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Group members Ashwin M. – 04
Bento Fernandes – 12 Ishan Gindra Rinat Mendon Subramanyan R. Nevil Thakkar - 13 – 30 – 52 - 53
When the first nuclear bomb was exploded on July 16, 1945 at Almogorodo of New Mexico deserts in the USA, the great scientist and leader of the Manhattan Project, Professor Robert Openheimer, described what he saw by quoting two lines of famous stanza of Bhagavad Gita.
“The shine of a thousand suns in the sky, Shall n’t match, my Lord, Thy brilliance.”
For once the mankind at large came face to face with two faces of the atom, one as the destroyer of humanity and the other as the provider of electrical energy for development and prosperity. This dilemma has continued ever since as the essence of the nuclear saga facing mankind.
Nuclear Terror Days
When the two bombs, nicknamed Little Boy and Fat Man, were dropped by the United States over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, fortunately the only such cases so far, over 340,000 persons were killed barbarously. Near the centre of the explosion, people were instantaneously vaporized by the searing heat, leaving only their shadows scorched into the stonework of walls or roads. Thousands more were killed by being blown to bits, more commonly being hurled against solid objects, crushed beneath falling buildings or lacerated by the shrapnel of flying glass. Others were simply cremated into charred corpses or hideously burned with great patches of skin stripped from their bodies and hanging grotesquely in flaps around them. In Hiroshima 13 sq.kms. of area was devastated and 9.2% of all buildings destroyed. The destruction in Nagasaki was relatively less due to its hilly terrain which shielded part of the city from the heat and blast effects even though the bomb was more powerful than the one dropped in Hiroshima. It is estimated that about 60% deaths were caused due to burns, 20% due to injuries and the rest due to physical disorders caused by nuclear radiation. Hearing of those terror days, Mahatmaji said “I regard the employment of the atom bomb for the wholesale destruction of men, women and children as the most diabolical use of science”. Even though such horrible effects of the atom bomb became well known, the nuclear powers went ahead with massive programmes of nuclear weaponisation. They conducted 403 atmospheric tests between July 16, 1945 and August 5, 1963 – 216 by USA, 162 by USSR, 21 by UK and 4 by France.
THE CHERNOBYL DISASTER
Chernobyl nuclear plant is located at about 80 miles north at Kiev. On 26th April, 1986 at this plant the worst reactor disaster took place. The accident was a result of many small mistakes adding up to create a catastrophe. Before the test, the power output pf the reactor was dropped in preparation of the upcoming test. Unexpectedly the power output dropped almost to zero. Because of this, some control rods were removed to bring the power back up. The power output raised & all appeared normal. Later 2 pumps were switched on in the cooling system. They increased the water-flow out of the reactor & thus removed heat more quickly. They also caused the water level to lower in the steam separator of the reactor. In the hopes that the water level would rise, the operator increased the amount of feed water coming into the steam operator. Also more control rods were taken out of the reactor to raise the internal reactor temperature & pressure, also hoping the water level to rise. The water level in the steam separator began to rise, so the operator adjusted again the flow of feed water by lowering it. This decreased the amount of heat being removed from the reactor core. As there wasn’t enough coolant, the core’s temperature kept rising. A valve at the top of core automatically opened to vent some of the steam. But the valve didn’t close properly, because of which steam continued to vent from the reactor, further reducing the coolant level. The operators didn’t know about it as the indicator in the control room was covered by a maintenance tag. They thought that the situation was under control as the temperature stopped rising. Because they didn’t know the pump outlets were closed, they
thought the coolant had been replaced. A few minutes later the temperature began to rise again & the Emergency Core Cooling System automatically switched on. But the operator deactivated thinking the situation was under control. Because of the coolant lost through the open valve, the core temperature started to rise. At this point the fuel rods started to collapse from the intense heat. The operators knew something was wrong but didn’t understand what it was. After 2 hrs. someone figured out that the valve at the top of the core didn’t close properly. During that time precious coolant was released from the reactor. At around 6am an operator discovered it and closed the valve. During the day, hydrogen gas began to accumulate inside the reactor & caused an explosion later in the afternoon. The explosion did not damage the containment systems. A group of nuclear experts were called to help as the core was still not under operator control for past 2 days. They figured that lot of hydrogen gas had accumulated at the top of the core, which could have exploded or it could have displaced the reactor causing a complete nuclear reactor meltdown. A hydrogen recombiner was used to remove some of the hydrogen, but it was not very effective. However, hydrogen dissolves in water, which is what the coolant was composed of. Thus, overtime the hydrogen that had collected at the top of the core completely dissolved in the coolant. Two weeks later the reactor was brought to a cold shutdown & the accident was over. No one was directly injured as a result of the accident. However some radioactive gas & water were vented to the environment around the reactor. At one point, radioactive water was released into the Susquehanna River, which is a source of drinking water for near by communities. No one is
really sure what effects these radio active releases might have had on the people living near the power plant.
