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Effects of Nuclear Radiation on the Environment

Nuclear power is generated through the use of nuclear fission. This process produces a large amount of heat and electricity. The nuclear waste and radiation that nuclear fission produces are harmful to living organisms; however, the benefits of nuclear power are too tempting to refuse.
As a testament to that fact, there are currently 437 nuclear power plants worldwide, generating a total of 372,210 megawatts worth of electricity. A further 68 nuclear power plants are under construction with an expected net output of 65,406 megawatts. [1]
This report will outline the effects of nuclear radiation on the environment, including all biological organisms and the abiotic environment as well as both benefits and drawbacks.
Effects on Organisms Using humans as an example, nuclear radiation have very detrimental and adverse effects on human beings. Being exposed to high amounts of radiation for an extended period of time will cause humans to experience radiation sickness. Symptoms of radiation sickness can include headaches, nausea, fevers as well as the possibility of obtaining cancer or causing severe damage to ones DNA. [2]
Nuclear radiation consists of ionizing particles, which are particles that individually have enough energy to displace electrons in an atom or molecule. By forcibly removing an electron and taking its place, the particle forms an ion-pair that are immensely reactive. This reactivity can cause major damage to cells and DNA. [3]
The Diagram shows how an Ionizing particle displaces an electron.
As seen in the previous diagram, the ionizing particle, represented in yellow, will have enough energy to “knock off” the electron of an atom, represented in green. The resulting ion-pair is very reactive and the reactions that follow can damage human DNA and tissue.
Radiation Chart: Relation between Dosage and Symptoms Sieverts, or Sv, is the international standard for measuring radiation dosage. It is meant to measure the biological effects of ionizing particles. Below is a chart provided by environmental journalist Ben Jervey that shows the dosage as well as consequences of exposure to nuclear radiation. [4]
The Effects of Nuclear Radiation on Plants and Soil Similarly to humans and animals, plants and soil are also affected negatively from high amounts of nuclear radiation. Just like in humans, radioactive material can damage plant tissue as well as inhibit plant growth. Mutations are also possible due to the damage caused to the DNA. Radioactive material in soil can prevent nutrient from being taken in by plants, causing it to be infertile.
The effects of nuclear radiation can sometimes change the biodiversity of an area completely. Taking the “Red Forest” in Chernobyl, Russia as an example, the area is filled with radioactive material such as Iodine-131 and Cesium-137 due to the nuclear power plant disaster. [5] Many plants and organisms died within days of the disaster and the soil of the forest could not support life. However, after many years, as the radioactive material began to reach their half-life, sturdier plants and animals began to inhabit the contaminated zone. Although the Red Forest is still too radioactive for humans to settle in, it has been proven that the biodiversity of life within the forest is currently higher than it was before the nuclear disaster. The forest is now currently a wildlife refuge where all kinds of animal and plant species thrive. [6]
Another example of nuclear radiation’s effects on soil is the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. The explosion at the nuclear reactor released clouds of radiation over much of Japan’s agricultural land. This caused crops to become irradiated and unsafe for consumption. The irradiated soil also bore irradiated plants or became infertile. Over 81,000 hectares of land were affected by the radiation. [7] Unlike Chernobyl, where European soil is good at absorbing radiation, and thus limits the amount of radiation absorbed by plants, Japanese soil is sandy, offering less resistance to radiation. Due to the lack of crops and food, many of Japan’s consumers have to rely on aid from other countries or imports. This has put considerable stress on Japan’s economy, not including the $13 billion that will cost Japan to completely decontaminate the affected area. [8]
A Journalist checking radiation levels at Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
Radiation Therapy Ironically, while radiation in high, uncontrolled doses can be detrimental and even fatal to a person’s wellbeing, it also has been proven that radiation can be used to treat certain health problems. The most significant of which are tumours and cancer cells. Radiation therapy is the use of x-ray, gamma rays or charged particles to kill cancer cells and reduce tumour growth. The treatment works by using the radiation to selectively damage the cancer cell’s DNA impeding or stopping its ability to replicate and grow. As the cancer cells slowly degrade, the human body’s natural defenses are able to naturally destroy the cancer cells.
Radiation therapy is not without risks. The radiation used is also very harmful to every other type of cell within the human body. This is why the radiation used is mostly in the form of a pin-point laser directed at an angle so as to not affect other tissue other than the cancer cells and tumours. [9] Radiation Therapy
Food Irradiation Another benefit of nuclear radiation can be found in our everyday lives in the form of food irradiation. As explained in the Fukushima case study previously, irradiation of food will make it unsafe for consumption, however, small amounts of nuclear radiation are able to kill bacteria and sterilize food, preventing spoilage. The amount of radiation needed for the process is so minute that it is safe for human consumption.
To emphasize the safety of the food irradiation process, only gamma rays are used, which means that no neutrons are present to cause radioactivity in the food. Furthermore, the source of the gamma radiation never makes contact with the actual foodstuff.
The extension of shelf life due to killing bacteria and other organisms can result in the lesser use of pesticide and preservatives in food. This also means that there is a lower risk of invasive species being exported to another country through the food. The increased spoilage time also allows for easier exporting over long distances. [10]
Conclusion Based on the information and case studies presented in this report, we can conclude that nuclear power and radiation can be both beneficial and harmful to humans and the environment. Nuclear energy is dangerous and unstable and may result in great damage to the environment if something goes wrong. However, if used properly, it can provide large amounts of energy for in place of fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources. Nuclear radiation has also proven to be effective in certain medical treatment and food processing that benefit humanity. On the other hand, many are skeptical about the use of radiation in everyday life due to the volatile and dangerous nature of radiation.

