These pollutants and harmful products produced during combustion of fuels have serious effects on the health of living beings. It is not only the process of combustion of fossil fuels that pollute our environment; the nuclear reactions also pollute our environment. The pollutants introduced by the nuclear reactions are much more dangerous than the pollutants generated during chemical combustion of fuels. Therefore, more stringent precautions have to be applied while carrying out nuclear reactions.
Radioactive substances emit certain highly penetrating, invisible rays. These rays consist of alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays .These rays possess a lot of energy and are highly damaging. Similar rays or radiations are produced during nuclear reactions also. The alpha particles, the beta particles and the high energy rays such as gamma rays (produced during nuclear fission reactions and during natural radioactivity) are collectively called nuclear radiation.
Nuclear radiation can easily penetrate our body and cause irreparable damage to the living cells. A flow or high-energy particles may cause destruction of a vital enzyme, hormone or chromosome needed for life of a cell. The radiation effect on the body can be divided in two types: somatic effects and genetic effects. Somatic effects are confined only to the population, which is exposed to radiation whereas genetic effects are passed onto subsequent generations. Due to the serious effects, which the nuclear radiations have on the living beings, it is necessary to protect them from these harmful radiations.
In order to prevent the leakage of these highly toxic and dangerous radiations, a nuclear reactor is covered with a thick coat of radiation absorbent materials. In spite all of the precautions, the chances of leakage the radiations and the consequent damage to the population living around, always remain. Leakage of radiation may take place due to the faulty design of the nuclear reactors or due to some natural calamity such as earthquake, striking a perfectly designed reactor.
Two major accidents in the nuclear reactors have already occurred in the world. The first accident occurred in the United States at the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island in March; 1979. This resulted into extensive leakage of radiations. The second accident nuclear reactor took place in the Soviet Union at serious damage to the environment and to the population living around.