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Essay/Term paper: Chernobyl

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Economics

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The topic I have chosen for this term paper is "Ex-Soviet Bloc's
Environmental Crisis, Issue C." #2 Upgrading nuclear reactors to meet
international standards. I have chosen this topic because nuclear power is not
only an environmental issue but also a severe health issue for the citizens
around the nuclear site and also for the rest of the country and world because
of food products that could be grown there and used as market items.
Nuclear radiation is in no way healthy to anyone. It is much more
easier to develop a life threatening disease if you are currently being effected
by the radiation or have already been effected. Becoming sick from high amounts
of radiation does not only happen to people in the immediate area of the nuclear
accident. Although these people are the most effected, they are by far not the
only ones. Radiation can be carried in many products, including food which is
the most common and easy way to become sick from radiation poisoning. Cattle in
the area of radiation may appear to be healthy but the milk they produce and the
meat they give should not be eaten. As you can see, radiation can very easily
be transferred from one point to another and ingested by someone without even
their knowledge that there is a problem. The government of the Soviet Union was
the owner of the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. When there was a problem,
the government immediately sent soldiers to surround the plant and only two days
later did they evacuate the surrounding town of Pripyat, but by then it was
already much too late. The effects of radiation do not take a long time to occur.
In adults, it is severe but not a severe as it is in children. In children,
radiation sickness can and will effect the thyroid glands. This can lead to
many different kinds of cancer and most likely more than one will effect the
body at once.
In adults, the effects of radiation can be cancerous, but the real issue
is whether or not it will effect their DNA and thus effect the next generation.
This issue is highly debated. Scientists are not sure whether or not radiation
effects a persons DNA and causes mutations in the sperm and egg cells, later on
effecting their children and their generation. Before the nuclear reactor in
Chernobyl had a melt down, a joint US and Japanese research team set up in
Hiroshima to study the effects of radiation on the survivors of the A-bomb on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Forty years later, they had found no evidence that there
were any genetic problems in any of the survivors children. In contrast, Yuri E.
Dubrova of the University of Leicester in England and his colleagues claim that
they have found evidence that germline mutation rates in humans can be increased
by ionizing radiation. Dubrova's team compared specific gene segments taken from
the blood of people in 79 families that lived in a exposed area surrounding
Chernobyl. Also they studied 105 members from unexposed families in the United
Kingdom. All children in both groups were born 8 years after the melt down. "
The researchers studied gene segments known as minisatellite loci, repeating
patterns of roughly 5 to 45 bases, the units that make up DNA. No one knows the
genetic purpose, if any, of minisatellites, but their variation from person to
person enables scientists to use them as the basis of so-called genetic
fingerprinting".(Dubrova )Because a child's DNA represents a combination of
germline DNA from both parents, any sequence in the child that does not have
either parents DNA in it, must result from a germline mutation. Dubrova's team
therefore looked for minisatelite sequences in the children's DNA that did not
appear in either of the parents DNA. They found twice the number of mutations
in children of exposed Belarus parents as in U.K. children. "We are 99 percent
sure that these are real germline mutations and they have been passed from
parent to child,"(Dubrova )
Other researchers, such as James Neel of the University of Michigan in
Ann Arbor, a 40 year veteran of the Hiroshima research, are not so sure. "I am
very doubtful that the findings of these investigations are due to the fallout
of the Chernobyl disaster"(Neel ). Neel objects that the "doses of radiation
given in their paper are very low, so their report implies a genetic sensitivity
far beyond that observed in experiments with fruit flies and mice and our own
observations in Japan." (Neel ) Neel also noted that controls should have come
from Belarus, not the United Kingdom. Dubrova counters that finding
uncontaminated people in Belarus would be next to impossible.
Radiation effects also show up in the wildlife regions. Biologist
Robert J. Baker of Texas Tech University in Lublock says he found mutation rates
in two species of mice that were "probably thousands of times greater" than
"It was the worst civilian disaster in the history of nuclear power-and
it could be repeated."(Nagorski ) To this very day, two of the four Chernobyl
reactors still remain in use. It has been proven that radiation is not safe to
be around, nevermind work in it everyday, so why don't they just shut the plant
down? The reason is simple, they cannot afford to. Severe cracks have been
reported in the concrete sarcophagus that surrounds the reactor number four.
Despite this constant danger, thousands of people still live and work there
every day. About 500 people have moved back to their old homes inside the
effected area also called the "Zone". The Ukrainian government says that it
cannot afford to close down the plant and permanently seal the sarcophagus
without billions in western aid.

