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What is Nuclear Pollution? Discuss Fukushima Disaster. - Environmental Studies

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Answer in Brief

What is nuclear pollution? Discuss fukushima disaster.

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Solution

Radiation is energy travelling through space. Energy can be transported either in form of electromagnetic waves (radiations) or a stream of energetic particles, which can be electrically charged or neutral.

These radiations are of two types:
Non-ionizing radiations:

These are the electromagnetic waves of longer wavelength from near ultraviolet rays to radio waves. These waves have energies enough to excite the atoms and molecules of the medium through which they are moving, causing them to vibrate faster. These do not have enough energy to ionize atoms and molecules.
Ionizing radiations:

These are the electromagnetic radiations having high energy, such as short wavelength ultra violet radiations, x-rays and gamma rays. The energetic rays like

α, β, γ radiations are produced by the process called radioactive decay. The unstable nuclei decay spontaneously and emit these radiations. These rays (radiations) can affect some other non-radioactive atoms to become radioactive (unstable) and give out radioactive radiations.

Living organisms are continuously exposed to a variety of radiations called background radiations. If the level of the radioactive radiations increases above a certain limit it causes harmful effects to living beings. This harmful level of radiations emitted by radioactive elements is called radioactive pollution.

Fukushima Disaster:

  • Following a major earthquake, a 15-metre tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi reactors, causing a nuclear accident on 11 March 2011. All three cores largely melted in the first three days.
  • The accident was rated 7 on the INES scale, due to high radioactive releases over days 4 to 6, eventually a total of some 940 PBq (I-131 eq).
  • Four reactors were written off due to damage in the accident – 2719 MWe net.
  • After two weeks, the three reactors (units 1-3) were stable with water addition and by July they were being cooled with recycled water from the new treatment plant. Official 'cold shutdown condition' was announced in mid-December.
  • Apart from cooling, the basic ongoing task was to prevent release of radioactive materials, particularly in contaminated water leaked from the three units. This task became newsworthy in August 2013.
  • There have been no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the nuclear accident, but over 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes to ensure this. Government nervousness delays the return of many.
  • Official figures show that there have been well over 1000 deaths from maintaining the evacuation, in contrast to little risk from radiation if early return had been allowed.
Concept: Sources and Effects of Nuclear Pollution
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