Medical and policy considerations for nuclear and radiation accidents, incidents and terrorism

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Purpose of review

The purpose of this review is to address the increasing medical and public concern regarding the health consequences of radiation exposure, a concern shaped not only by fear of another Chernobyl or Fukushima nuclear power facility accident but also by the intentional use of a nuclear weapon, a radiological dispersion device, a radiological exposure device, or an improved nuclear device by rogue states such as North Korea and terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Recent findings

The United States has the medical capacity to respond to a limited nuclear or radiation accident or incident but an effective medical response to a catastrophic nuclear event is impossible. Dealing effectively with nuclear and radiation accidents or incidents requires diverse strategies, including policy decisions, public education, and medical preparedness.


I review medical consequences of exposures to ionizing radiations, likely concomitant injuries and potential medical intervention. These data should help haematologists and other healthcare professionals understand the principles of medical consequences of nuclear terrorism. However, the best strategy is prevention.

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