Radiation is the term used to describe energy in the form of light or particles. Whereas most atoms in nature are stable and remain unchanged in composition and energy, certain natural or artificially created atoms are unstable, which means they are prone to spontaneous release either via energy or particles. The term for this spontaneous release is "radioactivity."
Annya was born in a village highly contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown of 1986. She has had cancer since the age of 4. On bad days Annya exhaustion and pain are too much for her due to a brain tumour that returned in 2000.
© Greenpeace / Robert Knoth
The nuclear industry is keen to remind us that radiation and naturally-occurring radioactive matter are a natural phenomenon and have existed since the beginning of the universe. But what they are not saying is that through nuclear power, bomb production and testing, humanity has managed to create radioactive materials that were previously unknown in the environment. Through mining and industrial processing naturally radioactive elements like uranium and thorium have been released into the environment when most of them were previously geologically isolated under layers of rock.
Accidents have occurred at factories that produce nuclear energy and at plants that use nuclear energy. Materials must be transported, which creates a risk of an accident during transport. In certain parts of the world, unmarked radioactive material is encountered in waste dumps, factories, abandoned medical clinics, and nuclear fuel facilities.
Radiation sickness results from excessive exposure to radioactivity. The earliest of these symptoms are nausea, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhoea, which may be followed by loss of hair, haemorrhage, inflammation of the mouth and throat and loss of energy. In severe cases, death may occur within two to four weeks.
Elderly and people with immune disorders are more susceptible to radioactivity. Children and the unborn are especially susceptible because of their rapid and abundant cell division during growth. Cancers linked to radioactivity exposure include most blood cancers (leukemia, lymphoma), lung cancer, and many solid tumors of various organs. Birth defects can include downs syndrome, cleft palate or lip, congenital malformations, spinal defects, kidney, liver damage and more.
The nuclear industry cannot operate without the release of massive quantities of radioactivity into the environment. For the global population, today and for hundreds and thousands of years into the future, this poison will forever remain a source of radiation that will effect their health and genetic pool. Global standards for radiation and health accept there is no safe limit for exposure to radiation - all this as a consequence of producing electricity through nuclear power.