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For Page: I

 

The Saga of Nuclear Power

"The probability that something will go seriously wrong is real...the damage that would caused if it went wrong is indefinite."

Page II - In this page:

- Is nuclear power safe/accidents?
- Is radiation harmful?
-
Is it electrical or political power?

- To destroy their own race...

by Prof. Hayrettin KILIÇ
The Green Think Tank of Turunch Foundation.


Is nuclear power safe/accidents?

A number of serious accidents since 1957 have demonstrated that the radiation released from a nuclear accident has no boundaries. There are nearly 440  nuclear power plants sitting like atomic bombs, scattered around the world, ticking within vicinity of metropolitan areas, vulnerable to trigger by human error, a faulty valve, a natural disaster, or a terrorist attack. A 1000  MW nuclear reactor contains about more 1.5 billion curies of radiation, the  equivalent of the long-lived isotopes released by an explosion of 1000 Hiroshima bombs.

A U.S. government study showed that there have been 169 incidents that could have led to a catastrophic accident. In 1987 along, US nuclear power plants reported nearly 3000 mishaps, at least 430 emergency shutdowns, and 104,000 incident in which workers were exposed to measurable doses of radiation. In fact, in the US civilian nuclear industry in 1991, there were 165 various accidents at nuclear reactors. None of the former Soviet Unions' 45 civilian nuclear reactors meets western safety standard and at present time, 10 reactors still operating that are similar to the Chernobyl reactor design, considered inherently unsafe. Accidents at Russian nuclear installations increased 45%, according to IAEA records; in 1992 number of accidents reached to a total of 205. In Japan, nuclear power plants equipped with super computer technology suffered 20 serious accidents in 1992.

There have been thousands of nuclear accidents both in the civilian and military plants.  The following important nuclear accidents are worth mentioning; in 1957 the first nuclear power accident took place in a nuclear complex in Kushtym, Russia near the Ural mountains, spreading 20 million curies of long-lived radioactive isotopes over a 410 sq. mile area. The same year, at Windscale, England, thousands of people developed high levels of Iodine-131 in their thyroid glands as result of an accident. There have been over 700 hundred plutonium fires at the Rock Flats plant near the city of Denver, USA.  In 1989, the plant was raided by FBI agents and closed down because of gross safety violations. At the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, where five nuclear reactors as well as two big reprocessing plants are located, there have been over 30 very serious reactor accidents. In 1965, there was a leak of 2,100 gallons of highly radioactive water, which almost caused a meltdown.

In 1979 the Three Mile Island accident was triggered by a malfunctioning pump and valve combined with a series of operator errors. It is estimated that millions of curies of radioactive gas escaped from the plant where radiation monitoring devices were not designed to measure such large quantities of radiation.  The cost of cleaning up at this plant has already reached several billion dollars. In April 1986, the worst nuclear accident took place in the Chernobyl nuclear complex in Ukraine. Two-hundred metric tons of uranium dioxide reactor fuel and 800 tons of radioactive graphite burst into the environment as the result of an explosion triggered by a series of human errors.  In the first few days of accident, ground level radiation in Kiev was 2000 times higher than standard allowed levels by the World Health Organization.  At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janerio, Dr. Yuri Sherback, Ukraine's Environment Minister said more than 6000 people may have already died as a result of the Chernobyl accident and that the death toll in the Ukraine alone would eventually reach 40,000.

Nuclear plants are permitted to release radiation into the atmosphere on a regular basis that can significantly increase levels of exposure to individuals.  One of the radioactive gases released, Xenon-135, decays into Cesium-135, which has a half-life of 2 million years. Other emissions contaminate agricultural areas, waterways and groundwater systems.  Resent findings indicate that the resulting low-level radiation is far more devastating than previously imagined.  Areas surrounding nuclear plants have reported increases (up to 400%) in cancers, genetic mutations, stillbirths, and some degenerative diseased. Children are the first victims.

Is radiation harmful?

