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Nuclear Energy and Health

Free Essays / Environment / Nuclear Energy and Health
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The world is said to have entered the nuclear age in July 1945 as the United States tested its first bombs in New Mexico at Alamogordo. Later on, in 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower would lead the US into launching its Atoms for Peace programme under the aegis of the United Nations as atomic optimism soared. Nevertheless, 66 years after the advent of the nuclear age, there are several concerns and developments which have bolstered these concerns on the fate, safety and benevolence of nuclear programmes, irrespective of whether the nuclear programme is being sustained for civilian and nonmilitary purposes. The concerns are mainly underpinned by two facts: nuclear energy is the only source of energy which emit radioactive wastes; and the far reaching and incomparable effects of an accident from nuclear reactors which are totally pervasive, devastating and cataclysmic.

Background of the Study

            Among the most recent developments that have raised concerns about the safety and stability in relying on nuclear power, the recent nuclear disaster in Japan remains the starkest warning. Japan’s nuclear disaster started from March 12th, 2011 as a culmination of an earthquake reaching Japan’s nuclear power plant. As the earthquake reached the Fukushima Daiichi’s nuclear power plant which is situated in Okuma, there was nothing that the Japanese government could do to prevent the March 12th explosion at/ of the nuclear power plant which would result into a reactor meltdown. Besides the Japanese situation, the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster is known to have contaminated over 3 million acres of land that was being used for farming.         

            Therefore, it is important to appreciate the fact that the use of nuclear is not only sensitive in the matters of safety in the events of accidents, but also in matters of environmental safety. This has led to debates on the prospects of using nuclear industry and its power plants as the sources of energy. Whereas some are calling for the abolition of nuclear activities, others remain insistent on the use of nuclear activity as a possible source of reliable and sustainable provision of energy. It is against this backdrop that the paper seeks to sustain the debate on the same, while taking dexterous efforts to explain the need to sustain the use of nuclear energy.


            To get to the facts and underpinnings of the topic at hand, the research considers both primary and secondary sources of data. The secondary data that are consulted are those text books and journal articles which have been written by authorities in the field of environmental science and nuclear science. Conversely the primary sources of data that are to be used in the discussions are interviews that are to be conducted between the interviewee and me, as the interviewer. The interviewee in this case is a person with authority in environmental science and nuclear science, both by learning and work experience. Thus, the collection of data is an effort which is to claim four weeks: the first two weeks being spent on searching for, designating and analyzing the secondary sources of information, while the preparation for, and the carrying out of the interview claims the rest of the two weeks.  The very ideas which have been acquired from the interviews conducted and the secondary sources of data which have been read are discussed in the literature review.

Literature Review

            The issue of using nuclear industry as a source of energy has become very controversial with some being proponents while others remain ardent opponents of the idea. The latter calls for the total abolition of nuclear activities in America and other countries which are nuclear-savvy. Those who are opposed to the use of nuclear energy point at the highly radioactive nature of nuclear energy. Those behind this idea postulate that in the event of any mechanical mishap, there is bound to occur, the contamination of the environment by radiation. The same point out at the 1986 incident which occurred at Chernobyl. The accident contaminated farmland so vast that estimates quote over 3 million acres. The culmination of this accident would be 9,000 deaths stemming from thyroid cancer. The thyroid cancer, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is caused by ingesting milk which has radioactive iodine. As a matter of fact, it is said by Cuttler and Pollycove (2009) that radioactive leaks are deadlier than the dangers that the nuclear disaster of Fukushima brought.

            The veracity of this standpoint above is also underscored by the fact that 25 years after the Chernobyl accident, the food chain in Japan still remains contaminated with destructive and high traces of radiation as far as 93 miles away from the nuclear site. Similarly, Munson points out at the fact that radioactive particles have a very lengthy longevity in the food chain. According to information divulged upon by a professor at the university of California (Berkeley) who is also a leading agricultural economist by the name of Brain Wright, radioactive materials are hard to excise from the food supply chain, given that they stay in animals’ circulatory systems which are part of the entire food chain. In other words, the presence of spills from nuclear reactors incorrigibly remains extant in the environment for centuries and not years.

            Another expert in the field at hand maintains that the danger that stems from the use of nuclear sources of energy emanates from the high propensity between the same and accidents. The accidents almost always stems from the failure to control the fission chain reaction. The failure to control the fission chain reaction usually does not stem from the incompetence of the technicians, but from the fact that almost always, the heat produced from the reactors outstrip the reactor coolant’s coping ability. This starts off a nuclear reaction which eventually causes systems failure. The systems failure in turn release radioactivity into the environment. The situation can get worse if there is a case of extreme failure which would pave the way for a nuclear meltdown. At this extent, the reacting nuclear material burns through the containment vessel into the earth surface and ultimately, into the water table.

            On the converse, there are those who support the use of nuclear energy. Among the points that are being advanced to support the uses of nuclear energy are: the reduction of the extent and danger of greenhouse emissions; abated dependence on foreign gas and oil; the low running costs of maintaining nuclear plants and energy; the efficiency and reliable nature of nuclear power industry; and the increased tenability in safe storage of nuclear wastes (due to increased technological advancement which has allowed the same to take place underground).   

Results and Analysis of Results

            From the debate advanced in the treatise above, it emerges clearly that the use of nuclear power has both merits and demerits. At the same time, it has become clear that the prospects of sustaining an accident in the nuclear reactors are exceptional than normal, while the merits of using nuclear energy are sure. This means that through the enforcement of austere procedures of nuclear plant management, it becomes possible to extirpate the dangers of nuclear accidents. This may automatically lead to the realisation of the merits of using nuclear energy.  


            Seeing that the use of nuclear technology as an alternative source is too inevitable to be ignored, it emerges clearly that instead of proscribing its use, it is expedient to craft and execute technical modalities which are to ensure stability in the nuclear industry. Particularly, the need to introduce computerised and thermo-receptive monitors is totally paramount. This is because, for the fission chain reaction to be run safely, there should be the identification of optimal temperature which when reached, leads the reactors to outstrip the reactor coolant’s coping capacity. Automatic mechanisms ought to be introduced so that at the arrival of this temperature, there is an induced reduction of the temperature in the nuclear reaction.

            The second responsible action which should be pursued is the introduction of multiple back-ups. These back-ups are to be integrated with the entire design of the nuclear plant so that it can act as an in-depth defense plan which is to cushion from a complete failure and subsequent meltdown. Modem designs are also to be mostly adopted, given that they are less amenable to nuclear accidents. The lucidity of this recommendation is exemplified by the light water design. The light water design uses only water as its reaction moderator. As the water becomes hotter, it becomes less dense. This leads to great moderation on the reaction, and thereby leading to the securing of a negative feedback loop.   


            it is definitely escapist and a way to easy out of problems to surmise or advance the idea of shunning the use of nuclear energy while the world almost in its entirety is seeking to embrace nuclear technology as an artifice to reduce overreliance on fossil fuel and energy. Fossil fuel is highly exhaustible and is still un-renewable. A developed country should not ostracise the use of nuclear technology in the highly competitive world.  

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