Effect of Colief Infants Drops Lactose on Intolerant Babies

Lactose, which is a disaccharide naturally found in milk and dairy products, supplies about 40% energy needs for human babies. However, due to a lack of lactase enzyme in the digestive system, lactose cannot be broken down in the small intestine and then will ferment in the large intestine, producing lactic acid and hydrogen gas. This results in severe discomfort, cramps, bloating, wind, and diarrhoea.
Lactose intolerance can lead to serious complications in an infant, such as persistent diarrhoea and failure to gain weight. Infants often suffer from transient lactose intolerance, especially after an infection. According to recent studies in the Department of Paediatrics, Guy’s Hospital, London, and a report on the British Journal of Community Nurses have shown that nearly half the babies suffered colic due to lactose intolerance. In most cases, temporary lactose intolerance resolves itself within four weeks, although some infants take up to eight weeks to fully recover.
Following research at Guys Hospital, which successfully identified transient lactase deficiency as one possible cause of Colic, Colief® Infant Drops are increasingly being prescribed by Doctors on the NHS. Nonetheless, many parents have reported that Colief® does not seem to work on their babies. (sjfksjd)
RESEARCH AND RATIONALE: The investigation is to test whether Colief works or not.
Briefly, lactase breaks lactose into glucose and galactose:
I would measure the changes in lactose concentration after adding the enzyme into milk solutions but in fact I did not have the equipments to measure lactose content. Therefore a blood glucose meter was used instead. Concentration of glucose formed due to lactose was broken down can be then determined by the meter.
However, the meter needed to be checked that it was functioning well.
Planning: Equipment:
ACCU-CHEK Aviva blood glucose meter from Roche.
Test trips for Accu-chek Aviva
Normal semi-skimmed milk
Solgar Lactase 3500 tablets
Colief® Infant Drops
Thermometer (to maintain the temperature)
Measuring syringes
Electric Balance
Measuring cylinders
Method Diluted the milk solution by adding water to milk until a point, where a suitable glucose concentration is reached- in reading range of the meter. Every time the milk was diluted, the glucose concentration was checked.
Put the milk solution in a glass beaker. Then place the beaker in a water bath (in this case – was a jug)
Keep topping up hot water to the jug to maintain the temperature (at 370C). A mercury thermometer was used to check the temperature in between.
Glucose concentration of milk solutions were tested before and after adding the enzyme. Carefully dipped the top of the test strip into the solution.
The data was recorded every one minute up to the fifth minute and every five minutes up to the 35th or 40th minute.
Plot the data. The change in the concentrations would prove whether lactose had been broken down and the enzyme did worked.
Risk assessments: I used the boiling water to add to the jug to keep the temperature the same – I had to be very careful when doing that. I did take everything unnecessary that can accidentally be broken.
Glass beakers were use instead of the plastic ones – because the plastic ones’ are heat insulate – make the milk solution’s temperature different. I also had to be very careful when doing this. Otherwise I might have broken the beaker.
It also needed to be extremely careful when working with the thermometer as when it broken the mercury can leak out which is very dangerous and toxic.
Practical: A trial experiment was carried out to make sure the meter worked and to find out the suitable measure range of the meter.
Using semi-skimmed milk.
Dilution of milk
Meter’s Reading
Too high
1 in 2 (5 ml milk 5 ml water)
Too high
1 in 4 (5 ml milk 15 ml water)
Too high
1 in 8 (5 ml milk 35 ml water)
26.0 mmol/l
1 in 16 (5 ml milk 75 ml water)
13.5 mmol/l
1 in 32 (5 ml milk 155 ml water)
07.2 mmol/l
A further step was needed to check whether the meter was measuring specifically the glucose itself or included glucose in the disaccharides, too.
Sucrose, which is also a disaccharide, is made of glucose and galactose. A solution of sucrose was tested with the meter. A negative result of 0 mmol/l proved that the meter only measured glucose in milk.
(Protein – 0.1ml = 20.6mg)
7 ml = 160 drops. 4 drops each time = 0.175ml – milk has been diluted – 0.1ml is used instead.
The second trial was to estimate how long it would take for the enzyme to break down all the lactose:
A ground Soglar tablet was added into milk solution.

