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Название: Nuclear power and the environment
Авторы: Hester R., Harrison R.
It is often forgotten that the human species has evolved in an environment
surrounded by natural sources of radioactivity. These sources are as diverse as
cosmic ray particles from space, potassium-40 in igneous rocks and the
radioactive decay products of radon, a gas emanating from the land beneath
our feet. Indeed, for many people, the so-called ‘‘radon daughters’’ pose the
largest health risk incurred by breathing air indoors. However, in the public
mind, artificial radioactivity is far more important, and since the cessation of
atmospheric nuclear weapon testing this is primarily the radiation associated
with the nuclear fuel cycle. This has already caused major pollution issues and
continues to have the potential to do so, unless handled with great competence.
The early years of nuclear power saw great enthusiasm for building
nuclear power stations stimulated by lavish but unfulfilled promises of cheap
electricity for all. This was followed by a period of disillusionment as the true
costs of building nuclear power stations, generating the power and subsequent
decommissioning became fully recognised, and the majority of investment
went into fossil fuel sources of power. However, recent years have seen an
increasing acceptance by politicians and the general public of the inevitability
of damaging levels of climate change unless greenhouse gas emissions are
curbed, and one of the few effective ways of doing so is through the adoption
of nuclear power as a primary means of energy generation.