During nuclear reactions high energy radiations called nuclear radiations are continuously produced. These radiations effect human beings, animals, plants and buildings very seriously. Actually the nuclear radiations consist of high energy gamma rays which have high penetrating power. Thus, when a person is exposed to these radiations, these radiations penetrate into his body cells and cause deadly diseases such as cancer and leukemia (blood cancer) by disrupting cell membranes, reducing effectiveness of enzymes and changing constitution of chromosomes or genes.
The nuclear radiations cause defects in eyes and reduce ability of body to fight against infections. These rays also affect various organs of the body such as lungs, kidneys and liver. The ill effects of nuclear radiations can be classified into two types: somatic effects and genetic effects. The somatic effects affect only the body of that particular person who is exposed to nuclear radiations whereas genetic effects are passed from one generation to next generation.
During explosions of nuclear bombs, the effects of nuclear radiations are highly destructible. A nuclear bomb may cause death and destruction of millions of human beings, animals and plants. Any accidental leakage of radiations from the nuclear reactor can also cause disaster. One such accident has taken place in nuclear plant of Chernobyl located in U.S.S.R. This accident took place in April 26, 1986. This accident led to many deaths and resettlement of about 2 lakh people.
The other important source of nuclear radiations is nuclear waste. Nuclear wastes are those substances which are produced in nuclear reactor during nuclear reaction and have the ability to emit harmful nuclear radiations. Generally, nuclear wastes are produced when
- mining and processing of ore is done.
- radioactive materials are used in nuclear reactors.
- radio isotopes are used in medical, industrial and research applications.
The safe disposal of nuclear wastes is a very serious problem. Usually, nuclear wastes are stored in a very strong concrete container and dumped into sea. Otherwise, nuclear wastes are also stored in thick lead containers and buried deep in the earth.
Test Your Understanding and Answer These Questions:
- What is radiation poisoning?
- What is nuclear waste?
- What are somatic effects of radiations?
- What are genetic effects of radiations?
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