Nuclear Power, Waste, and Pollution
Radioactive contamination is one of the most dangerous kinds of physical environmental pollution associated with dangerous exposure on humans and environment. In developed countries, nuclear pollution is the most hazardous type because nuclear power is a developing branch of economics. Currently, this type of pollution is one of the most serious and harmful environmental problems in Russia. The goal of this essay is to analyze the situation of nuclear pollution in Russia and examine general consequences and methods of solving this problem.
Definition and Factors of Nuclear Radiation
Radioactive contamination is the physical pollution associated with the action of the alpha and beta particles and gamma radiation that result from the decay of radioactive substances. This is a process of environmental pollution with radioactive substances that is connected with the excessive level of harmful elements in the environment. Concerning the risk of radiation hazard, the comparative evaluation shows that the individual risk of death due to accident related to the nuclear reactor is smaller compared to other anthropogenic risk factors. However, the risks of radiation hazards are not determined only by the safety of nuclear reactors. In fact, their possibility depends on the degree of radioactive contamination in the areas associated with the production and testing of nuclear weapons, and with the work of enterprises that engaged in the extraction, enrichment, and processing of nuclear materials. Moreover, the risk of radiation hazard is evaluated not only due to probability of fatalities but also due to receiving a dose of radiation and subsequent variety of diseases. However, the overall risk of the radiation danger is much greater than the accidents at nuclear power plants. Besides, scientists divided general factors of radiation into natural and anthropogenic. The natural factors include mineral ore and the radiation from the decay of radioactive elements in earth stratum. The anthropogenic factors of radiation are connected with the extraction, processing, and use of radioactive substances.
Besides, these factors include production and use of nuclear energy, the development and testing of nuclear weapons. In fact, the anthropogenic factors made the greatest damage to the environment through different types and sectors of human activity. Among them, there are atomic industries, nuclear explosions, medicine, and science. Naturally, these sectors have radioactive elements and radiation emissions as their main pollution sources. Moreover, the nuclear industry and nuclear energy are the main sources of radioactive waste that is extremely dangerous to all living organisms on the planet. This situation created the burial, recycling, and waste storage problems. Another problem is caused by the implementation of agreements between the nuclear powers on the subject of nuclear disarmament. The problem of the nuclear weapon elimination related to dismantling, safe transporting, warehousing, and storing a large number of nuclear warheads. In the near future, the countries will get a new problem that relates to the end of life of dozens of nuclear reactors, plants, and submarines. Fortunately, these problems require enormous economic costs that are comparable to the national income of developed countries.
Nuclear Pollution in Russia
In the analysis of the radiation situation in Russia, scientists recollect the USSR activities in the period of 1949-1990. In past century, the Soviet Union had conducted 715 nuclear tests and had landfilled 969 nuclear warheads in different places across the country. However, half of them do not apply to the territory of the Russian Federation since 1991, but the negative impact of these objects continues to exist. The greatest harm was caused by the tests in the air because huge emissions of radionuclide were sent into the atmosphere. In fact, these tests resulted in disastrous consequences for the population. After these events, the scientists noticed growth in the number of cases of cancer and infertility among people from Russia that live even at considerable distances from nuclear landfill areas. Moreover, testing nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants entails the accumulation of radioactive waste. However, the recycling program in Russia is very flawed, complex, and expensive. The reason for this is that the shortest life of radioactive elements is close to 1600 years, so the disposal of waste is not a pressing problem. Thus, the government shifts the responsibility for it to future generations. Besides, the largest landfill regions on the territory of the Russian Federation are near Krasnoyarsk. In fact, scientists noticed exceeded natural background, violated ecosystems, and polluted rivers in this area. However, Russia continues to import radioactive waste from many European countries. Thus, they hope that it would be used as a fuel for the next generation of nuclear power plants. The largest known concentrations of radionuclide are now located in the Urals, in the territory of the production association "Mayak". In fact, "Mayak" was based on the industrial complex in 1945-1949. In 1948, the government launched the country's first industrial nuclear reactor, the first reprocessing plant, and the first samples of atomic weapons.
