Radiation Protection and Environment

: 2020  |  Volume : 43  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 121--122

New nuclear projects: Public perception in general

DD Rao 
 Ex. RSSD Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
D D Rao
Ex. RSSD Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, Maharashtra

How to cite this article:
Rao D D. New nuclear projects: Public perception in general.Radiat Prot Environ 2020;43:121-122

How to cite this URL:
Rao D D. New nuclear projects: Public perception in general. Radiat Prot Environ [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 17 ];43:121-122
Available from: https://www.rpe.org.in/text.asp?2020/43/3/121/306284

Full Text

Nuclear projects include nuclear power plants, nuclear waste-processing plants, fuel-reprocessing plants, fuel fabrication plants, and nuclear material-mining industries. All of them do release effluents containing radioactive substances in a controlled manner as per design and well within the regulatory specifications, in the normal course of their operations. The quantity of effluents containing radioactive material varies from one type of plant to another. In the order, nuclear power plants and reprocessing facilities have slightly higher rate of annual releases compared to that of all other types of nuclear facilities. During routine operations, the annual effective dose to the member of public at Indian power stations, at the nearest public contact point (~1.6 km from the plant), for 2018 was as follows: Tarapur site – 3.16 μSv, Rawatbhata site – 38.3 μSv, Kalpakkam site – 17.51 μSv, Narora site – 0.30 μSv, Kakrapara site – 0.19 μSv, Kaiga site – 0.89 μSv, and Kudankulum site – 0.005 μSv. The prescribed annual limit is 1000 μSv. The effective doses are relatively higher due to Ar-41 releases at Rawatbhata and Kalpakkam. The annual effective dose from all other types of facilities will be much lower than the above. According to the latest report of the UNSCEAR, doses of <100 mSv are not significant and cannot be used for cancer risk assessment.

The general observation is that the public residing at and around the existing nuclear facilities including power plants are comfortable and have no complaints whatsoever, as far as low-level routine effluent releases or the nonexistent effects are concerned. However, there is a general opposition from the public for setting up of any new nuclear facility at the beginning, citing various reasons including radiation effects due to releases particularly during nuclear emergencies. It takes considerable efforts and time from authorities to convince the public, and work at the proposed plants gets partly delayed due to this.

The world has witnessed two major nuclear accidents (disasters) in Chernobyl (April 26, 1986) and Fukushima (March 11, 2011), causing widespread radioactive contamination around the plants and also crossed the country borders. These are the only two accidents at 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Events Scale in the history of nuclear industries. The former was due to experiments, going out of control of operators, and the latter was due to a natural calamity of Tsunami. The overall fatalities due to radiation exposure may not be very high (28 at Chernobyl, and 0 at Fukushima), but the impact of contamination (food and other materials) caused heavy damage to the progress of nuclear industries. The impact of such accidents is long time low level exposure of public (for years) and very high short time exposure to workers and the time required for normalization is too huge (one or two decades). All these things have added to the public mind to think and act against the setting up of new nuclear facilities. The public and also some of the governments (countries) are more fearful of the nuclear accidents rather than the implications of normal routine operations of plant, for producing electricity.

The current need for mitigating/reducing the overall impact is to develop methods and systems for capturing/containing radioactive materials in addition to effective implementation of advanced countermeasures. Although well-defined countermeasures do exist with each power station site (specific to its surroundings) and also periodic onsite and offsite emergency exercises are conducted, further work needs to be done to capture/absorb/contain the radioactive materials before they escape out of the power station exclusion zone.

In this issue, there is an article on polymer-based absorbers to selectively capture and retain radioactive materials. The study appears to be primarily based on laboratory experiments, but efforts may be made to utilize the principles for developing technologies so as to use them in nuclear disasters, may be in the form of thin sheets for absorbing gaseous releases, and recollectable boxes for putting into water systems to capture the radioactivity. Greater technological innovation is one of the requirements for their application.

There is another review article on the topic of prophylactics as a countermeasure for the control of radioactive contamination due to iodine. The review underlines the fact that the well-laid-down procedures of countermeasures were not utilized effectively to control the contamination in both the accidents of Chernobyl and Fukushima. Predistribution of potassium iodide tablets for self use by the public, immediately after the accident declaration, within 2 h, would be the best option for effective control of thyroid exposure due to iodine. Such works are always welcome for fine-tuning the existing procedures and methods.

Industrial-scale technologies are needed for absorption of radioactive materials, both from atmospheric and aquatic environments. If such technologies can reduce the impact even by half, they could well be used to convince the public very easily about the preparedness of a nuclear facility for handling such large-scale disasters. Releases from normal operations of nuclear facilities already have nil impact and the public are convinced to a great extent. In addition, adequate design safety features, construction capabilities, and excellent operational history already exist in the nuclear industries and the same has been proved to a larger extent over the years.