Atomic Bomb and Nuclear Power - Blessing Term Paper

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Subject: Energy
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #29973217

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Atomic Bomb and Nuclear Power - Blessing or Curse

DANNENBERG, Germany, Nov 14 (Reuters) - A force of 15,000 police sealed roads in part of northern Germany on Wednesday in a crackdown against protesters trying to disrupt the final leg of a shipment of nuclear waste. The security operation, one of Germany's biggest in peacetime and likely to cost at least 50 million marks ($22.52 million), entered its third day with the highly radioactive waste set to make a 20 km (12-mile) road trip to a storage site at Gorleben. (Blenkinsop, 2001)

Like fire, radiation should be respected but not feared. All life has evolved in a sea of radiation that existed from the start of time. To ensure the safety of the public and of workers, and to protect the environment, the federal government regulates the ELECTRICAL UTILITIES and the hospitals, universities and other institutions, which use nuclear energy and radioisotopes. The regulations are based on internationally agreed standards; in Canada the regulatory body is the Atomic Energy Control Board. In addition, more than 10 public inquiries have been held in Canada, dealing with various aspects of the nuclear industry, from uranium PROSPECTING and MINING, through reactor safety to the disposal of nuclear HAZARDOUS WASTES. The overwhelming conclusion of these examinations has been that it is in the public interest to continue with the exploitation of nuclear energy, subject to proper regulation." (ROBERTSON, 1997)

There have been numerous controversial issues in American history and throughout our society in the decades that followed after the end of World War II. Iraq was being staged as an attempt to stop a madman with the potential for creating weapons of mass destruction. North Korea recently announced that they have a fully functional nuclear bomb program. India and Pakistan are on the brink of nuclear war. The Atom bomb and nuclear energy can and often are called negative accomplishments -- simply a curse on mankind. "Nuclear power is madness. There are no plans to deal with the waste. It's like taking off in a plane, but having nowhere to land it," said protester Jens Hoffmann." (Blenkinsop, 2001) But, the atomic bombs and nuclear energy also have done positive things for our society. The two extremes are different views of the same thing. The atomic bomb and nuclear energy are both blessings and curses.

After World War II, we had been exposed to the potential devastating power of the Atomic bomb. But, in a sense, World War II had some positive effects on our society. "World War II ended the Great Depression of the 1930's. During the 1930's three totalitarian, militaristic powers had arisen in the world -- Germany, Italy, and Japan. Germany, under Adolph Hitler and the National Socialist (Nazi) Party, invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and Britain and France declared war upon Germany and its allies two days later." (Schoenherr, 2003) It is funny that in Germany where it all began, the curse seems to be winning over the blessing. "Nuclear power is a controversial issue in Germany, where government and industry agreed last year to gradually to phase out all reactors by around 2025. (Blenkinsop, 2001)

The World War II was bloody and devastating affair so when it ended it was seen as blessing. It is believed that on May 5, 1945, Adolph Hitler committed suicide somewhere in an underground bunker in Berlin. Two days later on May 7th, the German military brain trust unconditionally surrendered to General Dwight Eisenhower in France. In the aftermath of the surrender, many assumed that the enemy as a hole gave up. But the United States and Britain were still officially at war with Japan.

The continuation of the pacific hostilities with the Japanese led to, on August 6, 1945, to the dropping of a Twenty-kiloton Atomic Bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb was euphemistically called 'Little Boy'. That one bomb caused an unprecedented eighty thousand fatalities in a single detonation. But, not to be out done, on August 9th, a second Twenty-two-kiloton bomb, nicknamed the 'Fat Man,' man was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Like its brother, this bomb was responsible for seventy thousand deaths. Less than one week later, on August 15, 1945, the Japanese Emperor formally surrendered.

