Nuclear Accidents and Holocausts

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The nuclear age is a paradox both frightening and reassuring. In 1945, sufficient amount of plutonium was extracted and a bomb was made. The bomb was used for the first time in war by American president Truman against Japan. The uranium bomb, “Little boy” was dropped on Hiroshima on 6th august 1945; it shook Japan and one lakh people were burnt within a minute. Just three days later, a plutonium bomb called “Fat man” was dropped in Nagasaki killing 40,000 people. Japan surrendered on 14th august 1945. The consequences of a bomb blast are frightful.

  1. Enormous amount of heat is produced, creating a temperature at which no life can exist.
  2. Devastating shock waves are created, worse than those any earthquake which ever hit the earth can produce.
  3. Deadly gamma radiation are produced.

Also the nuclear power plants, which are the power houses of many nations, have their own demerits. Though they do not pollute the air with soot, fly ash, sulphur dioxide etc. like the conventional fuels coal or oil which are used in power plants producing electricity, they cause thermal pollution- the waste heat from the plants heats up the environment and releases highly dangerous radiation into the environment. The radioactive products present a serious problem of disposal. However, heavily guarded by shields, they release into the environment some very harmful radiation. If any accident occurs in the plant, mass destruction of people in the neighbourhood is inevitable.

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High doses of radiation destroy tissues. An exposure to 1 rad means that each gram of absorbing tissue has absorbed 100 ergs of radiation energy.

Exposure to 2000 rad is fatal within a few minutes. Exposed to 500-1000 rad, a man may live for a few days before dying a painful death and smaller radiation doses produce genetic effects affecting generations.

Major nuclear accidents:

The first major nuclear accident occurred in America, march 28, 1979. Small releases of the core, in Three Mile Island, which had melted down had been let out into the environment causing a total of 200000 people to flee their homes. Clean up costs of about $ 1 billion dollars ensued, luckily no casualties occurred, but studies indicated that downwind from the reactor leukemia and lung cancer sharply rose 2-10 times higher.

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april 27,1986 was a sad day in the history of nuclear power generation as a major accident occurred at an atomic react at Chernobyl in the Ukraine area of the east while Soviet Union. The accident resulted in clouds of radioactive smoke spreading over a large area in Scandinavian countries about 2000 km away and in the Russian region itself.

The first explosion at reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl complex occurred on april 26, 1986 and resulted in a massive and uncontrollable fire. The explosion on april 26 was followed by a second explosion on may 5th. Majority of the radiation was released in the 10-day period between april 26 and may 5, 2986. After may 5th , the fire was brought under control but small amounts of radio-nuclides were released for several weeks even after the fire was controlled. The exposure and fire was caused by failure of the emergency cooling system in the light water graphite reactor, due to human error. The explosion and subsequent hot fire blew large amounts of radio nuclides high into the atmosphere.

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During the first 10 days after the explosion, over 400 million people were exposed to the radiation. Approximately 1000 were treated for radiation burns and sickness and over 150,000 people were evacuated from an area inside a 30 km range of the explosion. The radiation levels in western Europe reached 100 times the normal, resulting in misery and panic death. The exposures caused ulcerate skin, loss of hair, nausea and anemia. The death toll is estimated to be more than 2000.

It is expected that the heavy fallout from the mishap could damage soviet agricultural output for years to come. The intense radiation has killed several fields, trees, shrubs, plants, etc. the immediate damage was put at 10% of the crop. Sweden and Denmark have banned food imports from the soviet union. As the food grains of Germany were found to contain undesirable concentrations of the Chernobyl radiation, many countries including India rejected the food grains supply by Germany, thus affecting the global economy. Radiation stress caused reduction in several plant species and destroyed the flora and fauna on the planet.

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Holocausts of nuclear accidents:

An increased frequency of abnormalities of sexual organs and their function, allergies, bronchitis, leukemia , lung diseases, cancer of the breast, larynx, mouth and thyroid gland, thyroid problems, tuberculosis, heart diseases, high BP, etc. were observed among the Chernobyl exposed people after the accident ( the general public and 600,000 decontamination workers.)

Whatever has happened over there is directly relevant to our problems here from radioactive waste dumps, contaminated sites, on going nuclear activities and planned de regulation of nuclear waste, because in both places, the involuntary exposures to radiation are spread out slowly over a long period of time.



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