"Local scientists insist the deaths-and the danger- are real. Yet in
and around Chernobyl, people carry on a semblance of normal life. About 12,000
people work at jobs inside the zone. The nuclear complex's 5,000 employees
commute daily from Slavutych, a town just outside the perimeter." says Nikolai
Lebakh, the editor of the local paper: "You can't think too much about the
danger or you'll go crazy."

Some westerners suspect that officials in Ukraine and Belarus are making
Chernobyl out to be a bigger problem than it is. Westerners are not eager to
give away their money to other countries unless the need in really there. On
the other hand, representatives of the effected countries are saying that the
western countries are severely underestimating the problem trying to minimize
their cash outlay as much as possible. In a summit in Moscow, the leaders of
Russia and Ukraine meet with the western counter parts to discuss exactly what
would have to happen to close Chernobyl completely. The Ukrainians say that it
will cost more than $4 billion to decommission the two remaining reactors and to
presently and properly seal off the reactors. They say the G-7 countries will
have to bear almost all of that expense-or the nuclear reactors will continue to
operate because they cannot afford to close them down.
There may only be a small amount of pure, factual evidence that portrays
the Chernobyl accident in thousands of illnesses and deaths over the last decade,
but even this small amount of information shows how terrible this accident was
and how people are forced to still live in today. The figures we have may not be
of totally accurate but many experts are predicting that as many as 65,000,000
people in Russia received a dose of radiation, 90,000,000 people north of the
Ukraine may have been contaminated, and as many as 7,000 died immediately. For
humane reasons alone western countries should contribute money to this cause so
that the deaths and illnesses don't continue to pile up. A million and a half
people in and around Chernobyl (including the workers who cleaned up the site
after the accident) received extremely high doses of radiation, not to mention
the people everyday that ingest radiation daily from the food products that were
produced and still are being produced there.
Ukraine used to be one of the main producers of food products of all
kinds for Europe. Now, because the soil is contaminated, it is impossible to
clean up the soil enough that there is anyway someone to grow healthy food there.
The food there is still grown and eaten despite the fact that 70% of it is
contaminated. "Those who consume these irradiated products develop problems of
esophagus and circulatory system, anemia, and other disorders; the blood becomes
totally affected and the immune system completely breaks down. For a child, a
small cold can be tragic."(Chernousenko )
The international nuclear community will not accept the responsibility
for this accident and will not help with the clean up or safety measures that
must be taken. As of today, there are 48 commercial power plants in the Soviet
Union and 110 in the United States. "With one or two such explosions, it is
utterly ridiculous to discuss defense measures. We shall all be killed in
silent ways."(Vladimir Chernousenko)
All of the facts that I have listed above are very true. It is true
that people still live and work in radioactive environments. It is true that
children are dying because of unnecessary exposure to radiation. Food is grow
and cattle is raised in these contaminated area's, only to be distributed for
miles around. Why do these people live with these conditions? For only one
reason, they are forced to live there. They cannot afford to live anywhere
else, they cannot not just quit their jobs at the plant because they will have
nowhere else to go. The government cannot help because it does not have the
money to shut down these plants and clean up the surrounding area's, not without
western help at least. If we do not help these people, it could be years, maybe
even decades before anything is resolved. The people living in these areas
today are not the only ones effected, but also their unborn children will be
effected as well. Is that really fair to these children, to be brought into a
world and die only a few months later from a simple illness as a cold.
Radiation will always be in the soil around Chernobyl, but we can prevent it
from being in the people and children.


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