Radiological Incident

About Radiological Incidents

A radiological incident can be defined as unintentional exposure to materials that emit ionizing radiation. The primary radiological hazards are the health effects resulting from unintentional exposure to ionizing radiation. When radiation interacts with atoms, energy is deposited, resulting in “ionization,” or electron excitation. This ionization may damage certain critical molecules or structures in a cell. Ionizing radiation is emitted from molecular elements generally referred to as radionuclides, and this radiation has the ability to alter in varying amounts the function of living processes at the cellular level. 

Nuclear power plants are a significant potential source of ionizing radiation. The health and environmental impacts from the Three-Mile Island and the Chernobyl, Russia disasters illustrate the potential hazards from nuclear power plants. Other sources of ionizing radiation include medical and diagnostic X-ray machines, certain surveying instruments, some imaging systems used to check pipelines, radioactive sources used to calibrate radiation detection instruments, and even some household fire detectors.

Source: Minnesota Hazard Mitigation Plan


There have been no instances of radiological incidents in Benton County.

Risk Assessment

  • Effects on agriculture. Benton County is within the “plume zone” of the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant. Agriculture, both livestock and crops, would be primarily affected.
  • Effects on people and housing. With sufficient warning, the residents of Benton County would be able to shelter in place and would not be exposed to extreme danger in the event of a radiological incident at the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant.