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Fact File No. 74

France gets about 75% of its energy from its 58 nuclear power plants. Such plants produce large quantities of energy but also produce waste which is radioactive. Such waste must be stored far away from living organisms because radiation causes cancer. Nuclear waste remains radioactive for centuries. As a result, all the storage facilities for nuclear waste which exist today are temporary sites which must be dug up in a few decades and all the waste must be stored somewhere else. If not, the waste might leak out and spread into the soil and into the water making the environment radioactive.

 

Fact File No. 75

On 25 April 1986 in Chernobyl, Russia, a technician made an error which caused the reactor number 4 to overheat. This was followed by an explosion and a fire. The 500 workers in the nuclear power station and the firemen who fought the flames were all treated in hospital; 31 of them died of radiation burns. 135000 people who lived in a 30km radius of Chernobyl were evacuated from the area. Three years later, in 1989, there have been many cases of cancer and deformed babies reported in the area. Winds pushed the radio-active clouds toward Europe and rain brought this radio-activity to the ground. Fruit, meat and milk were contaminated.

 

The control panel inside a nuclear power station © Shirley Burchill

The control panel inside a nuclear power station

PROBLEMS AND CONCERNS CAUSED BY HUMAN INFLUENCES ON THE ENVIRONMENT

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Nuclear Energy

 

Peace Park, Nagasaki  © Shirley Burchill

These two photographs show the memorial at Nagasaki, Japan.
It has been erected on the exact spot where the atom bomb
was dropped in World War II.

Shrine in the Peace Park, Nagasaki, Japan © Shirley Burchill

 

Many countries have developed nuclear power to supply their energy needs. Nuclear power does not produce pollutant gases but it does produce nuclear waste. Nuclear waste is made up of radio-active substances. Radioactivity produces dangerous radiation which can damage living cells, causing cancer and affecting growth.

Much of this nuclear waste is treated in special factories to make it less dangerous. When nuclear power stations were first built, however, the nuclear wastes were dumped into the deep sea. No-one really knows whether or not these dangerous wastes will have any future effect on the food chains in the sea.

Britain and France accept nuclear wastes because they have built special factories to reprocess the waste. There are problems, however, in transporting nuclear waste. Many countries, such as Australia, will not allow ships carrying nuclear wastes or nuclear weapons into their ports.

Sometimes, awful accidents can happen. In Chernobyl, Russia, in 1986, a nuclear power station went out of control and much of the surrounding area was contaminated by radioactivity. The problem with radio-activity is that it can take years before the contaminated area is safe.

 

Other sources of energy

Many people do not agree with the use of nuclear power or the development of nuclear weapons. It has already been mentioned that some countries, such as Australia, do not allow ships carrying nuclear wastes or nuclear weapons into their ports.

 

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