Global Peace Destruction: The Fire of the Gods

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 8 May 2023

Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

Nuclear Energy Is the Fire of the Gods, Constructive in Good Hands and Destructive in the Evil Hands of Miscreants, as well as Misdemeanants [1]

The Scene on Mount Olympus: Zeus, resting with his eagle by his side, fondling Ganymede while Prometheus steals a single spark of the Fire of the Gods to gift to mortals on Earth. Little did Prometheus know of the peace disruption this act would cause, both for himself and for all Humankind.

5 May 2023 – Saturday, the 26th of April 1986 is an important day in the history of generation of nuclear power[2] and the hazards therefrom, of unleashing, by humankind, of the energy from nuclear fission.  It on this day, at 01:23 a.m. local, Moscow time, that the disaster occurred from the explosion in the power station leading to the massive the fallout of radioactive material, the “Fire of the Gods”, at the Chernobyl power station[3] in Ukraine[4], at the time under the control of former, communist empire, of Soviet Union[5].

It is relevant and important to review the mythological and indeed, religion of the Greeks, to illustrate the symbolism of the stealing of the Fire of the Gods and passing the knowledge, restricted to the realm of the Gods, to mortals. This heinous act, as classified by Zeus, the King of Gods, of mortals, acquiring the knowledge of “Fire”, eventually lead to the scientific expertise needed for the creation of the “Atom Bomb[6]”, a bomb which derives its destructive power from the rapid release of nuclear energy by fission of heavy atomic nuclei, causing damage through heat, blast, and radioactivity and untethered release of enormously destructive nuclear energy on the very mortals who were illegally given the energy by Prometheus[7].  Furthermore, this knowledge of nuclear energy, symbolically stolen from the guardians of the that body of “Fire Knowledge” caused destruction of the very abode of the mortals, planet earth, by nuclear fallouts, not only from the deployment of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, but also from accidental contamination, caused by various types of failures of the nuclear energy generating plants, throughout the world. This was amply demonstrated by the environmental disasters caused by failures at Chernobyl and at Fukushima[8] nuclear facility in Japan.

While the following text is traditionally regarded, as Greek Mythology[9] and relegated to the realms of classic studies by modernists, it formed the basis of the Greek religious beliefs, as well as highly respected and revered by that nation.  In the time before humans, the story narrates, there were the Gods and the Titans[10]. The Gods were great beings with immense powers, and Zeus was their leader. The Titans were powerful giants, who were older than the Gods. They fought for power in a great war that lasted many, long years.[11]

There were two Titans called Prometheus and Epimetheus[12] who were twin brothers. The name ‘Prometheus’ means ‘foresight’ and he was the wiser of the two, and the name ‘Epimetheus’ means ‘hindsight’, but this is a tragic tale, not relevant for the present publication. These, twin brothers turned against their fellow Titans and joined forces with Zeus[13] and the Gods. Together, through many battles and with great bravery, they proved themselves to be fine warriors in Zeus’ army. When the war was won, Zeus praised Prometheus and Epimetheus.  The duo watched as the defeated Titan army was dispatched to the fiery pits of Tartarus[14], in the Underworld. They also watched as another of their brothers, Atlas[15], was doomed to hold the Earth in the sky for all eternity, with each adjustment of his eternal posture of subservience, causing earthquakes and global tremors of varying magnitudes, causing untold destruction of the property and death of the mortals, much to the delight of Zeus. The twins did not come to reside on Mount Olympus, with the other gods, instead they made their homes on the earth and occasionally visited the gods in their palaces.

Furthermore, Prometheus visited Athena, the goddess of wisdom who taught him many things about astronomy, mathematics, architecture, navigation, metalworking and writing. Zeus tasked the brothers with creating the animals of the Earth and giving creature the traits of the gods. Epimetheus took to this challenge happily, bestowing the gift of flight to one creature, giving another, scales to shine in the sun, another had claws to climb trees and yet another could swim and swim and never come to the surface to breathe.  As Epimetheus created animals, Prometheus took some mud and began to sculpt.  First, he made a strong torso, then clever hands, sturdy feet and bright eyes. He had made them in the image of the Gods and goddesses, themselves. Athena thought that this invention was very well made and so she breathed life into them, Prometheus and Athena[16] had created the first humans, according to the Greek religious beliefs, just as the creation of Adam and Eve, in the Abrahamic faiths[17], although, it is not clear which gender was molded, in due proportions, of a typical mortal, first, unlike the creation of Adam, as narrated in the Book of Genesis [18]and the Islamic Quran[19].

