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I will not degrade the status and usefulness of a nuclear power plant by comparing it to Pandora's box, but that only applies until and only when it is handled with care. The moment you are out of the safety zone, nuclear power could be a real hazard not only for the current society but for several generations to come. The only consolation in this case is that Zeus did tell us about the ills that could affect mankind once this box is opened in an unsafe manner. Well enough of mythology, now we should get a bit technical and learn about the potential dangers of a nuclear power plant. One that I'm sure you've heard of before is radiation.
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Radiation – What is it?
Radiation refers to the flow of energy in the form of electromagnetic waves or particles from a single source and spreading in all directions. In the form of particles they could be either electrons, beta particles or alpha particles, and the wave form could consist of gamma rays, ultraviolet rays, X-rays and so forth. This should not bother you if you look at it from a psychological perspective since we all know that we should always radiate positive energy which affects others in a positive way. The only problem in this case is that when the radiation is above a specific threshold it could cause damage to biological cells in the human body and become the source of several diseases affecting that individual or even his/her future generations through hereditary succession.
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Is it only in Reactors?
If you have jumped to the conclusion that radiation only occurs in nuclear reactors and artificial environments created by human beings, then you are wrong. Radiation also occurs naturally all the time and on an average you are being struck by nearly 15000 particles every second (don't look around you won't see them, just concentrate on this article).
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Is the Risk huge?
After so much of discouraging information here comes the ray of light for you. Radiation from nuclear power plants is not that huge a danger after all as compared to other sources of electrical energy generation. You can read an interesting article by Professor Cohen about this topic that will give you lots of useful information and knowledge. The risks associated with radiation from power plants can be lessened by following proper techniques during construction and operation of the reactor.
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The Shortened Lifespan
Can you guess that if you are exposed to normal levels of nuclear radiation from a power plant (remember I am not talking about the radiation that occurs due to tragic accidents such as those of Chernobyl), how much will your life expectancy reduce in terms of number of years of months? Well if you are thinking in terms of decades or years you are utterly wrong, for scientists have estimate that this would make your life expectancy shortened by ONE hour. But of course in the modern world where time is money and people haven't got enough of it, even this should be a cause for serious concern but for the rest of us, we should just thank nuclear energy for being so useful by taking so little in return - just one hour of our life.
- slide 6 of 6
You must be wondering that I started off the article by saying that the nuclear reactor is a very risky business while later on I gave statistics about its safe working. Let me clear the confusion by saying that it is only safe (and very safe) till it is handled with proper care. The moment it goes out of control it can cause real havoc. So we should not be afraid of the radiation hazards from a normally working reactor but only from ill-managed plants.