Dear GT readers,
Thanks for your enthusiastic response to the first issue of GT. There are many of you out there who want to be better informed and be involved. Gobar Times...mmm...now what sort of a name is that for an environment magazine? Some have been puzzled, amused, or just curious. You have read the first issue on the many things that gobar means. We hope you’ve realised the need to look at environment while standing on your head, differently, from another angle. And just as GT began telling you to do that, suddenly, BOOM!!...a nuclear blast.
Now what’s the connection between this bomb business and the world of Gobar Times? Our Pandit Gobar Ganesh is very upset. Says he, “You all making laugh at gobar and me, by jumping joy with these bomb-wallahs! I am giving warning... many problematics and danger to this nuclear stuff.” The kind of world we want to live in, develop, is also built by the kind of attitudes we have.
So in this issue we present some facts about the nuclear debate. Why is making a bomb that kills millions something great? What kind of energy use is this? Do we need such dangerous technology?
Or is there some other way? Well, stand on your head and read on...
Feb 2, 1976. Three nuclear scientists resigned today. All three worked at General Electric, a US-based power corporation. “We could no longer justify devoting our energies to the continuing development and expansion of nuclear fission power — a system we believe to be so dangerous that it now threatens the very existence of life on this planet”, they said.
Our world is nothing but atoms of elements, with light or heavy nuclei.
A lot of elements are unstable. Due to the way protons and neutrons are arranged in the nucleus of atoms of these elements.
All unstable elements, light or heavy, are radioactive. Atoms of such elements give off bursts of energy, and try to change to another element that’s more stable.
Uranium-238, Thorium-232 and Plutonium-240, are also called fertile elements. It is easy to make them fissile.
These are elements that can be easily used in nuclear reactions, because they are very unstable, and can easily be made to produce nuclear energy. Uranium-235, Plutonium-239 are fissile elements. Hence they are used in atomic power stations and in bombs.
The process in which a neutron hits a heavy nucleus, and splits it into two. Energy is released. Happens naturally. And in a lab., reactor, or bomb.
The process in which two light nuclei ‘fuse’ or join together, and energy is released. The sun’s heat is the energy it releases because of the fusion of light elements Deuterium and Tritium that’s always taking place in it. Good for a bomb, too.
When a heavy nucleus splits, it releases neutrons. These neutrons hit other atoms of the element, which also split. And so on. In an atomic power reactor, nuclear chain reaction is controlled. In a bomb, it is not. BOOM!!
In an atom, the electron is controlled by three forces. The force of gravity, electromagnetic force, and the ability to interact. These forces are also there in the nucleus, and one more called the ‘strong force’. This force keeps the nucleus from flying apart. It is like a rope, and the strength of the rope is the binding energy of a nucleus. Atoms with more binding energy are stable. Those with less are unstable.
Nuclear binding energies are 1,000,000 times stronger than the ability of electrons to interact . This means that the amount of energy released when the nucleus of an atom changes (or fuses or is made to fission) is much, much more than the chemical energy released when atoms combine by sharing electrons. Electrons give you electricity. From nuclear energy, you can also get a bomb.
Science loves nuke physics.
Do people have to?
Radiation is like feeling sick in the belly all the time. And so you will find some atoms bent in two, holding their sides, and shouting: “Oo, my excited belly! Oo, where can I vomit!”. They keep shouting. And vomiting. Such unstable atoms when they vomit, become Don Atoms. Because they vomit neutrons, Ping, Shuiit! and the 2 Pongs. All radiation thugs.
Except the nuetron, all four are electrically charged. All try to combine with other atoms by sharing and lending electrical charges. Don Atom takes over, tortures the other atom. The don alters the electrical charge of this other atom. Changes its shape. Radiation is the bursts of energy that an unstable nucleus gives out to make itself stable.
It happens with nuclei of heavy ‘radioactive’ elements like Uranium, Plutonium and with light-nucleuswallahs like Deuterium and Tritium.
We are all exposed to some radiation in natural form, from cosmic rays and ultraviolet rays that fly in from outer space. Rocks, for example, give out radioactive elements like radon, potassium-40, carbon-14. And Radium.
The Radiation Thugs of
Radiation also happens when human beings put radioactive elements to use.In the atomic age, nuclear test explosions and nuclear power production have greatly increased our exposure to radiation. To dangerous radioactive elements like Iodine-131, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90. We cannot see, feel, hear, touch and smell radioactive elements. But we can take it inside our body. Breathe it in, or ingest it in food or drink that is contaminated by these elements.
Iodine-131 goes to the thyroid gland.Strontium-90 is like the calcium that makes up your bones. It goes to bone tissue. You may get cancer of the bone, or leukemia.Cesium-137 concentrates on muscle tissue.
If you imagine the body to be like a machine, then the DNA is the blueprint according to which the machine works. Radiation can change the way the DNA is arranged. Change the blueprint. Change the way your body works. Today, or in the future.
Who makes nuclear fissionfusion happen? What for?
Atomic energy is a scientific marvel. But it has also shaken, scared and killed people. What do you say? About atomic energy, about the way atomic energy has been used to generate electricity, and make devastating bombs? Is a nuclear explosion something to party about? Seriously we ask you to think about this, think and write to us your feelings.
Play the game, its a gamble. Spot the difference/s in the photographs.Because Gobar Times is your magazine, you might read your answer in the next issue. You will get no prizes; this is not a contest. And you’ll write back, for India is waiting for your answer. So, be involved!