Nuclear Arms Race versus Environmental Hazards

atr.jpgThe Indo-US nuclear deal has certainly enjoyed its share of publicity and discussion. However, it has also stemmed up various concerns regarding the viability of utilization of nuclear energy without maximizing the risks associated with it. Many diverse aspects are being addressed such as the prospective proliferation of nuclear arms, the imposed restriction on supply of uranium fuel to countries disagreeing to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the emerging nuclear arms race among the South Asian countries, etc.
Among these clouds of uncertainty, some major concerns are the sustained use of nuclear fuels in breeder reactors, nuclear waste disposal, and restricting the radiations inside the nuclear reactors. Uranium, the most common nuclear fuel used in the process of fission is highly unstable nuclei in its excited state and hence becomes the source of harmful radiations. The threat that these radiations pose is evident from the fact that they not only destroy the existing settlement of humans but also modify the ‘genes’ leading to far-reaching consequences.

Like other radioactive materials, in addition to initiating cancers, plutonium is highly mutagenic and can disrupt reproductive cells. It threatens the entire web of life, upon which we depend for food, oxygen, water purification and materials for most of our products.

In such a crucial scenario, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has to carefully monitor the safeguard measures being taken up by the nuclear power equipped countries and ensure that they conform to the safety standards. Further, the signing of nuclear deals facilitating easy exchange of nuclear fuel among the countries listed under the NPT has to be carried out after evaluating the essential parameters of nuclear power plant functioning. The increasing nuclear tests by the countries equipped with nuclear power is also a worrying fact as the radiations and gases accompanied with such explosions are believed to be escaping into the environment at a much higher rate than that expected.

The nuclear power is the future technology when it comes to meeting our power requirements keeping in mind the depletion of fossil fuel reserves. But the thin line that divides the controlled and uncontrolled nuclear reactions, coupled with the sub-nuclei and radiations generated in the process have to be dealt with great precautions for its successful outcome.

Ishant Arora