Considering the work of nuclear power plants, one should note that nuclear technologies are quite controversial. People knew that it is very dangerous since the usage of the atomic bombs during World War II, but the losses from the Chernobyl tragedy and the Fukushima disaster have renewed the vigor and interest of humanity to search for safer means of energy production. Consequently, the Earth population takes more and more efforts to investigate the risks associated with nuclear energy and designs alternative sources of energy. Functioning of the nuclear power plants has numerous negative consequences for different spheres of human life and the Earth in general. Its main negative effects are connected with the economic wastes, environment infection, human health and terrorism. For these reasons, the future of the nuclear power production becomes more and more cloudy, and such alternatives as solar and wind renewable energy appear. The cost effectiveness of the nuclear power plants functioning can hardly justify the possible consequences of the accidents. Hence it is essential to put all possible intellectual and material resources from all over the world together to choose the optimized and safe way of energy production.
Regarding the economic side of the issue, it is essential to point out that the main argument “for” the usage of nuclear technology is its “cost advantages over oil and coal-fueled plants in many areas” (Hohenemser et al. 25). The great wastes are spent on the building of the power plant itself while the direct fuel costs are comparatively low. Moreover, comparing to hydroelectric and coal power plants, it wins due to the lower indicators of possible environmental devastations, catastrophic hazards, and human deaths (Hohenemser et al. 26). Hence since sixties-seventies of the twentieth century and until the recent years it was regarded as the most effective way of energy production. Nevertheless, such points as expensiveness of the long-term storage of nuclear wastes and finding and retaining skilled labor are the most important economic disadvantages of the industry.
One should not neglect that during the last decades the expenses for nuclear technologies have considerably increased. One of the main spheres which need financing is the power plants safety. Keeping the average maximum radiation exposure within the permitted levels is the main task of the owners and the government. In the light of past disasters, the large amount of money was spent for “scientific and engineering aspects of high-level radioactive waste disposal” (Flynn et al. 42). The byproducts of nuclear production and the spent fuel are the wastes, which are constantly increasing and remain radioactive for thousands of years. Therefore, more and more finances are needed to solve the cleanup and storage problems, especially after accidents.
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In addition, in case of the accidents or disasters not only the wastes for the fundamental repairs, repositories, but also the amends to the population are added. Furthermore, the labor forces on the plants not only work in the extraordinary difficult conditions with considerably high level of stress and anxiety, but need special qualifications and skills, which also demands expenses. At the same time, it is important to avoid the staff turnover, which is not so easy when more than 3 thousands people work every day in the incredibly difficult work conditions (Tremonti).
All the calculations lead to the conclusion that he economic well-being of the country is definitely dependent on the choice of energy production means. It is doubtful whether nuclear industry is more cost effective than alternatives like wind, solar or even coal energy. Many developing countries already put up more money for renewable sources of energy while only 20 % of finances are spent for the nuclear industry.
Although the nuclear plants are relatively “clean generators of electricity” as they do not produce smoke and do not pollute the atmosphere with carbon dioxide like the coal plants do, they are not safe for the environment (Hall et al. 435). The main danger is its radioactivity, namely the releases of uranium fissions, cesium, radioiodine, and plutonium, which are left in the environment (Cooper 130). Consequently, it is essential to keep the radiation within the acceptable norms and be informed about the possible consequences of these doses excess.
The radiation exists in nature, and its constant influence on life organisms in small doses causes adjustment and generally does not have a negative influence on the biosphere. However, one should not forget that radiation has potentially deleterious effects and causes mutations of the biological species (Hall et al. 430). The researches on the laboratory animals have shown that the extremely big doses of radiation, which are caused by the accidents on the nuclear power plants usually cause immediate or late damage of cells. The cells can survive, but “retain some legacy of the radiation exposure,” which consequently causes genetic mutations, which are essential for the further evolution of species (Hall et al. 432). In addition, the experiments show that wild animals are very sensitive to radiation and have a lower infection threshold than human beings.
Although the emission of radiation does not pollute the atmosphere and does not create the ozone holes, which are destructive for the climate, the contamination of water and soil is also harmful for life. Paying attention to the fact that aquatic environment is closely connected with all life on Earth, the contamination of water inevitably leads to contamination of soil, plants and animals (Cooper et al. 254). In addition, keeping the radioactive wastes in an aquatic environment in specially protected vessels leads to the assumption that in case of the shelters or basins damage, the expansion of the substances will become quite rapid (Hohenemster et al. 39).
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It is important to keep in mind that any dose of radiation has impact on cells of the organism. The acceptable level of radiation in nature lets the cells adjust to them with minimum consequences, while the big emission of substances contaminates the water, soil, plants and animals, creating the chain of inevitable infection of living beings and invading into the evolution of the biological species.
