The Affect Of A Human Population Living Near
The influence of a Nuclear Facility
The general mindset of radiation is the first effects after a nuclear explosion which is the massive deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and fallout consisting of rain or nuclear snow. But the forgotten and often lingering danger is the famous mushroom cloud reaching 10, 000 to 30, 000 feet in the air or higher creating fallout for anyone, town or city in the clouds path. The path of this cloud can travel thousands of miles in the jet stream traveling cross country and even transcontinental. The radioactive isotopes that become airborne can attach to rain droplets suspended in the clouds and at times of rain and snow storms, the fallout from the radiation is liquefied spreading the radiation to water supplies, food sources, soil and other daily factors taken for granted.
The main elements that are considered in low-level radiation studies and calculations are: iodine-131, strontium-89, strontium-90, barium-140 with half lives of 28 years, 50 days and 13 days respectively (Sternglass p 25). These are not the only isotopes that comprise a low-level radiation dose but are the most common and studied isotopes because of their effects on the human body. The human body treats iodine-131 like regular iodine found in iodized salt, it directs it to the thyroid gland raising the possibility for thyroid caner. Strontium-89, 90 takes on the characteristics of calcium which the body directs to the bones and teeth and is considered one of the more hazardous constituents of nuclear wastes causing leukemia and bone caner (EPA).
The affects of low-level radiation is slow and not instantaneous like the Cold War's perceptions of a nuclear war often portrayed in movies, but is a slow and painful killer. Low-level radiation does not glow in dark nor does have any taste or smell, meaning there is no way to detect the level of radiation that is around you.
Radiation is naturally in the environment in the form of radon and has been found to have caused health effects from its presents and consumption through water and food. These cases are not the normal and should be seen an anomalies not the base of all abnormal health affects. Companies in the business of nuclear energy tend to blame naturally occurring radon in the environment as the root of a particular health defect and at times terminal. Though this possibility cannot always be totally ruled out but when taking into account proximity, point source and health defects the naturally accruing radiation will be the anomaly not the average.
During the start of the nuclear buildup early in the Cold War, weapons were not the only things being stockpiled; nuclear reactor development also went into full production under a chant “Atoms for Peace”. The idea of a CO2 free society sounded great, everything would be powered by nuclear reactors, even automobiles. The misconception that nuclear energy is safe is one the scarcest understatements since start of the American industrial revolution. The nuclear power plants did what they promised and produced significant quantities of power but required radioactive fuel to power the plants creating a deadly amount of radioactive waste. In addition, some of these power plants had scheduled releases of radioactive gas or liquid and in the case of Sellafield, England large amounts of radiation was released into the environment.
The affects of low-level radiation on a population living near the influence of a nuclear facility can be shown to be hazardous to the health of those people. The scale of a nuclear facility is not simply a local hazard or even a regional hazard but a national and global hazard. During the above ground nuclear bomb testing in Nevada in the 1950s, fallout was carried by the jet stream and high altitude winds and deposited its radiation in Wisconsin, Minnesota and as fair as New York City on the east coast of the United States (approximately 2, 300 miles away). Nuclear incidents from power plants and other nuclear facilities may not cause a mushroom cloud explosion but it can vent deadly amounts of radioactive elements into the environment causing deaths through slow moving cancers, still births of new born babies and many other terminal health effects.
Low-level radiation is a slow killer and can affect many people in different ways but there are patterns. This pattern includes higher percentages of all types of cancer, childhood leukemia, low birth rates, baby stillborns, tumors (brain and elsewhere) and chromosome damage. This has been the case following many nuclear incidents like the Nagasaki/Hiroshima bombs and Chernobyl. This can be seen the the two cases of Sellafield, England and Chernobyl, Ukraine.