Radiation and the Environment
The Fukushima power plant accident, described as the worst tragedy in recent times, was caused by a tsunami that resulted from an earthquake in the region. The 15-meter wave disabled the plant’s power supply and in the process heated three of its reactors (Hatamura, 2014). The even led to the displacement of about 20,000 people who were either dead or declared missing. The disaster response team had to evacuate residents within two miles of the area surrounding the plant.
It is the responsibility of every government to ensure that they are prepared for any form of disaster. However, no one can ever be fully prepared for all natural disasters. The nuclear plant had put in place measures for disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes, but they still got affected because no one can adequately predict the magnitude of a natural disaster occurrence or predict the exact catastrophe to expect (Hatamura, 2014).
Natural radiation can further be categorized as internal, cosmic, or terrestrial (NRC, 2015). The top source in this category comes from a radioactive compound known as radon which is formed during the breakdown of uranium present on earth. Under man-made radioactivity, medical applications provide the largest source of radiation through X-rays or radiopharmaceuticals. In the United States, radiation is used largely for medical resources, security devices like the X-ray scanner, and in supporting the function of household products such as the television, microwave, fluorescent lamp starter, and in smoke detectors (NRC, 2015).
A personal calculation of the annual radiation dose produced a result indicating the amount of exposure as 292.002 millirems with the biggest source being from radon. The figure is below the average 620 millirems annual exposure of human beings. Even though the value creates a sense of safety, it has raised more awareness on my personal exposure to radiation on a daily basis. After reviewing the health effects of radiation, I discovered that the average human being loses 18 days due to the regular radiation exposure whereas a sharp contrast is indicated in a smoking person who loses up to six years after smoking a pack daily. It is not surprising because unlike the indirect exposure that individuals have to radioactivity in small doses, people who smoke directly inhale the fumes with the toxic substances that affect their internal organs hence reducing the life expectancy. Most smokers also carry out the habit more frequently than compared to people indirectly exposing themselves to radiation.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has raised awareness on the severity of the pollution issue. It has further evolved over time in developing global systems that are efficient in providing protection to people in the entire world. They operate under four main constraints namely minimizing exposure, regulation of radioactive resources, medicine, and active monitoring at plants (NRC, 2015). The organization has ensured that those whose activities involve the use of radioactive materials maintain the exposure within a specified limit the same users are also required by law to get an NRC license and comply with inspection to ensure other regulations are met. They encourage citizens to minimize exposure by limiting the time of exposure, keeping a safe distance from an exposed area, and creating shields to avoid the penetration of rays and neutrons. They also promote safety among power plants by insisting on the presence of dose limits for the staff, labeling of products, placing warning signs around areas of exposure and investigating the theft of radioactive resources. The NRC has also imposed a penalty system for those who fail to comply with their regulations.
Hatamura, Y., Abe, S., Fuchigami, M., Kasahara, N., & Iino, K. (2014). The 2011 Fukushima
nuclear power plant accident: How and why it happened. Amsterdam: Elsevier Pub.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2015). State programs at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission. Washington D.C: United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.