSJM - 1400


FM RADIO
WAUS - 90.7
WSJM - 94.9
WTRC - 95.3
WEFM - 95.9
WYTZ - 97.5
WCXT - 98.3
WQLQ - 99.9
WAOR - 102.7
WCSY - 103.7
WIRX - 107.1


TV
WNDU - NBC 16
WNDU - NBC 16.1
WNDU - 16.2
WSBT - CBS 22
WSBT - CBS 22.1
WSBT - FOX 22.2
WBND - ABC 57
WBND - ABC 57.1

What should I do if I’m told to seek shelter?

For most emergencies, it is safer to stay indoors. The wind will blow any toxic or poisonous fumes and gases away in a short time. During a severe weather emergency, buildings offer the best protection, especially basements. While indoors, do the following:


  • Keep calm. Panic is your worst enemy in any emergency.
  • Close all windows and doors and bring pets inside.
  • Turn off all air-intake systems such as fans and air conditioners. Turn down the furnace thermostat. Close fireplace dampers.
  • If your building has a basement, take a radio and go there.
  • Do not go outside until you are told it is safe to go out or are told to evacuate. If you must go outdoors briefly to warn someone during a nuclear emergency, cover your nose and mouth with a cloth towel or scarf.
  • Do not use the telephone or the internet unless it is absolutely necessary. It’s important to keep telephone lines open for emergency use.
  • Stay out of your car or vehicle in a weather emergency. Seek shelter in the basement of a nearby building or a ditch until the weather emergency passes.
  • Do not pick up children from schools or day care centers. School staff and child caregivers will keep children in school until it is safe to go out again. Listen for directions on TV or radio stations (see page 3) about where and when they can be picked up.
  • Do not worry if you or family members are in a hospital or other special-care facility, as they also have emergency procedures.

Plan Ahead for Sheltering-In-Place

Have ready access to:

  • A battery-operated radio and flashlight plus extra batteries.
  • Seven- to ten-days' supply of yours’ and your household members’ prescriptions and medications.
  • Three-days' supply of non-perishable food and beverages for your household and pets.

ANYONE WITH FUNCTIONAL NEEDS: If you might need special help in an emergency, refer to the Functional Needs section above.

What should I do if I'm told to evacuate?
  • Only call 911 if you are experiencing an emergency. If you have a general question or need advice, use the Cook Nuclear Public Inquiry Hotline: 866-362-3105.
  • Listen to the radio or TV for instructions. They will give you evacuation routes and directions to open Public Reception Centers.
  • Go directly to a Public Reception Center and register. Follow the broadcasted evacuation route instructions to the nearest open Public Reception Center. Please register when you arrive so family and friends will know where you are. After you have registered you may go to stay with friends or family who live outside the danger area. If you prefer, you will be assigned to a safe, nearby gathering place.
  • Stay calm. You and others with you should have time to get ready to leave safely.
  • Take only essential items. Pack as if you were going on a trip for only a few days. Use the list in the Advanced Planning Guide section as a reference.
  • Do not take firearms, alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs.
  • If you have functional needs and have sent in a postcard, you will receive the necessary assistance. If you need help, listen to a local TV or radio station for the telephone number you can call.
  • Have a plan for your pets. Public Reception Centers will only accept pets if they are service animals. Make arrangements to stay with relatives, friends or at a petfriendly hotel outside of the area. Bring pet supplies with you. Animal Control will be at Public Reception Centers to provide additional options and advice. For more information, go to ready.gov/caring-animals, PetTravel.com and PetsWelcome.com.
  • Turn off small appliances, lights and water faucets. However, leave your refrigerator and freezer on.
  • Turn off all air-intake systems such as fans and air conditioning. Turn down the furnace thermostat. Close fireplace dampers.
  • Close and lock all windows and doors. The evacuated area will be secured and you will not be allowed to return until it is safe.
  • Check on neighbors. Make sure they know how to evacuate and that they have transportation.

IMPORTANT: Do not pick up your children from schools or child care centers. If necessary, they will be taken to shelters outside the danger zone. Listen for directions on TV or radio stations about where and when they can be picked up. Do not worry if you or family members are in a hospital or other special-care facility, as they also have emergency procedures.


NOTICE TO FARMERS, FOOD PROCESSORS AND DISTRIBUTORS

This portion of the Emergency Information section outlines plans to protect the food supply in the event of a nuclear emergency. Information in this section includes the following:


How will I be notified in a nuclear emergency?

This portion of the Emergency Information section outlines plans to protect the food supply in the event of a nuclear emergency. Information in this section includes the following:

  • If you live within 10 miles of the Cook Nuclear Plant, your first warning may be an IPAWS Wireless Emergency Alert or a B-WARN! alert. If you receive an alert, tune to a radio or TV station listed on page 3 for emergency information.
  • If you live farther than 10 miles from the plant, you will be notified by area radio and TV stations. The news report will let you know if you need to take protective action, or a Cooperative Extension Service official will contact you. Please follow the emergency instructions right away.
  • If you have questions about a real or potential emergency, please contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development at 800-292-3939 during business hours (8 a.m.-5 p.m.). After hours, call 517-373-0440.

