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In 1789, Martin Klaproth, who is a German chemist, discovered Uranium and it was named after the planet Uranus. The neutron as a part of the atom was discovered in 1932 by James Chadwick. Walton and Cockroft produced nuclear transformations by bombarding atoms with accelerated protons in 1932 too. Later, in 1934, Frederic Joliot and Irene Curie found that a much greater variety of artificial radionuclides could be formed when neutrons were used instead of protons. From this point, the history of nuclear energy has started.
The first scientist, who got the task to discover the atomic bomb, were British. Two scientists Peierls and Frisch wrote the Frisch-Peierls Memorandum, about an amount of about 5 kg of U-235 could make a very powerful atomic bomb, equivalent to several thousands of tonnes of dynamite. They included the way how it can be used and an additional effect it could bring. To research more about atomic bombs, the MAUD Committee was set up in Britain. And the research works were handled in the Universities of Oxford, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, and Liverpool.
People started to use nuclear power to get the energy from it because this option provides low-carbon electricity and has some privileges such as low cost and less harm for the environment. And starting in the 1950s, the nuclear industry had started to show its weaknesses and bring not invisible threats. The first accident that happened on the nuclear plant was in 1957. The Windscale Unit 1’s core, which was in Cumberland (now Cumbria), the UK, caught fire and melted on October 10th. That led to large amounts of radioactivity being released to the surrounding environment. Since this accident was the first one in history, the British government decided to hide the information from the public, because they didn’t want to wreak havoc and mistrust among the people. Only in twenty years, they published that the Windscale Fire brought 32 deaths and 260 cases of cancer to the radiation release. Dairy farms, close to that plant, were closed for two months because the milk could contain the radioactive iodines.
The first nuclear accident happened in the USA in July 1959 in Los Angeles, California. “A partial meltdown occurred at the Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE) due to cooling flow blockage that caused the reactor core to overheat. This accident was stopped early, so it didn’t cause any serious damage. Another accident happened in Idaho Falls, Idaho on January 3, 1961. That was an explosion, that was eliminated very quickly but all three workers, who were involved, died immediately.
The History of the United States also knows about another two cases. Enrico Fermi Unit 1 was located in Frenchtown Charter Township, Michigan. The accident happened on October 5, 1966, but the unit was shut down on time so the radionuclide release was minimal and was not harmful, but the plant never operated again. Another one was in Middletown, Pennsylvania on March 28, 1978, known as Three Mile Island. It was the most serious nuclear accident in US history, despite the fact that the release to the environment was minor. Anyway, the people from the local areas were evacuated and the reactor had to have a twelve-year cleanup, that cost $1 billion.
One accident happened not a long time ago in Fukushima, Japan in March 2011. The country was suffering from earthquakes and tsunamis and those two disasters caused that occasion on the Fukushima Daiichi plant. As the result, around 500,000 people were forced to be evacuated.
The world’s worst nuclear disaster to date happened on April 26, 1986, and it has been affecting the environment and people nearby. The catastrophe at Chernobyl happened at the middle of the night of Friday to Saturday, April 25 to 26.
Everything had started from the routine procedure. The reactor in Unit 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station was going to shut down. But they decided to take an opportunity and make several tests, that were postponed earlier. Alexander Akimov, who was at the main control board, and Leonid Toptunov, who was the shift foreman, and engineer, noticed the automatic system of a shutdown was turned off because of the tests, which made them nervous. “Akimov and Toptunov had the great responsibility of watching to see that the reactor stayed within control”. That night they had problems with electricity on the plant but it didn’t make them stop testing.
Close to midnight Akimov and Toptunov realized the power of the reactor had sunk too low for the test to go ahead. They were supposed to shut down the reactor and abandon tests. But deputy chief engineer of Unit 4 Anatoli Dyatlov became impatient. Akimov and Toptunov obeyed.
