What are the effects of Nuclear waste on ecology?
New applications of radioactivity and handling of radioactive elements have caused radioactive waste which causes, air, soil and water pollution.
Such nuclear wastes harm any living being, including humans, who also suffer from diseases in the blood, bones and nervous system. Nuclear wastes cause many alterations in the genetic systems of the body. Later generations are also in the risk group due to the mutations which results in severe deformities with the newborn babies.
Strontium-90, for example, is a derivative of nuclear activity and readily deposited on the ground, hitting the plants and then animals. It is housed in the bones just like calcium and causes alterations in the bones.
Sources of Nuclear waste:
- Fuel as Nuclear waste: ships, submarines, aircraft and artificial satellites are powered by nuclear fuel like uranium 235 or plutonium 238.
- Waste of fission: atomic bombs be or energy-producing plants, which removes strontium-90, cesium-137 and barium 140.
- Products derived from nuclear reactors or weapons.
- Nuclear waste caused by accidents and lack of maintenance on the containers of radioactive material.
- Nuclear waste from hospitals, research centers or industries.
Unusable radioactive waste must be stored in “safe” places and deposits that can ensure no accidents occur. However, this is difficult to achieve because there are always variables or circumstances beyond initial planning.
Generally, the waste is stored in large containers constructed of materials resistant and keep them isolated. These containers are buried or thrown into the sea in very deep sea levels.
Despite international agreements which prohibit throwing radioactive waste into rivers or the sea, many countries do not respect them. Some studies have shown that:
- Canada is known to throw nuclear waste into the river Ottawa.
- France is known to throw nuclear waste into the Channel or the Mediterranean.
- England is known to throw nuclear waste into the Irish Sea.
- Netherlands is known to throw nuclear waste into the North Sea.
- Australia is known to throw nuclear waste into the Lucas Hate bay.
- U.S. is known to throw nuclear waste into the Atlantic Ocean 14 thousand containers and more than 47 000 in the Pacific.
Although the containers are constructed of cement, they can crack which results in releasing radioactive or nuclear waste. Thus, deposits of radioactive materials should be well protected and the lifetime of the items they contain should be considered, as some isotopes are radioactive even after many years.