Natural nuclear reactors predated the man-made variety by about 2 billion years." (ROBERTSON, 1997) Never once had nature create such a diversion. One may feel that one hundred and fifty thousand deaths in a three-day span may be considered a curse. In Japan, this is obviously true. However, in the United States, the newly employed citizens that suffered a long financial depression welcome the atomic power plants and bomb making plants. They were considered a blessing. "The Clinton Engineer Works was built in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It was renamed the Oak Ridge National Laboratory after World War II. The Clinton Pile, the first true plutonium production reactor, begins operation in November 1943. By March 1945, K-25 and other gaseous diffusion plants were in full operation. The Hanford Site is built in Richland, Washington by the Manhattan Project to produce plutonium. The first reactor began operation in September 1944." (Schoenherr, 2003)

Ironically, forty-four years later the blessing has become a curse. "In 1988, radioactive contamination was found in the drinking water wells of residences near the federal government's uranium enrichment plant in Paducah, Kentucky. In response, the Department of Energy (DOE) connected local residences to municipal water supplies and began a cleanup program to identify and remove contamination in the groundwater, surface water, and soils located within and outside the plant's boundaries. Sources of the hazardous chemical and radioactive contamination included spills, leaks from contaminated buildings, buried waste, scrap yards, and waste lagoons. From 1988 through 1999, DOE spent about $388 million on these cleanup efforts." (Unavailable, 2000)

But, back in the 1940's, it was so important to harvest the vast potential power of the nuclear forces. And recovering form the depression was still a factor. Additional jobs were created when the military privatized the atomic boards that they created. "The Atomic Energy Act (AEA) was passed, establishing the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The AEC replaces the Manhattan Project on December 31, 1946. The AEA placed further development of nuclear technology under civilian (not military) control." (Schoenherr, 2003)

With civilians in control of our atomic programs, new developments that could be considered blessings began to be developed. "The Oak Ridge facility ships the first nuclear reactor-produced radioisotopes for civilian use to the Barnard Cancer Hospital in St. Louis. After World War II, Oak Ridge turns out numerous inexpensive radioactive compounds for medical diagnosis and treatment, and for research and industrial applications." (Schoenherr, 2003) "Radioisotopes are extremely reliable sources of heat for certain applications. An isotope of plutonium (plutonium- 238) formed as a by-product in nuclear fission reactors is used to power heart pacemakers and space satellites. Cobalt- 60 can be used to power navigation buoys. If the radioisotope emits gamma radiation, equipment using it must incorporate shielding to protect anyone nearby." (ROBERTSON, 1997)

With the threat of communism on the rise in the late forty's and early fifty's, the atomic initiatives began moving back to origins which would seem a curse. "President Truman orders the Atomic Energy Commission to develop the hydrogen bomb (H-bomb). And in February 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy launches a crusade to rout out communism in America. "McCarthyism" is born." (Schoenherr, 2003) Of course, even communism could not sto the more positive aspects of nuclear power from being produced. "The first usable electricity from nuclear fission is produced at the National Reactor Station, later called the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory." (Schoenherr, 2003)

Communism scared our society into action. In 1953, "U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announces U.S. policy of massive retaliation, that the United States would respond to any Communist aggression." (Schoenherr, 2003) The first completely nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus, was launched later that same year.

The 1954 witch-hunt called McCarthyism took a curse and turned into a blessing. After Senator McCarthy was publicly disgraced, in August of 1954, "The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 is passed to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy through private enterprise and to implement President Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace Program." (Schoenherr, 2003) As a result, more blessings than curses seemed to gel, for example an Idaho town, Arco, became the world's first town to be completely powered by nuclear energy and in July of 1957 The Sodium Reactor Experiment performed in Santa Susana, California generated its power from a completely civilian nuclear reactor.

But nuclear power reactors suddenly showed that they might not be the complete blessing they were thought to be. "Radiation is released when the graphite core of the Windscale Nuclear Reactor in England catches fire." (Schoenherr, 2003) A facility cleanup causes many uncertainties. "The extent, source, and nature of contamination yet to be cleaned up could affect the cleanup plan; the outcome of such uncertainties could increase cleanup costs." (Unavailable, 2000) Other technical risks like planning and…

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