Dr. Rajkumar SinghThe nuclear energy, in general, contains a large amount of power and medicinal effects that have proved useful for human life. However, at the sametime, it has two main dangers emanating from it. First, nuclear power plants generate large quantities of highly radioactive material. It is due to the left-over isotopes (atoms) from the splitting of the atoms, and creation of heavier atoms, like plutonium, which the nuclear power plant does not utilise. It is called nuclear waste. The actual quantity of waste output is some 100,000 times than a fossil fuel plant but it is much more radioactive. Secondly, in history of nuclear power there have been several major incidents of plant failure beginning with Kyshtym accident in fuel reprocessing in 1957, in nuclear complex of former Soviet Union. Plant accidents, occurred so far, are due to the underdeveloped technology and human error. But all failures and accidents propel us to think and develop better and safer technologies towards better service. And in the case of nuclear power, we do acknowledge that the effects of radiation can reach a wider impact zone. In the situation improvement, and not escapism, should be our step forward. The best of technological progress, while being the biggest ally of mankind, does come at an incremental risk. The key is to learn and evolve to mitigate the risk rather than use of first incident as an excuse to disband science. Despite generally a high security standard, accidents can still happen. It is technically impossible to build a plant with 100 per cent security. A small probability of failure will always last. The consequences of an accident would be absolutely devastating both for human being as for the nature. The more nuclear power plants are built, the higher is the probability of a disastrous failure somewhere in the world.In the early days of radioactivity, scientists were not aware of these dangers, but in present era, weapons of mass destruction are far more advanced than the atom bombs dropped over Japan. In addition there are important differences between an air burst, a bomb exploded high above the ground and a ground burst. Of the two undoubtedly the air burst is more effective against extended targets. But in both cases when the sequence of events starts, first the nuclear explosive is transformed into an intensely hot ‘ball of fire’, miniature sun-which in an air burst, expands rapidly to several hundred feet in diameter. The fireball will emit a brilliant light, much brighter than the sun; it may be last for several seconds in the case of a hydrogen bomb. The heat radiated from the fire-ball travels with the speed of light and is one of the important results of the explosion. In the second place is the blast or shock wave which also originates in the fire-ball but travels to the target more slowly. It has a velocity only a little greater than the speed of sound. After the initial blinding flash, the ball of fire loses brilliance rapidly and rises with its cloud of swirling gases many thousands of feet in the air. The great difference between the blast from an atomic bomb and that from a high explosive bomb is the time for which the effect lasts. The blast from a high explosive bomb is a sharp blow, while that from an atomic bomb is more like a strong wind in its effect.With nuclear weapons another danger encountered by living things is the danger due to radiation of Y-rays and other radiations, passing through living tissue, ionise some of the atoms present in the tissue. The ionised atoms form very reactive chemical agents which in turn have an adverse effect on the cells of the living tissue. In course of it, if too many cells are affected, the function of vital organs will be impaired, causing death to the person exposed to the radiation. Among the results of a large dose of radiation, major are loss of hair and appetite, sore throat, pallor, blood spots under the skin, vomiting, diarrhoea, nose bleeding, fever and emaciation. If a nuclear weapon is exploded over a city, the population is exposed to radiation from several sources. The immediate hazard comes from the intense flash of y-rays radiated by the explosion. The radiation is intense immediately under the point of explosion, but falls of rapidly for points some distance from the centre. However, a large dose of radiation can be tolerated if only a limited portion of the body is exposed. Also the effect depends on whether the dose is received all at the one time or spread over a period.Apart from this there is a further hazard which lasts long after the bomb has been exploded, the fall-out of radioactive fission products. The immediate area of the explosion, especially downhill, will be contaminated by the heavier particles in the radioactive debris. Lighter particles may be sucked up into the upper air and carried great distances from the point of the explosion. Likewise, the radioactive material covering the ground and surfaces of buildings is hazaradous. But a more insidioushazard from the fall-out is that the radioactive materials can be taken into the body by ingestion and inhalation. Some pass through the body fairly, rapidly and so are relatively innocuous. Others fix in the bones causing a danger which might last for years. In nutshell, nuclear power is not a clean energy source. In fact, it produces both low and high-level of radioactive waste that remains dangerous for several hundred thousand years. Generated throughout all parts of the fuel cycle, this waste poses a serious danger to human health. Currently, over 2,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste and 12 million cubic feet of low-level radioactive waste are produced annually by 103 operating reactors in the United States. No country in the world has found a solution for this waste. Building new nuclear plants would mean the production of much more of this dangerous waste with nowhere for it to go.Even today the mad nuclear arms race is high on the political agenda of most neo-cons, super-patriots, religious fanatics and arms dealers. Notwithstanding the Nuclear non- proliferation Treaty, there are about 22,000 nuclear warheads mostly in arsenal of the US and Russia, Eight thousand are in the operational ready mode and 2,000 are on high alert. Also there are 14,000 Plutonium cores and 5000 Canned Assemblies in the storages of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). Moreover, 28 countries have the capacity to build at least one bomb and 12 countries can make 20 bombs. According to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, some 500,000 Kg of plutonium is in stockpiles, which could be available to sub-nationalist ‘freedom fighters’ of any race or religion. In a nuclear war to start today by mistake or intentionally there will be no victor, no vanquished. In the circumstances, re-designing of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes would require going back to the drawing broad, a complete reassessment of risks, research on safety concerns and strategies. Otherwise, as David Krieger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation rightly said, ”One bomb could destroy one city. A few bombs could destroy a country and few dozen nuclear bombs could reduce the entire civilisation to total ruins.”
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