NUCLEAR POWER & SAFETY
As mentioned earlier, when a nucleus of U 235 absorbs a neutron, the resultant compound nucleus fissions into two fragments roughly of equal mass number in the case of symmetrical fission and a number of unequal fragments in other cases. These fission fragments undergo radioactive decay and ultimately end up as stable nuclei. In the case of U 235 there are formed over 80 primary products which, as a result of further radioactive decay, would end up as over 200 radio-isotopes of over 30 elements as fission products. This is simultaneously followed also by evolution of large This symmetrical fission process is described in a amounts of energy.
simplified way as below. U 235 + n …………………..> X 95 + Y 139 + 2n + 200 MeV The major public concerns on the safety of nuclear reactors arise from the following: a) Health hazards from nuclear radiations (both from the background around the reactors and from exposures from accidents). b) Long term effects from nuclear wasters. Based on very elaborate and rigorous scientific studies appropriate strategies have been worked out for managing these aspects of reactor
Although the benefits of nuclear power seem to make it the obvious choice for the power source of the future, it still has many drawbacks. Nuclear disasters can become of the most devastating incidents on the planet, and though rare, the possibility of their occurrence must be taken into consideration. Many safety features exist to prevent such catastrophes; however, the environment does not have any safety features to protect it from the harmful effects of nuclear waste. Obviously, nuclear waste consists of the Uranium broken down during the fission process that creates nuclear energy. However, many people forget to take into account that nuclear waste also means the machinery used in the process, and the architecture of the nuclear power plant. During the fission process, anything that has come in contact with the energy created becomes radioactive. Not only does the energy released create radioactivity, but so do the by-products created by the fission process. The elements cesium, strontium and plutonium are highly radioactive and must also be disposed of. Since there is no long-term solution for nuclear waste disposal, and because nuclear energy is a relatively new source for energy, long-term environmental and health effects remain to be seen. Mostly, nuclear waste is just dumped in low population areas all over the globe, but with the population growing as fast as it is, it is only a matter of time before we will have to find a new solution. Especially if nuclear waste begins to destroy the environment we are trying so hard to protect (Reaching Critical Will). The effects of nuclear waste are much like the effects of nuclear fallout; however, the former can be avoided. Contaminated soil and
groundwater do not have to be a problem, but they are. Increased risk of cancer, birth defects, and infertility are just a few of the harmful effects caused by nuclear waste. Concerned citizens created the Not in My Backyard organization in an effort to deter government attempts to dispose of nuclear waste near populated areas. However, the United States is currently dumping waste in an underground site only 26 miles from a city called Carlsbad with a population of 30,000 (Military Nuclear Mess). Now, these people live in constant fear of possible contamination from leaking radioactive material. The effects of nuclear waste on the population aren’t only physical, they are mental as well. In 1957, the specifications for a safe underground storage facility were “a site that is dry, geologically stable, away from natural resources and water, and has a salt creep which would slowly entomb the nuclear substance. In addition, the waste should be retrievable” (Military Nuclear Mess). If humans become exposed to nuclear waste, their cells may become damaged, and repair themselves incorrectly, resulting in biophysical damage that more often than not results in cancer. Different types of cancer than have resulted from radiation exposure from nuclear waste include leukaemia, breast, bladder, lung, colon, liver, lung, oesophagus, ovarian, and stomach cancers (Harmful Effects). Humans become exposed to nuclear waste radiation when nuclear waste is disposed of improperly. One example is when low-level waste that is not properly stored seeps through its containment area and comes in contact with groundwater. The same goes for the soil. In this manner however, plants become contaminated, and in turn the organisms that feed on them, including humans (Harmful Effects).