Currently, the production structure of the "Mayak" includes a number of nuclear fuel cycle facilities, disposal of highly complex materials, storage and burial of radioactive waste. Long-term activity of "Mayak" has led to the accumulation of large amounts of nuclides and pollution in Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk, Kurgan, and Tyumen regions. As a result, nuclear plants dumping radiochemical production directly into the open river system. Thus, such enterprises released more than 23 million of radioactive waste into the environment. Consequently, the radioactive contamination of the territory seized 25 thousand square kilometers with a population of over 500 thousand people. The total area of the contaminated area amounted to 23 thousand square kilometers. After a long delay, about 10 thousand people were evacuated and resettled from 19 settlements in the area of the most severe pollution. In 1968, there was the infamous accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Today, national register has individual medical and dissymmetric data on 615,000 persons exposed to radiation because of the accident. This number includes up to 190 thousand liquidators and 360 thousand inhabitants of the four most contaminated regions of Russia such as Bryansk, Kaluga, Tula, and Oryol.
In the Russian Federation contamination underwent 57 000 square kilometers with a population of 2.7 million people. Furthermore, 1.8 million people including 300,000 children continue to live in contaminated areas. In fact, the situation of nuclear waste and pollution is a serious problem in Russia. This dangerous process leads to harmful consequences and requires immediate resolution.
Consequences of Nuclear Pollution to the Environment
There are different harmful impacts on the environment during construction and operation of nuclear power plants. In fact, there are physical, chemical, and radiological influences on environmental objects. Among them, there are local mechanical action on the terrain in the construction of plants and flow of surface and ground waters containing chemical and radioactive components. Next factors include land use change and metabolic processes near nuclear power plants and change of microclimatic characteristics in adjacent areas. Thus, the emergence of powerful sources of heat in the operation of a nuclear power plant cooling pond changes the microclimatic characteristics of the surrounding areas. However, the discharges of process water that contains various chemical components have a traumatic effect on the population, flora, and fauna ecosystem.
In fact, the radiation has a detrimental impact on human health. When radioactive rays passes through the human body or when the body is affected by the radiation material, the energy of waves and particles is transferred to the tissues and cells. As a result, the atoms and molecules that make up the body come in excited state, and this process leads to disruption of the organism’s activities and even death. However, it all depends on the dose of the received radiation, the state of human health, and the duration of exposure. The excitation of individual atoms can lead to degeneration of certain substances in others, and it may cause some biochemical changes and genetic disorders. Moreover, the lesions may be done to proteins or fats that are vital for normal cellular activity. Thus, the effects of radiation on the body could appear after the years. For example, the failure of individual groups of proteins present in the cell may cause cancer and genetic mutations transmitted through several generations. However, it is difficult to detect the exposure of low doses of radiation because the effect of this process could appear after decades. Apart from negative effects on human, radioactive substances enter the cycle of the biosphere when they fall into the water, air, and soil. However, these substances are dangerous as sources of external and especially internal exposure. In fact, some elements are most widely spread in nature. Among them, there are hazardous tritium radioisotopes of iodine, radionuclide of uranium, and thorium families. These substances are accumulated in plants, and they enter the tissues and organs of animals and humans with food chains.
Thus, those elements cause internal exposure that is especially dangerous for the growing organisms. Moreover, radionuclides have the ability to be accumulated in different organs and tissues due to the identity or similarity of their chemical properties with elements of living organisms. For example, some chemical components similar to calcium enter the body of agricultural animals with radioactive plants, and they later enter the human body with the meat. These substances are accumulated in the bones and induce bone tumors and leukemia. Moreover, the nuclides close to potassium are accumulated in liver and gonads and cause the heritable changes for the progeny. Furthermore, various nuclear facilities often use the rivers and reservoirs as the places of waste. Thus, they pollute the water with dangerous nuclides. Furthermore, the fish and common ecosystem of rivers, seas, and lakes suffer from these substances. There are also negative consequences of radioactive substances for the soil. Those elements cause the plant mutations and the presence of hazardous nuclides. Therefore, nuclear enterprises aggravate the general state of the air and the planet's atmosphere as a whole.