What should you do if you are told to seek shelter?
During a nuclear emergency, it is very important to limit your outdoor activities as much as possible. Please stay indoors and follow the instructions provided in radio and TV messages.

What should you do if you are ordered to evacuate your farm?
If you live within 10 miles of the Cook Nuclear Plant, you may be told to evacuate. You may be permitted, with directions from the state and county, to reenter the evacuated area temporarily to tend to the needs of your farm. You will receive instructions on where to check in, what routes to use, safety precautions and decontamination procedures.

Your Cooperative Extension Service agent can provide animal health and feeding guidelines.

IMPORTANT: Do not delay when notified to evacuate. Instructions on how to safely return to care for livestock will be given when it is safe to do so.

How can a nuclear emergency contamination food?

During a nuclear emergency, dust-sized, radioactive materials can fall onto fruits, vegetables or grains. This food could enter the food supply and be eaten by the public. For example: Cows could eat grass covered with radioactive iodine-131. Traces of the iodine could be passed through to the milk and then to people who drink it. Iodine-131 has the potential to concentrate in the human thyroid gland where it could cause thyroid cancer.

Protecting the food supply during a nuclear emergency
Following a nuclear emergency, the public could be exposed to radioactive material in several ways. At first, particles and gases released into the air could be ingested or inhaled directly. Additional exposure could result from eating or drinking food or milk contaminated by traces of radioactive material. Farmers, food processors and distributors will be required to take steps to protect the food supply. Every step will be taken to minimize or avoid contamination. Please read this page and the next to learn how to protect the food supply in the event of a nuclear emergency.

Samples will be collected to determine protective action
In the event of an accidental release of radioactive material, State of Michigan emergency workers will determine what protective steps you will need to take. Emergency workers will collect samples of air, water and soil to see whether there is radioactive contamination, where it is located and the amount. Samples of milk, forage, crops and processed foods also may be taken. Field data and other factors will be used by the state to determine the best course of action to protect the public and the food supply.

Samples may be taken from as far away as 50 miles from the plant site. State of Michigan emergency workers will give farmers, food processors and distributors outside of the 10-mile radius of the Cook Nuclear Plant specific instructions on how to collect and test samples.

Samples are being taken now to give us a baseline
Radioactive materials occur naturally in the environment. So Indiana Michigan Power and State of Michigan emergency workers continually take samples of the air, water, milk, vegetation and animal life near the Cook Nuclear Plant. This gives them a “natural” baseline for comparison in the event of a nuclear emergency.

Who pays for lost or destroyed farm products?

Farmers, food processors and distributors could face serious financial losses following a nuclear emergency. Under federal law, you will be reimbursed for any of these losses. The Price-Anderson Act, enacted by Congress in 1957, requires the operators of nuclear power plants and certain other nuclear facilities to purchase nuclear liability insurance policies for the protection of the public. As a result, no-fault insurance pools are in place to pay claims promptly without lengthy court hearings. Claimants need only prove that the injury or property damage resulted from the nuclear emergency. Commercial insurance policies exclude coverage for nuclear emergencies because the Price- Anderson Act makes coverage unnecessary.

What you should do with food and products contaminated in a nuclear emergency

After an event, there may be additional guidance from government officials on food, fruits and vegetables, feed and animal health.


  • Crops in the field - Let your standing crops grow to maturity. The level of radiation exposure they may receive should not affect their growth. Most contaminants will be washed off in the rain. Or, over time, the crops will return to safe levels as they grow. If special harvesting procedures are required, your Cooperative Extension Service agent will give you instructions. Government officials may restrict the movement of crops and agricultural products and withhold them from the marketplace if they are suspected to be contaminated, until they are assessed to be safe.

  • Roots and tubers - Potatoes, carrots and plants that mature under the ground generally are safe to eat. Make sure to thoroughly wash and peel these products to remove soil particles and contaminants.

  • Fruits and vegetables in the field - Unprotected plants may have particles of radioactive contamination on their surfaces. Before eating them, wash thoroughly. Then brush, scrub or peel the outer layers. Some leafy vegetables may be eaten after you remove the outer layers.

    If your crops do not need to be harvested immediately, leave them in the field or on the trees. They should be able to be harvested once your area is declared safe again.

    You may lose some ripe fruits and vegetables to spoilage. Contamination levels in your area may be too high for field workers to harvest your crop in a timely manner. You will be reimbursed for crop losses. Government officials may restrict the movement of crops and agricultural products and withhold them from the marketplace if they are suspected to be contaminated, until they are assessed to be safe.

  • Honey and apiary products - Following a nuclear emergency, State of Michigan emergency workers will need to take samples and analyze honey and beehives in the Protective Action Areas. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service agent for guidance.

  • Farm products - If radioactive particles or material are present in large amounts, you may be advised not to use, eat or sell garden produce or animal products until samples are taken and analyzed. State of Michigan emergency workers will conduct the sample tests and analysis. Please follow their orders to protect the publics’ and your safety.