USED FUEL DISPOSAL
At the present time, there is no disposal facilities (as opposed to storage facilities) in operation in which used fuel, not destined for reprocessing, and the waste from reprocessing can be placed. Although technical issues related to disposal have been addressed, there is currently no pressing technical need to establish such facilities, as the total volume of such wastes is relatively small. Further, the longer it is stored the easier it is to handle, due to the progressive diminution of radioactivity. There is also a reluctance to dispose of used fuel because it represents a significant energy resource which could be reprocessed at a later date to allow recycling of the uranium and plutonium. A number of countries are carrying out studies to determine the optimum approach to the disposal of spent fuel and wastes from reprocessing. The general consensus favours its placement into deep geological repositories, initially recoverable.
INTERNATIONAL DATA FILE
Nuclear Power Status around the World
Countries Argentina Armenia Belgium Brazil Bulgaria Canada China Czech No. Units 2 1 7 1 6 21 3 4 In Operation Under of Total net No. of Units MWe 935 376 5,631 626 3,538 14,907 2,167 1,648 1 1 2 Construction Total net MWe 692 1,245 1,824 5,810 totaling 4884 MWe
Republic Finland 4 2,310 France 56 58,493 4 Germany 20 22,017 * This total includes Taiwan, Chine where six reactors are in operation.
Notes to table: During 1995, two reactors were shut down (including Bruce-2 in Canada which could restart in the future).
THE INDIAN SCENARIO
Indian Nuclear Energy Programme was initiated with great farsight by its great pioneer Homi Jehangir Bhabha in March 1944 (barely sixteen months after the Fermi’s demonstration of the nuclear chain reaction) through his letter addressed to the Tata Trust soliciting support to establish an advanced research centre in Bombay so that “when nuclear energy has been successfully applied for power production in, say a couple of decades from now, India will not have to look abroad for the experts but will find them ready at hand”. Subsequently developments are as given below: 1945 1948 April 1948 August 1954 January 1954 August Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay, with Bhabha as Director Atomic Energy Act Atomic Energy Commission under Ministry of Natural Resources & Scientific Research Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay Department of Atomic Energy with Bhabha as its Secretary
The Department underwent steady expansion over the decades
NUCLEAR RESEARCH CENTRE
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Trombay* Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam* Centre for Advanced Technology, Indoor* Atomic Minerals Research & Directorate, Hyderabad* Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay*
NUCLEAR INDUSTRIAL UNITS
Nuclear Fuel Complex, Hyderabad Heavy Water Plants, Udaypur, Baroda, Hazira, Tuticorin, Manuguru, Nangal and Talchar Uranium/Thorium Mills, Jadaguda, Chatrapur, Manawalakurichi and Alwaye ECIL, Hyderabad.
NUCLEAR POWER REACTORS
Tarapur, Kota, Narora, Kalpakkam, Kaiga, Kakrappara. Total Capacity – 1820 MWe The activities of the DAE are centered around the above units and interestingly enough they cover all established major uses of nuclear energy .
APPLICATIONS OF NUCLEAR ENERGY
Protector of Green House Effect Fossil fuels including coal form the major source of energy, thereby also contributing significantly for increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. It is estimated that unless corrective action is taken, the present value of around 280 ppm in air by volume would double between the middle and the next century, leading probably to a rise in global mean temperatures “greater than any in man’s history”, between 1.5 to 4.50C. (These values are only typical. According to the reports of the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the CO2 values were 285 ppm in 1850 increasing to 312 ppm in 1953 and 360 ppm in 1993). This “Green House Effect” described by some as the “granddaddy of all environmental issues”, trapping an extra 2W/m2 energy on the earth’s surface, can be combated to a good extent through nuclear energy which generates only one hundredth of green house gases compared to coal. It is already eliminating 40 million tones CO2 annually in UK, with France reducing her contribution by as high as 50% through generation of nuclear electricity; UK Atomic Energy Authority estimates that if the world generates 50% electricity through nuclear sources, the Green House Effect would perhaps be eliminated altogether.
THE NUCLEAR POWER PLANT INSTALLED IN FRANCE IN 1980’s AND WITH THE HELP OF THIS PLANT IT REDUCED ITS POLLUTION BY 90%.
Summary & Conclusions
Ever since the phenomenon of nuclear fission was discovered in 1938 by Hahn and Strassmann and the chain reaction demonstrated in 1942 in the Chikago Pile by Enrico Fermi, humanity have never looked back to utilize the power of the atom. The nuclear bombs have made the humanity quite gullible. Nuclear (electric) power on the other hand has provided a Faustian Alternative for uninterrupted development and progress. As the well-known Buddhist saying goes, to quote the Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman from his “The Value of Science”.
“To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven. Hell”.
The same key opens the gates of
The value-neutral science looks as always to Man, its master, for
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