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Solution of Nuclear Pollution in Russia
Nuclear power plants and other industrial enterprises in Russia have a variety of negative impacts on the set of natural ecosystems. There are some actions aimed at reducing the harm from nuclear facilities. Primarily, this is the valuation of anthropogenic pressures on ecosystems. In fact, this process intended to prevent adverse changes on environment. The approach to the valuation of anthropogenic impacts may be based on ecological concepts and the need for preventing the poisoning of ecosystems with harmful substances. Besides, the founders of enterprises must identify and document legal limit of harmful substances in the human organism. Other outside influences that could give rise to unacceptable consequences at the population level should also be reported. For effective protection of the environment, it is necessary to introduce the principle of statutory limitation of harmful anthropogenic influences in emissions and discharges of hazardous substances. By analogy with the principles of radiation protection of the person, the principles of environmental protection must motivate authorities of the country to eliminate unreasonable technogenic effects and the accumulation of pollutants in ecosystems. Besides, anthropogenic impact on the elements of different ecosystems must not exceed the limits in terms of hazardous and harmful substances in the flow of the former. Thus, the government must take into account economic and social factors and decrease the technogenic processes.
The damage caused by the operation and functioning of the nuclear enterprises is different and has a number of factors. Indeed, the scientists distinguish material, radiation, social, and environmental components of damage. The most difficult task is to determine the environmental damage, which should be analyzed by adverse changes in ecosystems, the loss of productivity, self-regulatory properties, and substantial changes in species diversity. In fact, radioactive ecological damage is the result of irradiation of ecosystem elements that leads to population losses, changes in ecological balance and in the life cycles of components. Therefore, the protection of environmental regulations should provide the mandatory restoration of environmental quality, the necessary decontamination of areas, the reclamation of arable land, and the cleaning of water reservoirs. Moreover, nuclear power plant projects must have the means of combatting the excessive pollution of the environment for the effective recovery of environmental quality. Thus, such measures as filtering water, washing contaminated sites and temporary shelters for valuable areas could be effective and feasible methods. The purpose of these events is to avoid the harmful substances in the ecosystem elements. However, the environmental safety of nuclear power plants lies in several stages of their implementation.
At the beginning of the work, the leaders must develop the concept of ecologically safe nuclear enterprise. Thus, they should assess the state of the environment and determine the level of permissible impact on the natural environment. Besides, these actions must be consistent with the environmental and sanitary legislation, and should take into account such social aspects as preservation of natural complexes. This process also applies to possible changes in the lifestyle of the population, the regional land use, and the expected response of the population as well. In addition, these rules should provide absence of interference in the natural processes. Only after these stages, the project managers could evaluate the environmental impacts of nuclear enterprise and begin the project implementation. Therefore, if Russian leaders will observe these world standards, the government will be able to build a station with minimal harm to the environment.
Consequently, the contamination of the biosphere is the excessive level of radioactive substances in the environment. The causes of such pollution are explosions and radioactive leaks from nuclear power plants or other related enterprises. Apart from the anthropogenic factors, there are natural causes that include mineral ore and radiation from the decay of radioactive elements in earth stratum. In fact, the situation of nuclear pollution in Russia requires special attention. Through the history, this country had conducted many nuclear tests and had built several industrial enterprises. Currently, there is the problem of nuclear waste disposal and the violation of nuclear power plants. Thus, near 2 million people live in the dangerous polluted areas. Indeed, various nuclear facilities often use the rivers as the waste dumping places. Such actions have negative impacts on flora and fauna. Besides, radioactive substances have the ability to be accumulated in different organs of all living organisms.
Therefore, these elements cause serious mutations and diseases in human body. To prevent such consequences, Russia must identify the limit of harmful effects on the environment. Moreover, nuclear enterprises must provide the restoration of environmental quality, reclamation of arable land, and cleaning of water reservoirs. Moreover, the founders of nuclear power plants must comply with general criteria of exploitation. In their turn, such methods will help to reduce the number of waste and the level of nuclear pollution in Russia.