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What is Radioactive Pollution?

Radioactive pollution can be defined as the emission of high energy particles or radioactive substance into air, water or land due to human activities in the form of radioactive waste. Radioactive waste is usually the product of a nuclear process such as nuclear fission, which is extensively used in nuclear reactors, nuclear weapons and other nuclear fuel-cycles. The radioactivity of nuclear waste diminishes with time. That means the waste needs to be isolated from the reach of living beings until it no longer pose a threat to living beings. This time period may take from days to months and to years depending upon the radioactive nature of the waste.

Radioactive pollution that is spread through the earths atmosphere is called Fallout. The atmospheric nuclear pollution become prominent during the world war 2 period when United States, Britain and Soviet Union started conducting nuclear tests in the atmosphere. The best example of fallout is the nuclear bomb attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945 by United States of America during world war 2.

As a result of nuclear bomb attack, nearly 2,25,000 people had died as a result of long-term exposure to radiation from the bomb blast within 5 years of attack due to radiation effect and cancer. In land and water, the major source of radioactive pollution remains with the nuclear fuel cycle. The nuclear fuel cycle is used in nuclear power plants, extraction and refinement of materials from nuclear substance to be used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons, where the contaminants are left behind after the useful material (Nuclear Isotope) is extracted.

Radioactive Contamination and Radiation Exposure


Radioactive contamination and radiation exposure could occur if radioactive materials are released into the environment as the result of an accident, an event in nature, or an act of terrorism. Such a release could expose people and contaminate their surroundings and personal property.

What Radioactive Contamination


Radioactive contamination occurs when radioactive material is deposited on or in an object or a person. Radioactive materials released into the environment can cause air, water, surfaces, soil, plants, buildings, people, or animals to become contaminated. A contaminated person has radioactive materials on or inside their body.

What External Contamination Is


External contamination occurs when radioactive material, in the form of dust, powder, or liquid, comes into contact with a person's skin, hair, or clothing. In other words, the contact is external to a person's body. People who are externally contaminated can become internally contaminated if radioactive material gets into their bodies.

What Internal Contamination Is


Internal contamination occurs when people swallow or breathe in radioactive materials, or when radioactive materials enter the body through an open wound or are absorbed through the skin. Some types of radioactive materials

stay in the body and are deposited in different body organs. Other types are eliminated from the body in blood, sweat, urine, and feces.

What Radiation Exposure Is


Radioactive materials give off a form of energy that travels in waves or particles. This energy is called radiation. When a person is exposed to radiation, the energy penetrates the body. For example, when a person has an x-ray, he or she is exposed to radiation.

How Contamination Differs From Exposure


A person exposed to radiation is not necessarily contaminated with radioactive material. A person who has been exposed to radiation has had radioactive waves or particles penetrate the body, like having an x-ray. For a person to be contaminated, radioactive material must be on or inside of his or her body. A contaminated person is exposed to radiation released by the radioactive material on or inside the body. An uncontaminated person can be exposed by being too close to radioactive material or a contaminated person, place, or thing.

How Exposure or Contamination Can Happen


Radioactive materials could be released into the environment in the following ways: A nuclear power plant accident An atomic bomb explosion An accidental release from a medical or industrial device Nuclear weapons testing

Effects of Radioactive Pollution on human beings: The effects of radioactive pollution or exposure to nuclear radiations were first reported in early 20th century when people working in uranium mines suffered from skin burn and cancer. The effects vary from organism to organism and from level of radioactivity of nuclear isotopes. The radiations destroy the cells in human body and causes cancer. Radioactive particles forms ions when it reacts with biological molecules. These ions then form free radicals which slowly and steadily start destroying proteins, membranes, and nucleic acids. A longer exposure to radioactive radiations can damage the DNA cells that results in cancer, genetic defects for the generations to come and even death. Sources of radioactive contaminants: Following are the major sources where most of the radioactive waste is generated and is responsible for causing radioactive pollution:

Production of nuclear fuel Nuclear power reactors Use of Radionuclides in industries for various applications Nuclear tests carried out by Defense Personnel Disposal of nuclear waste Uranium Mining

Frequency and Duration of Radioactive Pollution: Atmospheric pollution is not a constant or regular phenomenon and therefore the frequency and duration of pollution will vary with time and conditions. The three major types of conditions exists Continuous pollution: This type of condition exists in uranium mines, nuclear reactors, test labs etc. where the humans are under continuous exposure to radioactive contaminants and protective clothing is required to avoid radiation exposure. Accidental Pollution: This type of condition exists during accidental exposure to radiations by virtue of equipment failure, radiation leak, faulty protective equipment etc. Occasional Pollution: This condition exists during isolated experiment or test of nuclear substance.