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Nuclear Agents
Radiation Exposure
On a daily basis, humans are exposed to radiation, which is defined as energy that can travel through the air. Some of this radiation is naturally occurring. Traces of naturally occurring radiation are present in food and water. Radiation is also released from man-made sources such as X-ray machines, televisions, and microwave ovens.

Other Sources
Another potential source of radiation is a nuclear power plant. Illinois is the most nuclear state, with six operational reactor sites. Nuclear plants use heat generated from nuclear fission in a contained environment to convert water into steam which powers generators. During a radiological emergency gaseous effluent from a nuclear power plant may be released into the atmosphere.

Dirty Bombs
Much has been made recently in the news and in the press about a “dirty nuclear bomb”. This is not a nuclear bomb like the ones dropped during World War II. A “dirty bomb” is a bomb that uses conventional explosives to spread an amount of radiation through the air. The dispersal of radioactive material in an urban area could have serious consequences for anyone who was contaminated with radioactive material, though depending upon how much nuclear material was present the conventional explosive could cause the most damage.

Radiation has a cumulative effect on the human body. The longer a person is exposed to radiation, the greater the risk of illness or death. Precautions need to be taken if there is a catastrophic release of radiation from a nuclear plant or a radiological bomb.