Friday, October 12, 2012

Radioactive pollution causes and effects

Radioactive pollution occurs when some of the radioactive substances (such as nuclear waste) get introduced into our living environment. Radioactive substances are not only causing big damage to our environment, but also lead to serious health issues. Radioactive pollution, is therefore one of the most dangerous form of pollution, one that often results in deadly consequences.

Radioactive pollution occurred not only during nuclear disasters such as in Chernobyl 1986 and in Fukushima 2011. Far more deadly consequences of radioactive pollution occurred back in 1945, when United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effect of nuclear radiation soon spread across the large part of Japan, and millions of lives were lost, some directly after the bombs were dropped and others because of the resulting cancer.

Even slight exposure to radioactive substances leads to serious health issues while exposure to large quantities of radioactive material always leads to death. These substances can enter into our body through ingestion, inhalation, absorption, or injection. Many people who live near nuclear power plants develop cancer and leukemia. One of the bigger problems is nuclear waste, and its safe storage, given the fact that nuclear waste remains radioactive for at least 5000 years.

Coal power plant. Coal power plants are major source of radioactive pollution.

 It has to be said that nuclear power plants aren't the only source of radioactive pollution. Some scientists argue that coal power plants are creating even bigger levels of radioactive pollution.  According to a 2008 study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory coal power plant releases 100 times as much radiation as a nuclear power plant of the same wattage. This study argues that radioactive pollution from fossil fuel fired power plants in U.S. alone kill 20,000 people each year.

Radioactive pollution leads to severe contamination of our environment. The scientists still heavily debate about the actual extent of environmental damage caused by radioactive substances, but given the fact that much of the radioactive material remains radioactive for very long time, we can say with high level of certainty that radioactive pollution causes major environmental damage.

World still heavily relies on nuclear and coal power plants which means that radioactive pollution will continue to take millions of human lives for foreseeable future. The worst affected are people that work in these plants, and the ones working in uranium mines (uranium is the main nuclear fuel). Even despite many health measures that include constant monitoring of radioactivity in plants and mines, many of these people end up dying from cancer or leukemia as the result of exposure to radioactive pollutants.

In order to decrease the level of radioactive pollution on global level we would have to replace nuclear and fossil fuels fired power plants with renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind.  The transition to renewable energy, however, isn’t going as fast as some of us would like to, meaning that we are likely stuck with fossil fuels and nuclear for a long time.

This means that we have to think of other ways to reduce level of radioactive pollution. The possible solutions include: reusing old nuclear fuel, safer nuclear waste storage, develop cleaner extraction technologies, prevent illegal dumping of radioactive waste, forbid further development of nuclear weaponry, and so on.

1 comment:

  1. I have always said that coal is the worst form of pollution. The nuclear gets all the negative press because fossil fuels have powerful lobbies. Nuclear damage is always the result of accident while coal keeps polluting our environment all the time...