Human Impact on the Environment: The Effects of Nuclear Testing on the Environment

Essay by willneezyCollege, UndergraduateC, May 2013

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The effects on the environment of nuclear radioactive waste can be assumed as significant and massive just by understanding how much power a nuclear bomb has within it. There are major settings in which to conduct nuclear tests; atmospheric testing, underground testing, upper atmospheric testing, and underwater testing. All of these testing methods have different impacts on their surrounding environments.

The first way to test a nuclear bomb is through atmospheric testing. Large, uninhabited land areas are usually used for the testing. This, however, does not guarantee that radioactive waste will not carry over to a neighboring environment threatening all sorts of life including but not limited to humans. With atmospheric nuclear testing, the area is subject to large amounts of nuclear fallout. This nuclear fallout is a "black rain", or radioactive ash and dust that falls from the sky after the explosion and shock wave have happened. It consists of highly contaminated vaporized material from the initial explosion that gets propelled upward and outward in all directions.

When the fallout reaches the ground it is guaranteed to contaminate the soil and have long lasting detrimental affects in some areas. Radionuclides are amongst the things being projected into the atmosphere, which give off gamma rays, which can harm the skin of humans, plants, and animals. (CTBO, 2007) Exposure to gamma rays can also give humans radiation burns. It has also been linked to some cancers in humans including leukemia. Also included in these explosions are airborne discharges of a number of different elements like uranium, plutonium, strontium, mercury, cyanide cesium, and benzene. This stuff can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds or even thousands of years. It can also create firestorms. With atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs also comes the obliteration of surrounding landscapes. Contamination of nearby water supplies is...