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Fallout from Chernobyl

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Fallout from Chernobyl. 400 million people exposed in 20 countries. Chernobyl’s political fallout . Stimulated Gorbachev’s glasnost (openness) Stimulated nationalism in Ukraine, Belarus, and other republics that lost clean-up workers. Growth of environmental opposition

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chernobyl s political fallout
Chernobyl’s political fallout
  • Stimulated Gorbachev’s glasnost (openness)
  • Stimulated nationalism in Ukraine, Belarus, and other republics that lost clean-up workers.
  • Growth of environmental opposition
  • Questioning of the heart of technocratic power
    • Soviet leaders were engineers, not lawyers
    • USSR collapsed within 5 years.
radiation and health
Radiation and Health
  • Health effects as a result of radiation exposure:

-increased likelihood of cancer

-birth defects including long limbs, brain

damage, conjoined stillborn twins

-reduced immunity

-genetic damage

3 5 million sick one third of them children

8,000 deaths in 14 years

3.5 million sick,

one/third of them children

it can t happen here
“It Can’t Happen Here”
  • U.S. reaction to Chernobyl, 1986
    • Blamed on Communism, graphite reactor
  • Also Soviet reaction to Three-Mile Island, 1979
    • Blamed on Capitalism, pressurized-water reactor
  • No technology 100% safe
    • Three-Mile Island bubble almost burst
health around tmi
Health around TMI
  • In 1979, hundreds of people reported nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and skin rashes. Many pets were reported dead or showed signs of radiation
  • Lung cancer, and leukemia rates increased 2 to 10 times in areas within 10 miles downwind
  • Farmers received severe monetary losses due to deformities in livestock and crops after the disaster that are still occurring today.
plants near tmi
Plants near TMI

-lack of chlorophyll

-deformed leaf patterns

-thick, flat, hollow stems

-missing reproductive parts

-abnormally large

TMI dandelion leaf at right

animals nearby tmi
Animals Nearby TMI
  • Many insects disappeared for years.
    • Bumble bees, carpenter bees, certain type caterpillars, or daddy-long-leg spiders
    • Pheasants and hop toads have disappeared.
nuclear reaction
Nuclear reaction
  • Chain reaction occurs when a Uranium atom splits
  • Different reactions
    • Atomic Bomb in a split second
    • Nuclear Power Reactor more controlled, cannot explode like a bomb
history of nuclear power
History of nuclear power

1938– Scientists study Uranium nucleus

1941 – Manhattan Project begins

1942 – Controlled nuclear chain reaction

1945 – U.S. uses two atomic bombs on Japan

1949 – Soviets develop atomic bomb

1952 – U.S. tests hydrogen bomb

1955 – First U.S. nuclear submarine

atoms for peace
“Atoms for Peace”

Program to justify nuclear technology

Proposals for power, canal-building, exports

First commercial power plant, Illinois 1960

economic advantages
Economic advantages
  • The energy in one pound of highly enriched Uranium is comparable to that of one million gallons of gasoline.
  • One million times as much energy in one pound of Uranium as in one pound of coal.
emissions free
Emissions Free
  • Nuclear energy annually prevents
    • 5.1 million tons of sulfur
    • 2.4 million tons of nitrogen oxide
    • 164 metric tons of carbon
  • Nuclear often pitted against fossil fuels
    • Some coal contains radioactivity
    • Nuclear plants have released low-level radiation
early knowledge of risks
Early knowledge of risks
  • 1964 Atomic Energy Commission report

on possible reactor accident

    • 45,000 dead
    • 100,000 injured
    • $17 billion in damages
    • Area the size of Pennsylvania contaminated
nuclear power around the globe
Nuclear power around the globe
  • 17% of world’s electricity from nuclear power
    • U.S. about 20% (2nd largest source)
  • 431 nuclear plants in 31 countries
    • 103 of them in the U.S.
    • Built none since 1970s (Wisconsin as leader).
    • U.S. firms have exported nukes.
    • Push from Bush/Cheney for new nukes.
nuclear fuel cycle
Nuclear fuel cycle
  • Uranium mining and milling
  • Conversion and enrichment
  • Fuel rod fabrication
  • Reprocessing, or
  • Radioactive waste disposal
    • Low-level in commercial facilities
    • High level at plants or underground repository
uranium tailings and radon gas
Uranium tailingsand radon gas