  • Milk - Milk contaminated at low levels of iodine-131 may be converted to powdered milk or cheese. Then it will be stored until the iodine’s radioactivity diminishes to safe levels. It may also be used in animal feed.

  • Wildlife and plants - After a nuclear emergency, wild game such as deer, rabbit, squirrel, pheasant and partridge may eat food and water contaminated with radioactive particles. State of Michigan emergency workers may advise you not to eat wild game until it has been sampled and assessed to be safe. Wild edible plants, such as native herbs, mushrooms, dandelion greens, spearmint, peppermint or wintergreen may have particles of contamination on their surfaces, too. Before eating, be sure to wash, brush, scrub or peel to minimize contamination.

How soon will the radioactivity reach safe levels?
The speed that radioactivity diminishes depends on several things. Inert gases released from a nuclear power plant lose their radioactivity within minutes. Wind or heavy rain tend to remove radioactive material from plants very quickly. In some cases, however, a hard rain after a nuclear emergency may splash contaminated soil onto plant surfaces. This will increase the amount of radioactive material on low-standing plants.

What steps can be taken to restore contaminated soils?
There are several steps that can be taken to restore soils contaminated in a nuclear emergency. One is not to use the soil for a period of time. In a worst-case situation, heavily contaminated soil may need to be removed and sent to an approved radioactive waste disposal facility. Such drastic action may not be possible for large fields, but may be used for small plots or areas such as walkways near buildings where people come in close contact with it.

In less severe situations, fiber crops may be planted instead of fruits and vegetables. Deep plowing may be used to keep the radioactive contaminants below the root zone until the radioactivity decays to safe levels over time. Liming may also be used to limit the absorption of specific radioactive elements by crops.

Farmers will receive guidance from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service on how to restore valuable soils to productive use.

What should food processors and distributors do in a nuclear emergency?
After a nuclear emergency, government officials may restrict the movement of contaminated food products or withhold them from the marketplace. These products should not be released until they are considered safe for consumption or a decision is made to dispose of them. State of Michigan emergency workers will instruct you on how to safely handle and dispose of contaminated food products.

The environmental damage caused by a nuclear reaction may be short-lived. Steps can be taken to make a full recovery.

For more information, contact:
MSU-BERRIEN COUNTY COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE
269-944-4126
1737 Hillandale Road
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
www.canr.msu.edu/berrien/

If you have questions about a real or potential emergency, you may also contact:


MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
800-292-3939
www.michigan.gov/mdard

What should I do to protect the food supply?

How to protect your water supply in a nuclear emergency
Store as much water as you can for your livestock. Cover open wells, tanks and other storage containers. Close off the intakes from contaminated ponds, streams or cisterns.

In general, water from wells and water heaters should be safe to use. Radioactive contaminants deposited on the ground usually will travel very slowly into the soil. If contaminants fall onto the surface of lakes and rivers, the radioactive materials may get into the ground water supplies. It takes just a few hours for streams and lakes to carry the contaminants many miles.

How to protect your livestock or poultry in a nuclear emergency
The first priority is to protect dairy animals because radioactive materials can quickly enter the food chain through milk and other dairy products. If sheltering is required, shelter your dairy animals first.

Shelter livestock in covered barns or sheds unless the weather is extremely hot or other factors make sheltering impossible. Provide your animals with stored feed such as hay, silage and bagged grain. Whenever possible, draw water for your animals from a well. Avoid using water from ponds, rivers and creeks. This will help to minimize the amount of radioactive material ingested by your animals.

Poultry are more resistant to radioactive contamination than other farm animals. Keep them in your enclosed facility and continue to give them stored feed and well water. If your poultry are normally kept outdoors, bring them inside if possible.

IMPORTANT: Do not destroy any animals, crops, milk or feed supplies unless directed by authorities to do so.

DO NOT DESTROY YOUR ANIMALS
Destroy your animals only if you get orders from state or federal authorities. Do not slaughter any animals except for immediate food needs. Generally, animals that are exposed to radioactive contaminants and radioactive rainwater will survive. Many will be marketable and safe for humans to eat. However, do not allow animals to graze in open fields unless the State of Michigan, your Cooperative Extension Service agent or another government official gives you permission.

What you should do if feed is radioactively contaminated
Only in extreme emergencies may you feed your livestock contaminated grain or hay. If you must use the contaminated feed, you may be able to reduce the level of contamination. For example, if the feed is stored outside, the contamination may be greater at or near the surface of the feed pile. You may be able to reduce the contamination level significantly by removing the top portion. Government officials may restrict the movement of feed products and withhold them from the marketplace if they are suspected to be contaminated, until they are assessed to be safe.

Do not dispose of contaminated feed or hay unless spoilage has made it inedible. Generally, contaminated products may be salvageable after adequate time passes and they are properly processed. Please keep contaminated feed supplies separate from other feed so the contamination does not spread. Your Cooperative Extension Service agent can provide you with specific information.

EMERGENCY PLANNING


No one likes to think about a problem at a nuclear power plant – but Cook has detailed and comprehensive plans and procedures in place.