Health-related Issues of Nuclear Energy
The term atomic energy can be defined as the form of energy that is obtained from the atomic nucleus. This energy can be obtained by fusion, fission or through a process called radioactive decay. It may also be used to define: the energy needed to split an atom, the potential energy of the particles in the atom or the utilization of nuclear fission to release energy that can be used in several useful ways. It is believed that humans are on the high risk of exposure to the natural radiation daily. The forms of natural radiation include those from space, natural radioactive materialism soil, water and air. One of the major causes of natural radiation is the radon gas. Another form of radiation is the one that is from man made sources that include the X rays machines and so many other medical devices. Radiation is measured in Sieverts units and it is believed that on average each individual is exposed to about three Milli Sieverts per year. From this, about eighty percent is from natural forces, 19% is from medical exposure while the remainder is from the manmade forms of radiation. It is believed that the exposure to radiation may vary from place to place depending on the geographical; conditions of the area. It is reported that there are instances where by some people can be exposed to about two hundred times ( Luckey T D, 2008)
There is a lot of health risks associated with the exposure of radioactive rays on humans.
To investigate the number of health risks associated with the radioactivity.
To investigate the extent of the effects of radioactivity.
To investigate the various forms of radioactive materials that affects the people’s health.
What are the health risks associated with the radioactive materials?
What is the extent of the risk associated with the radioactivity?
What are the various forms of radioactive materials that affect the health of the people?
The scope of the study
The research ill be carried out in the areas of The Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster. We shall investigate the effects the nuclear reactors have had on the lives and health of the people. We shall also evaluate the types of radioactive materials in the area of target. We shall further evaluate the extent of the risk associated with the nuclear energy (Luckey T D, 2008)
Nature of the problem
People can be exposed to the radioactive materials through either external or internal radiation. External irradiations arise when individuals are in contact with the external sources like the X rays or when the materials that are radioactive come in contact with clothes in terms of dust or liquids that may then eventually find their way to the skin. On the hand the internal radiations may occur when the individual inhales or swallows the radioactive material. It can also be through the open wounds.
For the case of the nuclear plants accidents, land, people and any other structure that may be around is in contact with the radioactive materials .The main culprits of health concern in case of nuclear explosion are the radioactive forms of caesium and iodine. The people may be affected by radiations through the food or water if these sources are contaminated. Travelers from the areas of radioactivity may pose a health risk to the people they are going to. This is especially so in case they have not undergone the adequate decontamination and screening. (Lovins A B, 2005).
At this time, only those involved in the emergency response near the nuclear power plant remain in the area where there are higher levels of radioactivity. For their own safety, all personnel in these areas should undergo decontamination procedures when they leave the site. It is also believed that, any body travelling from the area that was affected by nuclear accident may transmit or be of risk to the people they come in contact with them in the areas they are going to. The people travelling from these areas must thus go through the proper evaluation and also removing the contaminating material that may be of the intense radio active health challenges. Any of the people that may have undergone all the above procedures is free from any contamination and are free to travel to any part of the world. This is according to the United Nations scientific committee on the effects of atomic radiation report (2000).It is thus not a pre-requisite for screening to be done on these people.
There are a lot of health effects that are posed by the nuclear reactions. They spun from acute to long term effects. The acute effects include: first, beyond the normal threshold of radiation, the radiation can produce a lot of effects like the loss of hair, reddening of the skin burns caused by radiation and acute radiation syndrome. But in a large population especially when there is a nuclear accident, the amount of exposure will be in insufficient amounts to cause any adverse effect (Lovins A B, 2005).
But the rescuers, those working in the power plants and the people who respond first to the accident are believed to have adverse effects of the radiation as mentioned above. Secondly the people can also suffer from long term effects arising from the exposure. It’s believed that the prolonged exposure may lead to high instances of cancer. This is because radioactive iodine released during nuclear emergencies can be inhaled or swallowed. This then accumulates in the thyroid gland causing thyroid cancer. To prevent the risk of contracting the cancer in people exposed to radioactive material, the people are advised to take potassium iodide tablets. This is believed to reduce the uptake of the radioactive iodine.
Another shocking fact is that, the instances of thyroid cancer are high in children and young adults as compared to the adults. The radiation has also a lot of adverse effects on the developing fetus. This is especially so in the weeks of 8-25.The risks on the fetus are brain damage that is reported in fetuses that were exposed to acute doses of radiation of about or more than 100 mSv. Beyond the age of 25 weeks there is no known risk to the fetus. The risk of cancer in childhood can also be increased by fetal exposure to doses of about 100mSv (Luckey T D, 2008)
There is also some evidence that nuclear accidents can cause emotional problems in children. It is believed that the disturbances and their preceding effects, may affect the child’s behavior in later years. It is reported that children in such situations exhibit the signs of stress .These include loss of appetite, loss of sleep, the child develops new fears of life and the children may also change their behavior and it is believed that they may even start habits like bed wetting which they initially did not have.
