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Nuclear Energy Environmental Cost

Essay by   •  June 8, 2011  •  Essay  •  2,057 Words (9 Pages)  •  2,332 Views

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Nuclear energy has been an ongoing debate with environmentalist for years. It has been viewed as a clean source of power that is cheap and a power that does not use fossil fuel or add greenhouse gases into the air. However, nuclear energy does have environmental issues, such as radioactive waste disposal, carbon dioxide admittance, low level radiation, cooling water system, and nuclear power plant accidents. Nuclear energy can caused many long-term damages to our land, air, water resources, plant life, animals and humans at local, national and global levels. The current solutions implemented to protect the environment, are they working and what can we do to improve the protection.

The environmental issues caused by carbon dioxide admittance from Nuclear energy plants cause long-term damages to the environment, people, and animals. Nuclear power is called the clean source of energy because the power plants don't release carbon dioxide. However, these plants do release carbon dioxide into the air during the building and running of the plants. For example, nuclear power plants use uranium as fuel. During the mining process of uranium it releases high amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. Carbon dioxide emissions have increased from 280 parts per million in 1850 to 364 parts per million in the 1990s. The 70-75% of this increase comes from the use of fossil fuel combustion for energy generation and has caused about 50-60% of the global warming. Carbon dioxide is essential for internal respiration in a human body, however; in high dosed it can cause Hypercapnia. Hypercapnia is high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood, which can result in permanent damage to a person's internal organs or result in death. Carbon dioxide also affects our oceans. The ocean water absorbs the carbon dioxide from the air causing the seawater to become more acidic. Peter Brewer and Edward Peltzer published data on rising levels of carbon dioxide and declining levels of oxygen in the ocean. Their data showed that increased levels of carbon dioxide can make marine animals more vulnerable to low concentrations of oxygen, and consequently worsen the effects of low-oxygen zone in the ocean. Brewer and Peltzer's findings also showed that the partial pressure of dissolved carbon dioxide gas in low-oxygen zones will rise much higher than thought in the past, which can have severe significant consequences for marine life in these zones. Brewer and Peltzer have worked with marine biologists to study the effects of carbon dioxide on marine life and found that high concentrations of carbon dioxide make it harder for marine animals to get oxygen from seawater. Because of this it makes it harder for these animals to find food, avoid predators, and reproduce.

Radioactive waste disposal and nuclear power plant accidents can be active for hundreds of years. Now day's radioactive waste is stored at the power plant, however due to spacing problems the plan is to bury the waste. The burying of radioactive waste contaminates the land where it's buried and keeps it from being uses in the future. The problems with burying radioactive are the transportation and the casting of the material. With the transportation, the worry is that if there is an accident it will leak and with the casting no being seal properly or is cracked in will leak into the ground after it buried. When it comes to either problem the long-term effects could be hazardous. The long-term effects on human can vary depending on the amount of exposure. Dose of 25 rems (roentgen equivalent in man) can cause noticeable changes in your blood; however doses around 100 rems normally have no urgent harmful effects. Doses over 100 hems causes what is call radiation sickness. Radiation sickness at first is nausea, vomiting, headaches, and loss of some white bloods cells. Doses above 300 rems cause temporary hair loss. The more severe damage caused by 300 rems or more is nerve cells damage, damage to the cells that line the wall of your digestive tract, severe loss of white blood cells, and reduction of blood platelets. Radiation exposure of 450 rems kill about half the people and exposure to 800 rems or more always ends in death within two to fourteen day's. If a person survives this exposure they are more likely to develop leukemia, lung cancer, thyroid cancer, breast cancer and cancer of other organs. A perfect example of this is Chernobyl. Chernobyl's disaster was caused due to a badly managed electrical engineering experiment that resulted in exploding of a nuclear reactor. This explosion caused roughly about 50 tons of nuclear fuel to evaporate and become released into the atmosphere. The radioactive release caused many people to die from the radiation exposure and even more died from the effects of the radiation later. People today are still dying from the radiation caused by the Chernobyl accident. So far there have been 16,000 deaths due to the Chernobyl explosion. Another example of this is Hiroshima. During the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki many people from the radiation released as a result of the explosion. For example, a fourteen-year-old boy was admitted to a Hiroshima hospital two days after the explosion, suffering from a high fever and nausea. Nine days later his hair began to fall out. His supply of white blood cells dropped lower and lower. On the seventeenth day he began to bleed from his nose, and on the twenty-first day he died. Survivors of Hiroshima developed cataracts, leukemia and other cancers, malformed offspring, and premature aging, and also suffered emotionally and from social discrimination (Thinkquest.org, 2011 ).

Low level radiation and cooling water system are another environmental hazard of nuclear power plants. Low levels of radiation are constantly being released into the atmosphere from nuclear power plants. Studies have shown that there is an increase of cancer among people that live close by a nuclear power plant. For example, the rate of breast cancer in places where there is a nuclear plant within 100 miles of them was 16% higher than the rate in other places. In summary this contributed to over 17,000 excess deaths from breast cancer in the years 1985 to 1989 (www.no-nukes.org, 2011). Even thought research continues on what the effects are to animals, plants and the ozone due

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