Nuclear Hazards and Human health risks
Nuclear hazards are the hazards caused by the release of radioactive nuclides in the environment either by natural sources or man-made sources.
Radioactive nuclides are elements (Uranium-235, Uranium-283, Thorium-232, etc.) with unstable atomic nuclei. and on decomposition release energy or ionizing radiations in the form of alpha, beta, and gamma rays. The energy which is released is known as nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy can be both beneficial and harmful depending on how it is used.
- X-rays that are used to examine bones for fractures depend on radiation.
- We treat cancer with radiation and diagnose diseases with the help of radioactive isotopes.
- About 17% of the electrical energy generated in the world comes from nuclear power plants.
Nevertheless, in contrast, the destruction, that nuclear bombs caused in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not to be forgotten. The radioactive wastes from nuclear energy have caused serious environmental damage.
Sources of Nuclear Hazards
It can be both natural and man-made:
- Cosmic rays from outer space.
- Emissions from radioactive materials in the earth’s crust (rocks, marine, sediments etc.)
- Nuclear waste produced during mining and processing of radioactive ores.
- Use of radioactive materials in power plants
- Use of radioactive isotopes in medical technology (X-ray machines, radioisotopes used in medicines)
- Industrial applications include wastes from nuclear reactors.
- Research applications include radioactive fallouts during nuclear weapons testing.
- Accidental leakages in nuclear power plants also release nuclear radiations
- Uranium mining and milling, nuclear reactors and reprocessing of nuclear fuel all cause nuclear pollution.
Effects of Nuclear Hazards
Initial effects occur in the immediate areas of explosion and are hazardous immediately after the explosion whereas the Residual effects last for days or years and cause disease and death.
The principal initial effects of nuclear hazards are blast and radiation. The blast causes damage to the lungs, ruptures eardrums, structure-collapse, and causes immediate death or injury. Radiation emitted causes extensive fires, skin burns, and flash blindness.
Radiation effects are often somatic or genetic:
(i) Somatic Effects: Damage to cells that aren’t related to reproduction. It includes loss of hair, reddening of the skin, etc. It also can cause cancer and death.
(ii) Genetic Effects: Damage to cells related to reproduction. This damage can subsequently cause genetic damage from a point mutation