A present-day example of the beautiful creation of mortals by Prometheus, probably modelled in the image of goddess Athena, is reflected and well demonstrated, in the elegantly sculpted, female phenotype of the Palestinian supermodel, Bella Hadid[20], pictures in a frontless dress wearing a bronze necklace at Cannes Film Festival in 2021[21]. Prometheus asked his brother for a trait of the Gods to give to his creation, but when Epimetheus looked, he had already given all the traits away. The humans would have no godly traits to help them in life. When Zeus saw the humans that Prometheus had created, he laughed. “Ha! Yes these will do very well! These humans are simple creatures, they can remain on earth and neither fly in the sky nor swim in deep waters. They may look like the gods, but they will remain mortal. We will allow them to look up to Mount Olympus[22], the home of the Gods, (on Mytikas peak[23]), and to worship us and our power!”, declared the mighty Zeus. Prometheus frowned. He thought his creations were more important than that, and that they could one day have a greater purpose. He promised that when he found the opportunity he would do what he could to help the fragile creatures he had created.

Zeus gave Prometheus another task. Since the humans on earth would worship the gods, they should be told how to offer tributes and sacrifices, properly. That way they would know that they must give the Gods the first pick of anything that was valuable. Prometheus saw this as a chance to cheat the great God and teach him a lesson. He suggested that he would show the humans how to sacrifice a bull, and how to split the remains into two parts. Zeus agreed that he would simply choose whichever of the two parts had the most value and so the humans would learn how to worship.  Prometheus began to make two piles of the sacrifice. On one side he laid all the healthy meat that could be eaten and the skin that could be worn to keep warm. He hid all of this under the remains of the bull’s great and smelly stomach and guts. On the other pile, he put the bones and the gristle of the animal and covered it with the fattiest meat. He taught this separation to the humans, and then called Zeus to come and choose which portion he thought was the better tribute.  Zeus looked in disgust at the stomach and offal and quickly chose the part with the fatty flesh and took it back to Mount Olympus to show the other Gods how well they were worshiped. When Zeus uncovered the worthless bones under the layer of tissue, he was embarrassed by his mistake. He had left the best of the meat behind and had been tricked by Prometheus the Titan.  Zeus realised that Prometheus cared for his human creations and so, to punish the Titan for his trick Zeus declared, “No human may use fire on Earth, neither to cook with nor to keep warm. You will be blinded by the dark of night and you will never forget how powerful the Gods are, and how it is by our power you have any food or warmth at all. Perhaps then you will remember to always worship us properly and not challenge us with these tricks again!”   The humans shivered in fear and in the cold. They had none of the traits of the gods and without fire they would stay weak. Prometheus was outraged, he could not stand by as the humans struggled to survive. Secretly that night, he climbed the steep rocks of Mount Olympus all the way to the very top where lay the workshop of Hephaestus[24], God of Blacksmithing and Fire. Hephaestus’ workshop was a great forge, where the weapons of the gods were made. In a corner he saw the arrows of Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, and on a bench there lay a pile of Zeus’ own thunderbolts ready to smite the earth.

Prometheus in the workshop of Hephaestus, the God of Blacksmithing and Fire.
Inset Left: Bella Hadid, attired by mortals, in a frontless dress, wearing a forged brass, “Bronchial Tree Necklace”, created by mortal.s
Inset Right: Current Supermodel, Bella Hadid, full view, arguably, the finest female, mortal creation of Prometheus, as commissioned by Zeus.
Photo Credits: Getty Images

Prometheus crept forwards to the gigantic anvil[25] and the blazing fire of the hearth, he took a single spark of the gods’ fire and stored it within a vessel he had made inside a hollow stalk of fennel. Safely he brought the spark back to the humans and while he stayed he taught them all the things that would help them to be strong.