The work of nuclear power plants, namely the radioactive substances, has numerous long- and short-term negative effects on all the living, including human beings. When the radionuclides get into the human organism, the inner irradiation of the organism takes place. It mostly happens through inhale of radioactive substances with oxygen. Nevertheless, the external irradiation is also a serious problem.
The inner irradiation is dangerous, because it affects mainly the visceral organs of human body (Cooper 74). Although the link between the radiation and serious diseases is quite complex, there exist numerous investigations that prove that the radioactive substances evoke lung and other types of cancer and leukemia. In addition, children are the most sensible to the radiation impact, especially considering the leukemia investigations (Wings 56). Different radionuclides influence humans in various ways and come out from the organism after different periods of time. For instance, strontium deposits in bones, cesium – in muscles, radioiodine – in thyroid (Hall et al. 433). The next serious impact on human health is alterations in the cells, which leads to various mutations. The chromosomal changes and gene mutations can cause death of life-born children, blood proteins change, sex chromosome abnormalities (Hall et al. 435). However, it is essential to emphasize that humans are less sensitive to radiation.
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Considering the short-term effects on human health, the psychological factor should be mentioned, which is influential for people, who work on the nuclear power plants in the highly dangerous conditions (Tremonti). Furthermore, the short term psychological effect is relevant for people, who live not far from the territory of the nuclear plants. Moreover, the psychological worries are also common for individuals in case of accidents. There also exist the short-term impacts of radiation in case of its external non-lasting irradiation in small doses (Cooper et al. 74). In addition, the irradiation can cause no serious diseases in case it happens stage by stage in small doses (Hall et al. 436).
To sum up, the radiation can obviously become destructive for human health. However, its impact can differ based to the dose and period of influence. Hence the emission caused by accidents on the nuclear power plants, which lead to the sharp increase of radionuclides in the environment, is the most risky. Although the main task of scientists is to put forces to minimize the possible negative effects of radiation, the avoidance of them is possible if the project of safer plants protection is designed or humanity starts using less harmful ways of energy production.
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In addition, there are the accidents, which can happen on the nuclear power plants and cause serious global problems. Such accidents can be evoked by insufficient attentiveness of the staff and technological mistakes. However, there also exist the terrorist organizations, which can use nuclear energy as a mass destruction weapon.
The major global nuclear plants accidents have happened in Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011. The most essential thing is that such accidents multiply all the negative effects of the nuclear power plants. Highly radioactive cesium and plutonium caused by the explosion of the reactor in Chernobyl has infected the environment and people hundreds of kilometers around the town (Keller). The government took measures to move people away from the territory filled with the radionuclides, which made it unsuitable for life. Many peaceful inhabitants have got high levels of inner and exterior irradiation, 28 persons have died. The Fukushima disaster has happened much later in 2011. In result of tsunami, earthquake and nuclear plant damage, 20 thousands of people have died (Tremonti). The Japanese seemed to have done everything possible based on the knowledge about previous tragedies and atomic bombs. However, the disasters’ consequences prove how dangerous the nuclear energy is.
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The danger of the nuclear emissions for all spheres of life proves that the industry should be governed very carefully. Starting with homemade nuclear explosive devices, which detonated in public places of Washington, New York and some other American cities and finishing with global bombings cause the radiation sicknesses and numerous lethal fallouts (Keller). The nuclear power can easily become the weapon of mass destruction, which can be used by terrorists. Hence it is highly important to follow the fuel shipment and plants safety. For instance, since 2001 the US nuclear industry has been reevaluated in order to prevent the possible explosions (Chapin).
The negative impact from the accidents and terroristic actions relating to the nuclear power is not local, but can have global consequences. Regarding the accidents on the nuclear power plants, which can be caused by some technological errors, external global catastrophes or terroristic acts, the humanity should be aware of all possible consequences. Either way, the nuclear technologies safety should become issue number one for countries that own it.
To sum up, the paper informs about the major negative effects of the nuclear power plants functioning. Although the nuclear power was considered to be the most cost effective and the less damaging for the environment and living beings, one cannot call it safe. The latest events, namely the accidents in Chernobyl and Fukushima, and the rise of the terrorist activity have focused the attention of the world representatives on the danger that it brings. The radioactive substances, which are produced in result of nuclear atoms fissions, are identical to those, which exist in nature. However, the dose of these substances is the definitive factor, which makes the nuclear technologies extremely dangerous for all the living. At the same time, the wild nature becomes the most sensitive to various kinds of infections. However, the radiation has serious impact on human genes, chromosomes and the evolution of living beings in general. Consequently, it is necessary to find out the possible ways to minimize the above mentioned negative effects of the nuclear power plants and develop less dangerous energy production ways.
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