Nuclear hazards are the threats posed by the odorless and invisible contamination of the environment by the presence of radioactive materials like radionuclides in the air, soil, or water. Radionuclides are elements such as uranium 235, uranium 283, potassium 40, thorium 232, carbon 14, radium 226, and more with an unstable atomic nucleus. It releases ionizing radiations in the form of alpha, beta, and gamma rays.
The radionuclide atom’s nucleus has excess energy released by different types of radioactive decay; they emit high-energy particles (alpha and beta rays) and electromagnetic radiations (gamma rays). The emissions of rays and particles by an unstable nucleus are called Radioactivity. The contamination of the environment with these radiations is known as Nuclear or Radioactive pollution.
Nuclear hazards or pollution is the release of radioactive substances or high-energy particles into the water, earth, or air due to human (by accident or design) or natural activities. Natural activities include the emission of radon gas from under the ground- they are considered pollutants when they become a threat to human beings.
Effects of Nuclear Hazards
The effects of nuclear hazards usually depend on the rate of diffusion, rate of contaminant deposition, half-life, and energy-releasing capacity. Climatic conditions like rainfall, wind, and temperature also determine the effects of nuclear hazards.
Nuclear hazards are very deadly and may be genetic (effects on future generations) or somatic (affects an individual exposed). Some of the effects include shortening lifespan, cancer, and genetic mutations or effects.
All types of organisms are affected by radiation (radioactive) pollution. Radiation can break chemical bonds like DNA in cells. This may affect control mechanisms and genetic makeup. Effects of nuclear radiation can occur instantly; they could also be prolonged or delayed. Its effects can also be carried to future generations.
At exposure to low doses of radiation pollution- 100 to 250 rads- people do not die but can gradually start to suffer from nausea, loss of hair, fatigue, vomiting, etc. Recovery from low doses of radiation pollution is possible.
Exposure to high doses of radiation pollution- approximately 400 to 500 rads– can severely affect the bone marrow and reduce the number of blood cells. It can also reduce natural resistance and the ability to fight against germs, and blood can fail to clot. The suffering person can soon die of bleeding and infection.
Even higher radiation doses- 10,000 rads– can kill humans and other organisms by severely damaging the tissues of the brain, heart, and other organs. People working around or handling radioactive wastes can gradually but continuously get irradiation and eventually develop deadly diseases like cancer of different types.
Radioactivity can also affect humans and organisms through food chains. The most significant effect of nuclear hazard is the fact that it causes long-term effects, affecting the entire life of humans and, thus, the future of our civilization.
Ways of Controlling Nuclear Hazards
The use of radioactive materials is very useful, effective, and widespread, and modern society cannot go without them. However, there is no cure for the damage that radiation pollution causes. Thus, it is essential to control and prevent radioactive pollution. The following are a few measures to control nuclear hazards:
Careless handling of radioactive materials, leakage from nuclear reactors, transport and use of radioactive fuels, radioactive isotopes, and fission products must stop completely.
Nuclear waste generated in laboratories should be disposed of safely.
Authorities should enforce all kinds of safety measures strictly.
Nuclear power plants’ locations need to be in areas after careful study of the geology and other established conditions.
Regular monitoring and quantitative analysis through sampling in risk areas.
Proper and safe waste disposal.
Plants must follow all preventive measures so that background radiation levels do not exceed the acceptable limit.
Safety measures strengthened against nuclear hazards.
Appropriate measures against occupational exposure.