At 1 a.m. the power had risen too high to start the tests and at a moment later the surge of power was enormous, water flow through the reactor core increased, putting pressure on the pumps. At 1:23 a.m. the dials indicated a pernicious surge in power and radiation. “Reactor 4 had exploded. The force of the explosion was so great that it blew the 2,200-ton steel lid off the top of the core and dislodged the concrete outer shield. A huge fire followed”. Lila Sipkina is one of the eyewitnesses, “For a moment everything went black. The sky was lit up. Those lights, it was like in a fairy tale”.
The radiation level was so high that the dosimeters had not enough scale to measure it. “What am I meant to measure? The meter’s gone off the scale”, one dosimetrist said. One of the first firefighters Boris Aleshaev commented on the situation during stopping the fire, “I started to feel tired. I felt sick. I wanted to lie down and have a rest – forget about everything. My body and face were glowing…”
135,000 people were evacuated from the 18-mile zone around Chernobyl. Animals near that area lay dead and the trees were felled. The wind, spreading fallouts, turned to the south and west and brought radioactive nuclides in almost all countries in Europe. On April 28, monitors in Sweden detected high levels of radiation. Many countries are ordered to destroy milk, and leafy vegetables, because of the high radiation in them. Children in Poland, Germany, and Austria had to take iodine tablets to protect themselves from radiation. The UK had approved some restrictions on the sale of lamb. This accident exposed people to radiation between 100 and 200 times greater than that from the explosion of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
“In the first five years after the accident, cases of cancer among children in Ukraine increased by more than 90%. More than 5,000 cancer deaths linked to catastrophe in Chernobyl”. The release of radioactive nuclides caused lots of mutations in the nature of animals and people. In 1990 around 400 deformed animals were born with facial malformations, extra appendages, abnormal coloring, and reduced size. Some people, that were born or conceived not long after the accident also had different mutations. For example, Igor was conceived two months after the catastrophe and was born with no right arm and tiny legs. Scientists predict the isotopes will keep harming the environment for the next 180 years.
Accidents on plants are not the only thing that can bring damage. In the 20th-century people started to create and experiment with nuclear weapons. After Britain, American scientists started to build nuclear bombs. Scientists at Los Alamos had developed two types of bombs “the Little Boy” and “Fat Man”. During the Cold War, these two bombs were activated. On August 6, 1945 “the Little Boy” was dropped on the city of Hiroshima in Japan. It killed around 80% of civilians in the city instantly. The other people were suffering from radiation, which ruins and burns to specific tissues and blood vessels and causes amputations. 5 months later, 90,000 people died from trauma and radiation effects.
Three days after Hiroshima, on August 9, 1945, the US plane dropped the next bomb “the Fat Man” on the city of Nagasaki. The second bomb was the reason for 40,000 deaths.
The bombing of Japan and the catastrophe in Chernobyl brought different consequences. Scientists published the information, that the number of cases of cancer was not rising in comparison with the children who survived the attack. Speaking of the environment, the percentage of radioactivity in Japan is the same as anywhere in the world. Scientists say, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki are positive examples of the human capacity to be reborn”.
After Cold War, countries, that have nuclear weapons, have numbered of it from more than 70,000 in 1986 to nearly 15,000 in 2017 according to FAS.
To better imagine how many nuclear weapons the USA has, the U.S. government estimated, to clean up all the pollution after the accidents with all weapons of the USA at the same time, it might have to spend up to $350 billion for and next 75 years.
Even though the nuclear industry causes such threats to people and the environment, people cannot refuse its usage, because exactly nuclear power may help and save the situation and be the solution against global warming on the Earth. According to statistics in 2004, “30 countries operate 441 nuclear power plants, accounting for about 15% of the world’s electricity. Moreover, some three hundred smaller research reactors are currently running in more than 50 countries.
Currently, there are enough nukes on the planet, to destroy the Earth, if they all together will explode. First of all, a big, enormous fireball would appear reaching temperatures up to 150 million F. Then a huge pressure wave would follow and everyone will receive third-degree burns, who within an area of 162 square miles. 295 cities with the same size as New York would turn in the dust instantly. Hundred million, probably even billions of people will die in the first hour. Then an ash-winter will come for a long time. That would cool the planet, on the other hand, it is the solution of global warming.
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