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Nuclear Radiation And It?S Effects Essay, Research Paper

Nuclear Radiation And It’s


The world’s natural resources are being consumed at an alarming rate. As these

resources diminish , people will be seeking alternative sources by which to generate

electricity for heat and light . The only practical short term solution for the energy-crisis is

nuclear power.

Nuclear power, however is not as safe as burning coal, gas or oil in a factory it isin

fact , much more dangerous, There are dangers associated with a nuclear power plant

which far out weigh the benefits to society as a whole and

in part to the community living and working around the

power plant . About 20 percent of our nation’s total

electrical consumption per year is supplied by nuclear power

from the 100 or so nuclear power plants throughout the

country . Even though atomic power has been in use for over

50 years it was primarily a tool of war and destruction when

the war ended need for atomic bombs diminished . The

scientists who created the weapons were out of jobs . They

then turned this destructive power into huge plants

generating “clean and cheap ” electricity for the country .

It was called progress. Progress also brought with it

sickness , mutations , cancer and eventually death to those

exposed to high levels of radiation . Government declared

that nuclear power is safe and efficient . Also have big

Oil corporations who have a lot of money invested in nuclear

power and want to see as many plants as possible put into

and kept in operation . The truth is that accidents do

happen at nuclear power plants and at other facilities all

the time . An accident at a nuclear power plant has the

potential to be much more devastating than an accident at a

coal or gas plant because of the radiation that could be

released . An example of this is Three Mile Island in

Pennsylvania where there was a partial core meltdown in

march of 1979 and an “acceptable” amount of radiation

escaped into the atmosphere . However no amount of

radiation is acceptable if released as a result of an

accident at a nuclear power plant .

Is Nuclear Power necessary ?

Today many Americans adopt lifestyles that are based on

energy in-efficient devices . These include large

automobiles and electric appliances that require

electricity from energy-intense industrial processes . The

public is doing all it can to force nuclear power plants

into production by wasting electricity and the resources

which are used to produce it ( coal , oil , gas) and by

failing to recycle . Nuclear power has been promoted

world-wide as economically advantageous and necessary to

replace fossil fuels as the means of energy production in

the 21st century . However this is untrue . There are many

other economically viable and environmentally safe methods

of producing energy .These include solar power ,

hydroelectric power and wind power . Today one fifth of the

world’s total energy production either comes from either

wind ,water or solar power . It is estimated that by the

year 2000 forty percent of the world’s energy production

will be from sources other than fossil fuels or nuclear

power .It is estimated that to meet , via nuclear power a

quarter of the projected U.S. primary power demand in the

year 2000 that the US would have to order a new nuclear

power plant to be built every five days to compensate for

the irradication of the coal , oil and gas powered plants .

On the other hand if all U. S. nuclear power plants were

shut down now , it would not make any difference at all .

The existing electrical backup systems have reserves of

power that can more than make up for the loss of the nuclear

power plants . The nuclear power plants that are in use

today are no more than large plants serving no purpose at

all and endangering many peoples lives .

Is Nuclear Power worth the risks ?

With any large energy producing facility there are

risks . The risks posed by a nuclear power plant however ,

are far greater than those posed by any other . Meltdowns,

cancer , radiation , mutations and eventually death are all

possible end results of the building of a nuclear power

plant . Meltdown or the explosion of the main reactor

itself can release tons of radioactive particles into the

atmosphere . The meltdown of a nuclear power plant would

release a thousand times more radioactivity into the

atmosphere than the bombs dropped on both Hiroshima and

Nagasaki . Another possibility is “China Syndrome ” , where

the core of the reactor melts into the earth and reaches the

water table of the area and contaminates it . Although

Nuclear power plants do not give off any form of combustion

, they do release minute traces of radioactive particles

which contaminate the soil , water and air . They also

release super heated water into lakes and rivers from the

cooling of the reactor . This heats the water , killing fish

and other types of marine life . The average or annual

release of radioactive particles into the atmosphere shorten

our life span by 37 minutes . This also raises the

background level of radiation by 3% thus adding an extra

7000 cancer deaths per year . The cases of cancer deaths go

up in areas around nuclear power plants . Children with

asthma living in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant are

50 times more likely to die of cancer than a healthy child

living in the same area . Studies done by the EPA and NRC

reveal that workers at nuclear power plants are more likely

to die from cancer due to the proximity of radioactive

elements . Naturally occurring radiation in the environment

is greater than the trace amounts given off by nuclear power

plants . However people would rather not take the risk of

being exposed to unnecessary amounts of radiation by living

near a nuclear power plant . A recent EPA study on the worst

case scenario of a nuclear accident concluded that if a

nuclear reactor 1/5 the size of the Chernobyl plant in the

former Soviet Union had a meltdown in a state the size of

Pennsylvania it would kill 45,000 people , contaminate 70%

of the state , and cause seventeen million dollars worth

of damage and if you multiply that by five it would kill

225,000 and cause eighty five million dollars worth of

damage and contaminate five times the amount of land .

Have there ever been any Nuclear accidents in the United

States ?

