Nuclear Energy’s Adverse Health Effects

Over the last century, the world’s energy consumption has increased at an exponential rate. As the
world’s population grows and people in emerging countries’ living standards rise, this demand will
likely rise.

Traditional energy sources, such as fossil fuels, have been put under strain due to the increased
demand. Nuclear energy has emerged as a viable option for renewable energy, with many
proponents claiming that it is the only way to achieve sustainable development in an energyintensive society. On the other hand, nuclear energy offers a severe threat to society, mainly if a
power plant disaster occurs.

Risk of Cancer

The risk of cancer is increased when people are exposed to radiation from nuclear power plants.
After being exposed to nuclear radiation, the chances of getting thyroid cancer increased as the
subject’s age decreased. As a result, younger people are more prone than older persons to develop
thyroid carcinogenesis due to X-ray exposure.

Thyroid cancer was shown to rise in children exposed to Chernobyl fallout after the disaster
(Baverstock and Dillwyn 1312). The number of people diagnosed with thyroid cancer due to
childhood exposure has surpassed 2,000 by the year 2000.

In the years 2005, this number grew to 4,000. (Baverstock and Dillwyn 1312). The OECD/Nuclear
Energy Agency agrees, noting that there has been an increase in thyroid cancer cases since the
Chernobyl disaster..

Radiation Sickness

Radiation sickness is a disorder that can lead to death if a person is exposed to excessive radiation
levels. Acute radiation sickness has long-term health consequences, including cancer and
premature aging. In Europe, natural background radiation levels average 3mSv/year.

People in highly contaminated areas, on the other hand, were exposed to radiation doses that were
30-70 times higher than these typical natural levels (Chudley 222). The OECD/Nuclear Energy
Agency verifies that all predictable health effects occurred among Chernobyl plant staff during the

Firefighters and clean-up crews were exposed to significant amounts of radiation, causing acute
radiation illness in over 200 emergency workers, with 28 dying as a result. Vomiting, diarrhea,
and fever were among the first signs of radiation sickness.

According to Chudley, the effects of a high dose of radiation exposure can range from “death after
acute radiation exposure to cancer or genetic re-arrangements if doses are small and exposure is
spread over time.”

Suppression of the Immune System

Nuclear accidents also cause the immune system to be suppressed. According to the
OECD/Nuclear Energy Agency, the immune system is suppressed due to a decrease in bonemarrow function after radiation exposure. Patients with this type of immune suppression must take
antifungal and antibiotic medications to assist their bodies to fight off common illnesses.

Genetic Diseases

Exposure to nuclear radiation has a high probability of causing genetic changes. In the population
affected by the Chernobyl disaster, no radiation-induced genetic diseases had been observed as 2001.
However, Chudley claims that this does not mean that the accident caused genetic disorders
because such changes in the human population are difficult to detect.

Risk of Leukemia

Leukemia is also increased by exposure to radioactive material. According to Baverstock and
Dillwyn, leukemia is strongly linked to radiation. As a result, extensive efforts have been made to
detect this condition in the Chernobyl-affected population.

While there have been no significant increases in the number of people diagnosed with leukemia,
scientists predict this will change in the coming years. Baverstock and Dillwyn show that leukemia
is a disease of old age and that as Chernobyl victims get older, chronic lymphatic leukemia rates
will rise.

Psychological Consequences

Nuclear accidents have psychological ramifications for the people who live in the vicinity of the
reactor. People are forced to flee their homes and land due to such accidents, and they are left
unsure of what the future holds.

Nuclear accidents cause an increase in all sorts of sickness and the above-described health effects.
According to a Russian National Medical Dosimetric Registry report, between 1989 and 1992,
malignant diseases increased, which can be related to radiation exposure (OECD/Nuclear Energy
Agency 89).

Following the accident, the Russian Federation’s mortality rate increased by 2%. Respiratory
cancer death rates were exceptionally high, and while this could be attributed to smoking, the
findings suggested that the nuclear disaster contributed (OECD/Nuclear Energy Agency 89).

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