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BENJO S.

SALVATIERRA CHEM 180-X

MARCH 16, 2011 CRITIQUE PAPER

2011. The 100th year of Marie Curies Nobel Prize award for her achievements in the field of radioactivity marked the world with possible serious radioactive threats due to the explosion of reactors in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant in north-east Japan. It has been reported that small radioactive particles were detected about 60 miles from the Fukushima plant and caused casualties in its plant workers due to acute radioactive sickness. Nearby countries across Japan were alarmed with the possible effects of these radioactive substances. In the Philippines, different text messages had buzzed and panicked the public with false accounts on radioactivity which even led to suspension of classes of some academic institutions. Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant produces electricity by using nuclear fuels to heat water, produce steam, and run turbines. The nuclear plant uses nuclear reactors, specifically boiling water reactors (BWRs). The fission reactions in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant involves the neutron-induced fission of uranium oxide, the plants nuclear fuel. Nuclear chain reaction occurs and generates more neutrons. Boron rods which absorb neutrons are used to control the chain reaction and are referred to as control rods. Different structures were also designed to serve as barriers for the radioactive material emissions. What happened in the plant during the earthquake is a core meltdown or a fuel failure due to thermal failures i.e. too much pressure, too much oxidation. External power supply of the nuclear reactor were damaged; nuclear chain reactions stopped since control rods had been inserted to the core. Radiation occurs during a decay of an unstable nuclei of atoms which then releases particles. Some radioactive substances which seeks atomic stability release energy and are capable of emitting alpha and beta particles. Alpha and beta particles, which can penetrate cell membranes, can cause damage in delicate parts of our body such as heart, lungs, kidneys, etc.

Fission reactions, which are mostly used in nuclear reactors such as in Fukushima, release neutrons. In the presence of a fissionable material such as uranium-235 or plutonium-239, a chain reaction can occur by splitting them as neutron strikes and discharge more neutrons. In the absence of these fissionable materials, neutrons can be absorbed by non-radioactive matter such as the human body. Penetration of radiation in the human body can cause burns, cancers, and even death. Neutrons are said to be one of the most biologically destructive fission product, thus, causing very serious damages in human, animal, and plant lives. Dosage of radiation needed to injure a living tissue is quantified using the unit rem or roentgen equivalent in man. Nausea, vomiting, headache, and some loss of white blood cells can be observed in radiation-ill persons with dosage of above 100rems. Hair loss, severe loss of white blood cells, and internal damages such as in digestive tracts and in nerve cells can be observed in persons with dosage of above 300rem of radiation. Dosage above 450rem causes fatalities of half the population of people exposed while dosage above 800 rem ensures fatality. No effective treatment is claimed for the potentially fatal dosage of radiation and most survivors suffer from cancer of blood, breast, lung, thyroid, and other organs. Blood transfusions and bone-marrow transplants are ways for treating non-fatal radioactive illness by rejuvenation of white blood cells supply. Major exposure of human with radioactive materials were experienced during the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bomb explosions in Japan, Three Mile Island incident in United States of America, and the Chernobyl Power Plant incident in the Soviet Union. In Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Chernobyl Power Plant, many people died from the explosions itself but more people died because of the adverse effects of the radiation materials released from the explosions. Even today, radioactive contaminations are present in these places and some people around them are still suffering from radioactive diseases.

At the end of the day, everyone must be knowledgeable on the flow of events in his environment. The studies of scientists such as Marie Curies should not only be imparted to few groups of people but to everyone since these play a very important role in our daily living. These studies are more than just written in books; application is what previous studies need. Everyone must have the know-hows in case of emergencies like in Fukushima nuclear reactor explosion and must use their noodles to differentiate between facts and fictional reports. One must not easily believe in hearsays but must have his own scientific stand on a certain issue. On the other hand, countries must also do extensive researches before construction of power plants, companies, factories, etc. which can possibly harm a massive number of people and other biological & non-biological entities. Safety of the public must always be at the top priority.