Deaths of Navajominers since 1950s

uranium enrichment
Uranium enrichment
  • U-235
    • Fissionable at 3%
    • Weapons grade at 90%
  • U-238
    • More stable
  • Plutonium-239
    • Created from U-238; highly radioactive
radioactivity of plutonium
Radioactivity of plutonium

Life span of least

240,000 years

Last Ice Age glaciation

was 10,000 years ago

Neanderthal Man died out

30,000 years ago

risks of enrichment and fuel fabrication
Risks of enrichmentand fuel fabrication
  • Largest industrial users of water, electricity
    • Paducah, KY, Oak Ridge, TN, Portsmouth, OH
  • Cancers and leukemia among workers
    • Fires and mass exposure.
    • Karen Silkwood at Oklahoma fabrication plant.
  • Risk of theft of bomb material.
nuclear reactor process
Nuclear Reactor Process
  • 3% enriched Uranium pellets formed into rods, which are formed into bundles
  • Bundles submerged in water coolant inside pressure vessel, with control rods.
  • Bundles must be SUPERCRITICAL; will overheat and melt if no control rods.Reaction converts water to steam, which powers steam turbine
other reactor accidents besides tmi and chernobyl
Other reactor accidents(besides TMI and Chernobyl)
  • 1952 Chalk River, Ontario
    • Partial core meltdown
  • 1957 Windscale, England
    • Graphite reactor fire contaminates 200 square miles.
  • 1975 Browns Ferry, Alabama
    • Plant caught fire
  • 1976 Lubmin, East Germany
    • Near meltdown of reactor core .
  • 1999 Tokaimura, Japan
    • Nuclear fuel plant spewed high levels of radioactive gas
risk of terrorism new challenge to industry
Risk of terrorism(new challenge to industry)

9/11 jet

passed near

Indian Point

nuclear reactor structure
Nuclear Reactor Structure
  • Reactor’s pressure vessel typically housed in 8” of steel
  • 36” concrete shielding
  • 45” steel reinforced concrete
breeder reactor breeds plutonium as it operates
Breeder reactor “Breeds” plutonium as it operates

Uses liquid sodium metal instead of water for coolant

    • Could explode if in contact with air or water
  • 1966 Fermi, Michigan
    • Partial meltdown nearly causes evacuation of Detroit
  • 1973 Shevchenko, Russia
    • Breeder caught fire and exploded
  • Controversial proposals in Europe, U.S.
  • Separates reusable fuel from waste
    • Large amounts of radioactivity released
  • 1960s West Valley, NY
    • Radiation leaked into Lake Ontario
  • 1970s La Hague, France
    • Released plutonium plumes into air
back end radioactive wastes
Back end: Radioactive wastes
  • Low-level wastes in commercial facilities
  • Spent fuel in pools or “dry casks” by plants
  • Nuclear lab wastes
    • Hanford wastes leaked radiation into Columbia River
  • High-level underground repository
    • Yucca Mountain in Nevada to 2037
    • Wolf River Batholith in Wisconsin after 2037?
    • Risks of cracks in bedrock, water seepage
transportation risks
Transportation risks
  • Uranium oxide spills
  • Fuel rod spills (WI 1981)
  • Radioactive waste risks
kyshtym waste disaster 1957
Kyshtym waste disaster, 1957
  • Explosion at Soviet weapons factory forces evacuation of over 10,000 people in Ural Mts.
  • Area size of Rhode Island still uninhabited; thousands of cancers reported


radioactive waste recycling
Radioactive Waste Recycling
  • Disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants and weapons facilities by recycling it into household products.
  • In 1996, 15,000 tons of metal were received by the Association of Radioactive Metal Recyclers . Much was recycled into products without consumer knowledge.
  • Depleted Uranium munitions for military.
  • Nuclear energy has no typical pollutants or greenhouse gasses
  • Nuclear waste contains high levels of radioactive waste, which are active for hundreds of thousands of years.
  • The controversy around nuclear energy stems from all parts of the nuclear chain.