Environmental Engineering Reference
Accidents have occurred at nuclear plants, and a small number
have resulted in deaths. No matter how much care is taken,
accidents do happen. One of the most famous accidents
occurred in March 1979 at the Three Mile Island power plant in
Pennsylvania. One of the plant's reactors had a coolant failure.
Some nuclear fuel melted, and a small amount of radioactive
gas was released into the air. There were no deaths or injuries.
Still, the accident upset Americans, causing many to question
the safety of nuclear power.
Modern reactors are designed to prevent or minimize the
release of radiation. This was not always the case. In the past,
some plants were built without containment structures or
similar protection. A serious accident occurred in 1986 at such
a plant at Chernobyl, in what is now Ukraine. Dozens of people
were killed, and radioactive dust spread over a huge area of the
world. More recent accidents have affected mainly workers at
Nuclear plants are very expensive to build. They often cost
even more to shut down. Remote-controlled machines may be
used because the radioactive materials are often too dangerous
for people to handle. Authorities must seal off the plant area
for years to let the radiation level die down. Then, radioactive
materials need to be carefully stored away as radioactive waste
when the plant is inally taken apart. All this adds up to a lot of
money. People will have to weigh the costs and other problems
associated with nuclear power against the need to produce
clean energy for the world.