16.5 Radioactive Wastes

Initially, nuclear energy was hailed as a non-polluting way for generating electricity. Later on, it was realised that the use of nuclear energy has two very serious inherent problems.

The first is accidental leakage, as occurred in the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl incidents and the second is safe disposal of radioactive wastes. Radiation, that is given off by nuclear waste is extremely damaging to biological organisms, because it causes mutations to occur at a very high rate.

At high doses, nuclear radiation is lethal but at lower doses, it creates various disorders, the most frequent of all being cancer. Therefore, nuclear waste is an extremely potent pollutant and has to be dealt with utmost caution.

It has been recommended that storage of nuclear waste, after sufficient pre-treatment, should be done in suitably shielded containers buried within the rocks, about 500 m deep below the earth’s surface. However, this method of disposal is meeting stiff opposition from the public.

Why do you think this method of disposal is not agreeable to many people?

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