From the two trials, we knew that milk solution needed to be diluted and the measuring time for each solution was about 40 minutes.
Results: With Lactose-free milk: as
The readings following were recorded at 200C

As the result, dilution of 1 in 16 was used.
The apparatus was set up exactly the same as the previous one.
Temperature was kept at 370C.

I decided to stop at the 15th minute as the glucose concentration seemed not to change anymore.
There should have been no change in glucose concentration in this milk solution because it is lactose-free, which means no lactose would have been broken down by the enzyme – no glucose made. However, the result showed there was a slight change in glucose concentration. This may be due to systematic error of the meter.
Semi-skimmed milk
Firstly, the milk was diluted.
Dilution of semi-skimmed milk
Glucose concentration
5ml milk 5ml water
26.6 mmol/l
5ml milk 15 ml water
18.1 mmol/l
5ml milk 35 ml water
8.9 mmol/l
As the result, the dilution 1 in 8 was applied to another two procedures.
Comment: Combine the results of two experiments;
When I ground and added the tablet to the milk solutions, the tablet only partially dissolved. In addition, the amount of enzyme calculated in one Soglar tablet is much more than in 0.1ml of Colief.
we can see that the tablet is not suggested to give to babies as it is not as effective as the Colief liquid.

The results of these experiments with SMA formula baby milk were unexpected. The glucose concentration kept fluctuating. This led to questions: Was there any problem with the meter, was there anything that interfered the meter? Or was the enzyme inhibited?
………………………. In the experiments, the temperature was kept at 37oC – this is apt for human temperature and meets the required temperature for the Colief to work properly.
About the pH, milk displays innate ability to resist the changes in the pH – its buffering capacity (this is mainly due to the presence of amino acid residues of caseins and whey protein and colloidal salts) . Therefore I did not worry to maintain the pH as the milk could do it itself.
The results can prove that Colief is not really effective – and this could be the reason why high proportions of parents having colicky babies (cause by transient lactose intolerance) have reported Colief did not work for their babies.
During the research I came across some products that were also recommended for colicky babies as Infacol, Lactase Enzyme Liquid.
I will do other experiments with low pH – like in our stomach environment – then I can know whether the enzyme will work in adult’s stomach when tablet (like Soglar) is swallowed