What is radiation?


Radiation is energy that travels in the form of waves or high speed particles. Radiation can be naturally occurring or man made. It is all around us in varying forms ranging from radio waves to x-rays to cosmic radiation from space.

While there are various different types of radiation, some more energetic than others, there are two primary classifications :

Non-Ionizing Radiation: Radiation having enough energy to excite atoms (make them move more rapidly), but not enough to ionize them (alter them physically). Examples of non-ionizing radiation include microwaves, radio waves and visible light.

Ionizing Radiation: The most energetic forms of radiation, capable of removing electrons from atoms (ionization) and damaging the DNA within living cells. X-rays, gamma rays and alpha & beta particles are examples of ionizing radiation.

Pennsylvania has the second-largest number of nuclear power plants in the United States, with nine operational reactor units at five nuclear power plant sites:  Susquehanna, Luzurne County; Three Mile Island, Dauphin County; Beaver Valley, Beaver County; Limerick, Montgomery County and Peach Bottom, York County.  More than 645,000 people live within a 10-mile radius of these facilities.  A third of the state's total energy generation comes from nuclear power, just behind coal and well ahead of natural gas and other sources.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is responsible for overall preparedness for the state.  In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Radiation Protection Act, 1984-147 (Act 147), deals specifically with radiation, control of radioactive sources and accidental releases of radiation from any of the nuclear-powered electric generating facilities in Pennsylvania.  PEMA has developed a radiological emergency response program with plans for each fixed nuclear power generating facility.

For more information, click on one of the links below to find state and federal information.

Montgomery Emergency Management

Borough of Montgomery, Lycoming County, PA