It is only recently that Japan has raised the danger level of the Fukushima nuclear accident to a level 7. This means, that this accident has global implications.
Nuclear Power Plants
|abandoned control room|
nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts (lighter nuclei), often producing free neutrons and photons (in the form of gamma rays).Here is a short video which explains the process of nuclear fission. If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/N7C14UIKuv8.
Therein lies the mystery of the Nuclear Power Plant. The Nuclear Energy containment is nothing more than a sustained and contained nuclear reaction. Since the U-238 is inelastic and does not afford itself to a “chain-reaction” this very containment results in a sustained energy release and a contained fissile reaction. Here is a video demonstrating how a typical nuclear reactor works. If you cannot see the embedded video here is the link: http://youtu.be/VJfIbBDR3e8.
|click to enlarge|
What is of the most concern, is the MOX that we know the Japanese reactors in Fukushima use. What is MOX? It stands for Mixed Oxide Fuel. This is a combined mixture of natural uranium, reprocessed uranium and depleted uranium. The reason why MOX is an attractive alternative to some, is because it can recycle spent uranium from the standard nuclear reactor technology (light water reactors) which are the majority of nuclear reactors today. MOX can also utilize what is called "weapons-grade" plutonium (Pu-239). This plutonium is produced artificially in nuclear reactors. MOX is considered much more dangerous simply because it has a half-life of 24,000 years. But luckily for the world, reactor #3 in Fukushima is the only one to be contain any MOX and that, at only 5% levels. Indeed, it was a concerted effort by Japanese environmentalists that prevented the reactor from containing she scheduled 33% of MOX. All of the MOX in the reactor #3 remains in the core and none of it had yet been transferred to the now unprotected fuel pool. Here is a short video explainin how a MOX reactor is made by illustrating the present construction of a MOX reactor in Savannah, Georgia. If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/pBkymS_TUFo.
|victim of Hiroshima|
Radiation and the Human DNA
Our genetic makeup is designed to withstand this onslaught through a mechanism of DNA Mismatch repair mechanism. Overwhelming that mechanism leads to either cell death (apoptosis) or disease. For instance it is believed that the human DNA takes about 10,000 hits daily. In human cells, both normal metabolic activities and environmental factors such as Ultra Violet (UV) light and radiation can cause DNA damage, resulting in as many as 1 million individual molecular disruptions per cell per day. DNA damages in frequently dividing cells, because they give rise to mutations, are a prominent cause of cancer. Here is a video that visualizes this repair mechanism in a simplified form. If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/CcTayxEblio.
|DNA Repair Ligase|
The cancer cell is wayward cell that has lost all constraints and restraints programmed into it. This loss of restraint and constraint from normal function and form leads to unrestricted growth. Here is a brief video showing a 3D animation of the cancer process. If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/LEpTTolebqo.
Lets dig a little deeper into the cellular DNA both in the nucleus and the mitochondria to understand what radiation does to living cells. Imagine the DNA with its double helix held together by the phosphate sugars and linked together by extremely loose water-soluble hydroxyl (OH) bonds. Now imagine a stray bullet (in this case an escaped electron) dislodging one of those (OH) bonds and in so doing ricochets and hits the corresponding Nucleic acid. This attack leads to a compromised connection between the Nucleic acids Adenine with Thymine and Guanine with Cytosine and also disrupts the Nucleic Acid.
In part 4 of this series we will continue with effects of radiation poisoning and how Japan's nuclear disaster might affect them and the rest of the world.
Co-Written by PlusUltraTech and Parvez Dara, MD FACP