The children are also preoccupied by the crisis that may have occurred and at this time the family should give them more attention to help them cope. Children are the most affected by the nuclear accidents. This is because they don’t even know what is going on around them. They also don’t know the process, the short term and long term effects of the emergency. (Lovins A B, 2005).
Justification of the problem
It is believed that in the beginning, the health related problems that accrued from the nuclear energy related emissions were thought to be due to the exposure of the individual to the radioactive materials. The exposure was in terms of several thins that included how much the radiation was released from the reactor, the prevailing whether conditions, the distance the individual is from the reactor and how long the individual is in the reactor. Thus when there was a nuclear explosion in fukoshima, the government of Japan used the conditions that existed earlier on. The government had to evacuate the people who were living in the radius of twenty kilo meters around the plant. This means that people near the plant are at high risk of the exposure to the radioactive materials (Lovins A B, 2005).
Additionally, according to the national academy of sciences, there is the risk of radioactive exposure on food contamination. When an individual consumes food poisoned with the radioactive materials will be affected with adverse health effects. The radioactive materials like the Iodine and Caesium that contained radioactive amounts above the normal recommended limits in Japan were found in most foods that were investigated in during a food monitoring exercise carried out in the country.
It’s for this reason that the Japan government has come up with punitive measures that prohibit the sale and use of these foods in the country .As to whether these (radiations from Japan plants can be of danger to the outside countries away from Japan, the research has shown that there are less chances of the risk.
According a cohort study carried out to study the prevalence of thyroid cancer and other forms of thyroid diseases in Ukraine revealed that since the 1990s, there has been an increase in thyroid infections. It is estimated that about sixty percent of all the investigated cases in Ukraine had thyroid cancer. This was especially among the children. This disease condition is believed to have been because of the Chernobyl accident (Electric Power Research Institute, 2009).
Method of data collection
In the collection of data in our survey we shall use the specialists who were used in the management of radiogenic diseases in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts. The specialists will be administering the radioactive materials. The specialists will be involved in the overall evaluation examination and medical examination of the target group. We shall monitor on a regular basis the progress of the people after having been exposed to the ionizing materials. The investigations will be done twice per year among the children that are exposed to the radioactive materials. The investigation will include an ultra sound scan of the endocrine gland and the thyroid gland to establish the contents of the gland (Luckey T D, 2008).
We shall also determine the amounts in blood of thyrotropin, total and free thyroxin, triiodothyronine, thymoglobulin, antibodies against thymoglobulin and microtonal fractions of the thyroid. In the process we shall also use observation to observe the occurrence of growths indicative of goiter. According to Crawford D, Richardson D Wing S (1997), we are also to carry regular test on the target group to check for the appearance of thyroid cancers in the children
From the research done, it was found that there has been a large increase in the number of thyroid cancer cases especially in Ukrainian children with more than 60% of all observed children being observed to have been adversely affected by the nuclear accident (Viktor K. Ivanov, Russian Federation Medical Radiological Research Center)
From the above information, it is clear that the nuclear energy use has a lot of risks associated with it as much as they are a good source of energy. Its effects spurn from the psychological to physical harm to the individual health. There thus have be some concerted efforts to make the nuclear power plants to be carbon free. There are some suggestions put forward to help curb this problem. According to the Uranium Information Centre 2005, there are some technologies that are being tested by several countries aimed at coming up with the best power options.
According to Crawford D, Richardson D Wing S (1997) the issues of concern before any country comes up with the decision to use nuclear energy in their country is to consider all the side effects and benefits of this method. Similarly, according to Crawford D, Richardson D Wing S (1997), like it’s the case in South Africa, the people should consider the safety, the necessity of the project, where the country will dump the associated waste, the opinion of those to be affected and how the project will impact on the country and other and its people.
Furthermore there is a raging controversy of how safe the power plants that generate the energy are. It has been reported that the nuclear plants have of late come to be latest prime targets for the terrorist groups. This is because of the extent they are believed to affect in case there is a nuclear accident in the target country.
From the disasters that occurred in Chernobyl and the long term effects of disposing the wastes accruing from the reactors and the damages that are caused to the ecosystem the nuclear energy is not the best option. It’s for this reasons that the cost of nuclear energy seems to outweigh its advantages. The national academy of sciences (2005) is of the opinion that we should consider using other forms of energy apart from this unless there is something done on the emissions associated with it.
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