Accidents involving US nuclear power plants are very

rare . This does not mean that they do not occur. In the

early 1980’s there was a fire at Yankee Atomic , a nuclear

power plant in Massachusetts , destroying over 3 million

dollars worth of electrical wiring in the reactor . it was

caused by some workmen who were using matches to find a leak

in the ventilation system of the reactor . The damage to

the reactor was not serious but it was shut down for two

weeks for repairs . If the situation was not brought under

control the fire could have spread and caused a meltdown or

serious leak . The most serious nuclear accident in the US

was at three Mile Island , Pennsylvania in 1979 when a

coolant pipe was accidentally blocked due to cleaning and

repairs the blockage allowed no water to reach the reactor

core to cool it down and the core ruptured and leaked

radioactive particles into the atmosphere . The core itself

came close to meltdown and if this had happened much of

Pennsylvania , New York and New Jersey would have been

contaminated by the radioactive fallout . Although today’s

nuclear power plants are relatively safe the problem of

accidents increases with every new plant that is built .

With each new plant built new of problems occur since this

is a relatively young technology with people who are being

trained on the job .

Is Radioactivity dangerous?

Radioactivity cannot be seen , felt , tasted or smelt .

It is an ” invisible poison ” that is released and produced

by the plants . The average nuclear power plant contains

more than 200,000 to 300,000 times the radioactive materials

that are in standard nuclear warheads . Radioactivity

destroys life , especially human life . A person exposed to

a high level of radiation will die within 48 hours of

exposure either due to infectious diseases caused by the

destruction of the body’s immune system from the radiation

or by massive tissue bleeding . Humans above all other

species are the most susceptible to radiation . Cockroaches

and other types of insects can withstand 200 times more

radiation exposure than humans before cancer or death occur

, Radiation alters the electrical charge of the body’s cells

and allows cancer to form in the cells . Not all exposures

to radiation cause cancer . The radiation may cause an

incubation period of up to 40 years before full-blown cancer

is diagnosed in the patient . By this time it is impossible

to discover if it is cancer caused by radiation or not .

Different doses of radiation will cause different problems .

A dose of 2000 – 3000 REMs ( Roentgen Equivalent Man ) will

cause brain tissue to swell , hemorrhage and will cause

death . Fivehundred REMs will stop the cells from dividing ,

will cause hair to fall out , and will cause ulcers to form

on the skin . It also destroys the white blood cells and

platelets that help to fight off disease and stop bleeding

in the body . Besides cancer radiation causes genetic

defects and mutations in humans and other animals . These

defects may lie dormant in one generation and reappear in

the next . This create serious problems in the gene pool of

the society by creating mutations and deformities

.Recessive mutations may also occur these are lack of vigor

and energy , susceptibility to disease , and mental

deficiency in humans . It is estimated that for every one

visible genetic mutation or defect there are 10,000

non-visible recessive mutations that contaminate the gene

pool of society . This could lead to more mutations and

unnecessary deaths because the human body of a child whose

mother was exposed to radiation and passed on deformed genes

to her baby may not be able to fight off common sicknesses

and die due to the radiation exposure . ” Radiation may be

one of the principal ecological agents responsible for

human suffering and disease ” . This quote came from a

congressional hearing on the safety of nuclear power in the

early 70’s where it was declared that radiation was and is

dangerous to human beings and other species of animals and

that nuclear power plants are highly dangerous and

inefficient for their purposes .

Why not Solar power or other alternatives ?

The amount of energy that reaches the earth from the

sun on any given day is far greater than that consumed by

Americans in any given year . To harness this and turn it

into something that is much needed and very useful would be

a great alternative to nuclear power plants . Having no

moving parts , producing no pollution , consuming no

fuel , and operating at environmental temperatures , solar

collectors are very clean and efficient . They produce a

practically free form of electricity and would provide

electricity at a very low price . Nuclear power plants

average a build time of 10 years and cost millions of

dollars . This means that vast implementation of nuclear

reactors in the near future is virtually impossible and

unrealistic . Solar power receptors , on the other

hand cost a fraction of the price and take less time to

manufacture than nuclear plants . Although nuclear power has

its drawbacks and limitations , still seems to be the

primary choice for energy production today due to the rise

in population and to general energy consumption around the

world as well as to the lack of technology in the other

fields of energy production . It is a wonder why solar power

has not been mass implemented already to power our country

and the world .The materials used to build solar collectors

( silicon , plastics) are readily available . Silicon makes

up the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust .

These panels could be placed virtually anywhere on the

roofs of houses and buildings or into the sides of the

buildings themselves . Solar power could be a reality today

. However , oil companies such as Exxon who are the leading

researchers in nuclear and solar technology , would rather

have the nuclear because it would produce more money than

the solar . Solar power is a cheaper source of electricity

because you cannot turn off the sun . The same oil

monopolies buy out smaller companies which are developing

feasible solar power plants to keep them from being

implemented and to maintain the hold on the fossil fuel

market . Solar energy and thermonuclear fusion are great

alternatives to the nuclear reactor but these will not be

mass implemented until well into the next century . That

does not solve the problem for today . To keep the number

of nuclear power plants as low as possible people need to

conserve , energy change lifestyles and recycle more of

there wastes . We need to be less dependent on electricity

and electrical products . Conservation must be implemented

by government policies and guide lines . To have any affect

at all on the amount of electricity that is consumed . ”

Anything that slows down the development of solar energy,

the one cheap limitless source of energy that cannot be shut

down by war or embargo, is undermining the national security

of the United States ” .

Nuclear power has been a constant in all of our lives

due to the many problems it has and to the many accidents

that occur . Nuclear power is a dangerous and deadly tool

that should not be taken lightly . Sadly this is exactly

what has happened in regards to the accidents at Three Mile

Island and again at the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant in the

former Soviet Union . In both cases inexperience and

ignorance played major roles in the accidents . Hopefully

this may never happen again and nuclear power will be phased

out to the safer fusion reactor and the very appealing solar

power generator.

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