The Fear Of Nuclear Power Essay Research — страница 2

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reason is that the sites are closely monitored. Lastly, the third reason is that in order to separate the plutonium from the rest of the waste, very complex technology would have to be used to reverse the process.The explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Northern Ukraine is undoubtedly the worst nuclear disaster in history. Hundreds of thousands of lives were affected either directly, or indirectly. Approximately 600,000 were involved in the cleanup operation. Additionally, 200,000 more civilians were evacuated from the area. Still more, about 75,000, people are still feeling the effects of the April, 1986 disaster. The amount of radiation emitted equaled about ten times the amount of radiation levels given off by the bombing of Hiroshima. In fact, the radiation was

so high that it set off alarms in Sweden. The biggest impact of all this radiation was the multiplying risks of obtaining cancer. Soon after the Chernobyl disaster, thyroid cancers in many children were observed throughout the Soviet Union. Coincidence is hardly unlikely. Moreover, the problem is exacerbated after the intake of foods containing large quantities of radiation. In relation to these horrifying effects of radiation exposure, one might say that the fear of nuclear power is definitely justified. However, before we can make such an assertion, a closer look into the causes of the Chernobyl disaster, and the steps taken to correct them must be done. The entire disaster actually consisted of a number of small explosions. After the first explosion engineers were dispatched

to free jammed plutonium rods, the fuel that powers the reactors, by hand. The heat and radiation were so intense that it was not only impossible to do so, but there were no longer any rods to free up. Reporting that the reactor was destroyed, their superiors refused to believe them. Keep in mind that this was during the cold war, and that any failure to keep up with the Americans was immediately rejected. Soon after, another engineer was sent to survey the reactor and he too reported the same information as the previous engineers. His notion was rejected as well, even though the “radiation monitors’ needles were registering radioactivity off the scale.” (Barringer). Incompetence of the Soviets can definitely be linked to being one of the major causes of the Chernobyl

disaster.Another reason for the explosion was the actual design of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Known as the RBMK design, the reactor used a positive void coefficient technique. As heat rises in a positive void coefficient reactor, the contained nuclear reaction is sped up (illus. 1). This shortcut was developed during the earlier years of the cold war in order to allow easier startup of the reactor. Minutes before the first explosion, the reactor had a coolant system failure. That is, the equipment to keep the reaction cool failed. With nothing to cool down the reaction, more and more heat rose and that, in turn, forced the reaction to increase tremendously. At that point, the Chernobyl reactor was destined to explode. (Easterbrook, 496). Many steps have been taken to correct

the problems that were experienced at Chernobyl. First and foremost, the book A Moment on the Earth, by Gregg Easterbrook, states that:No reactor or other than the RBMK has ever been designed with a positive coefficient. Subsequent Soviet models, and every Western reactor, employ a negative coefficient, which means that rising heat causes the chain reaction to damp out. (Easterbrook, 496).Taking a look at the incident at Three Mile Island, one can see the benefits of this reactor design. The coolant system at the TMI plant failed in 1979, similar to that at Chernobyl. Even though it used an older design than that of Chernobyl, the reaction got nowhere and literally put itself out because it used a positive void coefficient in order to adhere to US safety standards. (Easterbrook

496). Human attitudes and incompetence pose a new type of problem that must be dealt with. Fortunately, the impacts of the Chernobyl disaster seem to have been enough to spark a movement to change attitudes. In fact, Francis X. Clines points out that:The prosecutor’s office said officials would be charged with negligence and abuse of authority for having failed to evacuate people from contaminated areas and ignoring “objective data about radiation levels.”The officials, who were not specified by name or in number, where also accused of violating health norms in hurriedly burying radiation debris. (Clines)In the United States, even further action is being taken to avoid any unnecessary damages. For example, today the nuclear industry discloses every mishap, big or small, to