Radiation harms us by ionizing, that is, altering the electric charge of the atoms and molecules composing our body cells. As explained by Prof. John Gofman, lower doses of radiation can cause abnormalities of the immune system and can also cause leukemia five to ten years after exposure, other cancers, twelve to sixty years later, and genetic diseases and congenital abnormalities in future generations.

Our bodies are made up of billions of cells.  Inside each cell is a nucleus, and inside the nucleus are long bead-like strings known as chromosomes. These strings are DNA molecules, a sequence of which are specific genes. Genes control every aspect of an individual's hereditary characteristics hair color, eye color, personality factors, brain development, and so forth. Genes also control cellular activities, and within every cell there is thought to be a regulatory gene that controls the cell's rate of division.

If our bodies are gamma-irradiated from the exterior, or if we inhale a particle of radioactive matter, Pu-235 or U-235 into our lungs and one of its atoms emits and alpha or beta particle, this radiation can collide with a regulatory gene and chemically damage it, sometimes killing the cell, sometimes leaving it alive. The surviving cell continues to function normally, until one day, five to sixty years later (i.e., after the "latent period" of carcinogens), instead of dividing to produce two new cells, it goes berserk and manufactures billions of identically damaged cells. This type of growth, which leads to formation of a tumor; is called cancer.

Besides leading to cancer, radiation also causes genetic mutations, mainly sudden changes in the inheritable characteristics of an organism. A child formed from an egg or sperm cell mutated by radiation in a dominant way will show the results of that mutation. It may spontaneously abort or, if it survives pregnancy, it may turn out to be a sickly, deformed individual with a shortened lifespan.

Radiation can also cause chromosomal breakage in the sperm or egg cell, leading to seriously deformed offspring. One disease associated with chromosomal damage is mongolism, or Down's syndrome. If the radiation kills specific cells in the developing embryo during the first three months of intrauterine life, and if the cell that is destined to form the septum of the heart is killed then a baby may be born with a hole in its heart. Also there is an increase incidence of childhood leukemia if the fetus is exposed to radiation in the uterus.

An article published in the British Medical Journal, Feb. 17, 1990 stated that there were higher incidences of leukemia in children of men who worked at other jobs in the area. In the light of these findings, the British government officials have suggested to plant workers that they may wish to avoid having children. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 265, March, 1991) revealed that at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in U.S.A., leukemia mortality among workers was 63% higher than expected.

Finally, John Gofman who is a Professor of nuclear-physical chemistry, co-discoverer of U-232, U-233, Pu-239 in the Manhattan Project, Former Associate Director of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, and Professor of Emeritus of Medical Physics, at UC Berkeley, states that "Nuclear power is unacceptable because it unavoidably inflicts cancer and genetic injury on people. It is a mass, random, premeditated murder."

Is it electrical or political power?

As the world's attention is lately focused on the suspected nuclear weapons program of North Korea and Iran, South Korea and Japan are quietly fostering rapid expansion of nuclear power and consequently sheltering a nuclear weapons program. In the case of Japan, the reprocessing of spent fuel from its own breeder reactors to produce 98% pure plutonium-239, and the acquiring of high-purity plutonium from France, cannot be justified as a response to the country's chronic energy shortage. Rather it is a clear step toward the production of tactical nuclear weapons. In the case of South Korea, it was announced in September 1992 that it will import two Canadian dual-use CANDU reactors, which are being built and are capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium-239 while they generate electricity. In fact that, South Korea recently admitted that they have secretly tried to enrich weapon grade U-235 in small laboratory-scale.

As the nuclear reactor market in the US, Europe and Russia have collapsed, those companies involved in nuclear technology have turned to the Middle East and Far East, especially to Iran, Pakistan, Chine, Taiwan, South and North Korea, Malaysia, India to save their economical Cartel.  In addition to their support for South Korean nuclear expansion, they are joining with the South Korean nuclear industry in hopes of increasing their nuclear profits through reactor sales in potential markets such as the Middle East and other developing countries.

