Term Paper: Scientific Progress

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Scientific Progress

Scientific Responsibility: Nuclear Energy

When one hears the word "nuclear," the image that springs to mind is one of destruction. After all, the world was first introduced to nuclear energy in the form of the atomic bomb, two of which were used to devastate Japan, ushering in the conclusion of the Pacific part of World War II. Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced such tremendous devastation that it was probably impossible, at that time, for people to envision any responsible use of nuclear energy. These feelings grew during the Cold War; the United States and the Soviet Union both increased their nuclear arsenals, hoping to prevent the other Super Power from using nuclear weapons against them. Other major nations developed their nuclear capabilities as well. This proliferation of weapons helped ensure that humanity would never again know a world without the threat of nuclear war. However, the proliferation of nuclear weapons may also have been substantially responsible for preventing another war on the scale of World War I or World War II. Furthermore, it was during this time that the world also came to understand the practical, non-weapons uses of nuclear power. Nuclear power plants sprang up in various countries, providing people with affordable power without depleting precious fossil fuel resources or causing environmental damage, like fossil fuel power sources. However, this use of nuclear energy is not without controversy. The looming possibility of an accident makes the use of nuclear power very controversial.

To understand why people are so concerned about the impact of a nuclear accident, it is important to look at what has happened in the aftermath of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. "The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 was the most severe in the history of the nuclear power industry, causing a huge release of radionuclides over large areas of Belarus, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation." (Kinley, p.8). The accident caused the deaths of many of the on-site personnel and over 600,000 people were eventually deemed to have received low-level radiation exposure as a result of the accident. It has been impossible to conclusively identify the full health impact of Chernobyl, but it is linked to a dramatic increase in early childhood thyroid cancer because of the absorption of radioactive iodine. Relatively few people died as a direct result of radiation immediately following the accident. While the results of the accident were devastating, they were undoubtedly mitigated by the fact that the Soviet Union acted quickly to evacuate people from the area immediately surrounding Chernobyl, and then later evacuated people in a greater surrounding radius.

In the United States, many people continue to associate nuclear energy with the disaster at Three-Mile Island. In fact, so many people associate the idea of Three-Mile Island with a large-scale nuclear disaster that they stop to consider the truth behind that accident. In contrast to the condition at Chernobyl, even though Three-Mile Island experienced the most serious event that a nuclear… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Scientific Progress.  (2008, June 8).  Retrieved October 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/scientific-progress/8424864

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"Scientific Progress."  Essaytown.com.  June 8, 2008.  Accessed October 21, 2019.