The Atomic Age: Three Miles Island, Chernobyl And Hiroshima

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade January 2002

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The discovery of the atom has led humanity down a road of uncertainty and destruction. The Nuclear age has caused many disasters including the meltdown at Chernobyl, the accident at Three Mile Island and the bombing of Hiroshima. The atom enabled society to create weapons of mass destruction and to discover a new and potentially dangerous form of energy. Not only are there environmental risks with nuclear power plants, the radioactive waste they create is a long term problem that the world will have to cope with for centuries. Radioactive fallout from both meltdown and bombings have left thousands of people sick and deformed. Knowledge of the atom perhaps should have been enough, as the trail that the atom leaves behind is one of devastation and ruin.

The discovery of the atom in the early 20th century was the first step in the journey to creating the nuclear bomb.

Scientists had been toying with the theory of the atom for centuries. In 1896 French physicists proved the existence of radioactivity. Shortly after this discovery Ernest Rutherford started his experiments in nuclear physics. Through his experiments he discovered the three main components of radiation: alpha, beta and gamma rays. Rutherford was the first to describe the atom as a dense nucleus which electrons circulate in orbits. He was the first to artificially induce a nuclear reaction by transmutating nitrogen into oxygen. Rutherford was also the first to identify the electron and the proton, but still the atomic model wasn't complete. It was not until 1932 that Sir James Chadwick of England identified the neutron. With the atom model finished more effort could go into researching the possibilities of the atom, and the energy that is contained inside it. Niels Bohr, another nuclear physicist from the turn of the century, demonstrated...