The Start of Nuclear Energy
When a neutron is absorbed into a nucleus and split into two nuclei, nuclear energy is produced. A lot of energy is used up in order to split the nucleus and as a result, an extremely large amount of heat is released. The neutron was discovered in 1932 by a man named James Chadwick. In the same year, two other men, Cockcroft and Walton accelerated protons onto several atoms and learned that atoms can go through nuclear transformations. A year later, Enrico Fermi attempts the same process using neutrons instead of protons. This resulted in the discovery of a wider variety of radionuclides. Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch explained the process by which the neutron splitting phenomenon occurs. The nucleus captures the neutron, which leads to an exceptionally large amount of vibrations that eventually pull the neutron in two. This process is called nuclear fission. The total amount of energy calculated from splitting just one neutron is 200 million electron volts.
How Radioactive Material Is Spread in the Environment
The main way radioactive materials are spread in the environment is due to a complication in the nuclear reactors. About 20 years ago, there was an accident called the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident. Much of Europe was affected by this contamination. The nuclear reactor was used under unstable conditions and the nuclear energy could not be controlled. As a result, the exploded and the radioactive material that was contained within spread as a cloud over Europe. More than 600,000 people to came into contact with the radioactive material in order to clean up and more than 5 million people were exposed to this material. Plants, animals, water bodies, and crops were also greatly affected.
How Radiation Exposure Effects the Human Body
Amount of radiation dosage is the most important factor in determining how the human body is affected. The cells in the human body absorb the radiation energy and depending on how much energy is absorbed, the body can either be moderately injured or severely injured. Radiation exposure can cause hair loss, seizures,cancer, increased risk for leukemia, heart failure, nausea, kill nerve cells and blood vessels, and many other side effects. One of the main types of cancer that radiation causes is thyroid cancer. This is due to the fact that radioactive Iodine can destroy the thyroid. There are four different phases in how the body is slowly broken down. In the first phase, the first two weeks of exposure, the human skin is burnt from the gamma rays and explosion. The second phase consists of the third to eighth week. In this time frame, hair is loss, there is a decrease in white blood cells, which causes the body's immune system to weaken, anemia, and diarrhea occur. As for the third phase, the third and fourth months, pain from burning and trauma slightly decrease; however, scars form, one's body becomes sterile, and psychosomatic disorders develop. The fourth time frame is presently. Presently, although one may have been exposed to radiation years ago, there are still some long lasting affects such as leukemia, different types of cancer including, but not limited to thyroid, breast, lungs and many others. Other effects of radiation include birth defects and mental retardation. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission states that the "likelihood of cancer occurring after radiation exposure is about five times greater than a genetic effect (e.g., increased still births, congenital abnormalities, infant mortality, childhood mortality, and decreased birth weight)." Although this may be the case, keep in mind that radiation affects people differently.
Radiation Effect on a Cellular Level
Cells that reproduce more often, such as blood cells, are more sensitive to radiation than compared to cells that do not replicate as often, such as nerve and muscle cells. Oxygen increases sensitivity to radiation. Since the outer most layer of cells are the most exposed to oxygen and replicate the fastest, this layer is destroyed when attempting to shrink a tumor that has formed. As for the Genetic Effect, radiation causes an increase in spontaneous mutation rate. Although this may be the case, new mutations are not produced. A high dose of radiation has to be absorbed in order for genetic effects to become evident. If one were to only be exposed to a small amount, genetic effects will not be observed due to the fact that there are many significant changes throughout the stages of reproduction and fertilization.
Ionizing radiation is produced when radioactive material spontaneously decay. This process generates enough energy for electrons to be removed from atoms or to break a chemical bond. When the body absorbs a large amount of radioactive energy, the structure of cells change which, in turn, changes the body's tissue. This change disrupts the body's ability to function normally. As a result, cells become incapable of division or division is rapidly increased, which occurs when the cells are radiation directly interacts with the cells.There are six different outcomes if a cell is damaged by radiation: minor damage in cell is repaired, minor damage in cell remains inactive, damage in genetic code is not evident until offspring are born or in later generations, cell might become cancerous, cell may stop functioning, or cell may die. The cells may die due to indirect radiation effect, which occurs when radiation interacts with the water in the body and cells. Water molecules in the body are broken up and sometimes reformed as hydrogen peroxide, which causes the cells to be destroyed.
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