In the shadows of a civilian nuclear program it seems that there is a military nuclear programs  developing in Northeast Asia, leading to a nuclear and tactical nuclear weapons race among North-South Korea, China and Japan.  Further, possibility of a unified South-North Korea or Chine-Taiwan super nuclear power, will automatically lend justification for Japan to build its own nuclear arsenal in this region.

In the meantime, a similar race is shaping, between arch enemies Pakistan and India.  And Iran, now pursuing to be nuclear power in Islamic world against to Israel. The situation in the Middle East and Balkans, at the present time seems to be ambiguous.  Israel is known to be in possession of more than 100 nuclear warheads and a considerable amount of plutonium inventory.  Ukraine has inherited a substantial amount of nuclear weapons from the old Soviet Union.  Turkey, with blessing of the West may be taking its first step to into nuclear venture.


To destroy their own race...

Finally, the oldest triangle was already formed during the cold war among the USA, Europe and Russia.  In order to justify their new Counter-proliferation doctrine and keep their nuclear arsenal, advanced nuclear states are creating new small triangles and supporting them by political, technological, and financial means. Even worse, advanced nuclear countries have been key suppliers of nuclear technology and the materials to Non-NPT, and technology to Brazil, Israel as well as South Africa. Argentina and Switzerland supplied enriched uranium and tritium to South Africa, heavy water and enrichment technology assisting Argentina, Pakistan, Iran and South Africa with enriched uranium.  The US has delivered 9 super computers to Israeli Universities capable of simulating a nuclear weapons launch, delivery, and detonation.

All these countries' fascination with nuclear power lies beyond energy shortages. Rather, it lies in nuclear energy's symbolizing the wealth and military power of a given country in their region. It is the classic sales scheme of the western nuclear power is a yardstick for measuring their overall strength, as well as making them regional military nuclear powers.  A perfect example of this scheme at the present time is Iran, and in the past is Iraq which was led to believe that it would become the nuclear power in the Middle East.  However, after Iraq spent billions of dollars to build a nuclear power plant, it took only a couple of Israeli planes to destroy it.  In the end, the people of Iraq not only paid for the power plant from their pockets but are also paying with their lives by being exposed to a high does of radiation.

Contrary to what the nuclear industry might say, it is indeed disadvantageous for the developing countries to have nuclear power plants, which represent well coordinated sitting ducks, stuffed with tons of highly radioactive materials.  In Turkey's case, it would be highly unwise to spend billions of dollars building nuclear power plants to obtain nuclear bombs for military strength, when most hostile countries around Turkey already possess these nuclear ducks, sitting there in clear aim.

Today, the unavoidable reality confronting each of us is that a dangerous nuclear domino game is laid out on the Earth's surface, stretching from Japan, across Europe, all the way to Alaska.  It is the pressing responsibility of us all to act upon this fragile environment and revoke any action towards further military or civilian nuclear projects.  The only feasible path to is the path of  denuclearization. However, God forbid the savage genes of human kind should take over and tip one of these dominoes. Then that will be the day that humans succeed at what they have tried to do the last ten thousand years by conventional means... To destroy their own race...

Last but not least, Co-creator of the Atomic bomb, Professor Edward Teller stated that "The probability that something will go seriously wrong is real...the damage that would caused if it went wrong is indefinite."

Hayrettin KILIC Ph.D

The Green Think Tank of Turunch Foundation.
New Jersey, USA
March 2006

 

References/Sources:

1. Bulletin of Atomic Scientist
2. The Nuclear Policy Research Institute (NRPI)
3. The  Nuclear Information and Resources Service (NIRS)
4. Institute For Energy and Environmental Research (IEER)
5. The  Washington Post
6. The New York Times
7. International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA
8. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, USA
9. Department of Energy, USA
10. Rutland Herald, Vermont
11. The Nuclear Energy Information Service
12. US Government Congressional Budget Office
13. U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment


- A Brief Profile of Prof. Hayrettin Kiliç>

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