7. Can the consequences of Radiological Emergency be influenced by human behavior?

Preparedness, response and relief are the main tools for minimising the consequences of a Radiological Emergency. The primary goals of preparedness and response for a nuclear or radiological emergency are:

  • To ensure that, for reasonably foreseeable incidents, radiation risks would be minor;
  •  For any incidents that do occur, to take practical measures to mitigate any consequences for human life and health and the environment.

The licensee, the employer, the nuclear regulatory body and appropriate branches of government must establish arrangements, in advance, for preparedness and response for a nuclear or radiation emergency on the spot (on-site plans) and at local, regional and national levels (off-site plans) which, where pertinent, have been agreed at international level.
Relief is usually a gradual process: safety is a primary issue, as are physical and mental well-being. 
Many lessons have been learned from the Chernobyl experience in the field of post-crisis administration and rehabilitation:

  • Socio-economic recovery is the most significant problem faced by regions affected by the Chernobyl disaster; 
  • A lack of reliable information led to general mistrust of the authorities and in particular, of official statements on radiation levels; 
  • Hindrances to effective communication with the public greatly delayed the recovery process itself.

The role of trustworthy information remains important in territorial rehabilitation and providing protection for the population from radiation.

Evacuation and resettling more than a hundred thousand people was justified on grounds of radiation safety but caused psychological stress.
The later resettlement of people from areas of low contamination was not justified: that experience has implications for responding to any future accident.

Anxiety about the health consequences of radiation exposure has not diminished over time. In affected areas some inhabitants are in a state of helplessness and passivity and unable to take decisions about their future. Innovative approaches are needed to involve the affected communities in measures to improve their living conditions in contaminated areas. There is a need to present information to certain groups of persons, who can use it and give helpful advice to the affected population, using an integrated approach to a healthy lifestyle and not only where radiation dangers are concerned.