Thanks to Epimetheus’ foolishness, the humans had not received any of the traits of the gods, Prometheus brought them these gifts instead. Along with the gift of fire, he taught them mathematics and architecture to build safe and strong towns. They learnt astronomy and navigation and soon they could sail the sea. He taught them to write and to forge metal and create things that would last for centuries. Fire meant that the humans could care for themselves, but it also meant that they could forge weapons, and then they waged wars. They chopped trees to build their homes, they travelled the seas and soon spread all over the world.

Some humans became kings and others were trapped as slaves among their own kind. Prometheus’ flames were responsible for the rise of civilisations and empires as humans embraced their power. Some became so powerful that they even questioned the authority of Zeus and the gods on Mount Olympus. Some thought that they themselves were gods.

Zeus was livid, not only had Prometheus stolen from the gods, but he had destroyed, perhaps forever, the subservience of humans. Most would still worship the power of the Olympians, but there would always be someone who would try to trick and scheme. Zeus’ vengeance was cruel. He captured Prometheus and had Hephaestus chain him to a cliff in unbreakable bonds. Zeus then called upon a vulture who came upon Prometheus every day and pecked and clawed and ate the Titan’s liver before flying away. Every night, Prometheus’ body healed and his liver would regrow, ready to be attacked again in the morning. Through all his torture, Prometheus never regretted rebelling against Zeus.  However, Zeus was a central figure in the religion of the Hellenic period in ancient Greece. The ancient Greeks believed in a pantheon of gods and goddesses, and Zeus was the king of the gods and the god of the sky and thunder. The Greeks believed that their gods were powerful, but also human-like in their emotions and behaviours, often making romantic forays into the community of the mortals, even fathering offspring, like Achilles and Hercules. The Greeks worshiped them through various rituals, sacrifices, and festivals. The worship of Zeus and other gods was an important part of daily life for many ancient Greeks, and their mythology and religious beliefs have continued to influence art, literature, and culture to this day.

The eternal punishment of Prometheus, by Zeus, for his theft of Gods’ Fire, chained to a mountain peak, with Zeus’ eagle eating his liver, daily, which regenerated every night.

His name was ‘foresight’ and he had always known that humans would change the world for good or for ill. His resilience in the face of oppression became a popular myth and even today he is celebrated for bringing knowledge, progress, and power to human hands.

The mortals advanced and developed nuclear energy from the initial, stolen spark of the “Fire of the Gods” Nuclear energy is a scientific and technological development that evolved over many years and involved the contributions of many scientists and researchers. The basic principles of nuclear physics were first developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by scientists such as Ernest Rutherford, Marie Curie, and Niels Bohr. In the 1930s, the discovery of nuclear fission, the process by which atomic nuclei can be split apart to release energy, opened up the possibility of using nuclear reactions to generate electricity.

The first nuclear reactor, designed to demonstrate the feasibility of nuclear energy for power generation, was built by a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago in 1942. The reactor, known as the Chicago Pile-1, produced the world’s first controlled nuclear chain reaction, proving that nuclear energy could be harnessed for practical use.  Following this breakthrough, a number of countries began investing in the development of nuclear energy for power generation. The first commercial nuclear power plant, Calder Hall in the UK, began operation in 1956, and the first commercial reactor in the US, Shippingport, began operation in 1957. These reactors were designed to produce electricity on a large scale, and the development of nuclear power has continued to this day, with nuclear power plants operating in many countries around the world. The development and use of nuclear energy have also been driven by geopolitical factors, particularly the desire of some countries to develop nuclear weapons. The dual-use nature of nuclear technology, which can be used for both peaceful and military purposes, has led to ongoing concerns about the potential risks and challenges associated with the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The nuclear bomb came before nuclear power. The first nuclear bomb was developed during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project, a research and development effort led by the United States with support from the United Kingdom and Canada. The first nuclear explosion, known as the Trinity test, took place in Alamogordo, New Mexico in July 1945.  After the war, many scientists and engineers who had worked on the Manhattan Project turned their attention to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including the generation of electricity. The first nuclear reactor, designed to demonstrate the feasibility of nuclear energy for power generation, was built by a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago in 1942, but it was not used to produce electricity.

There is a solid body of evidence to suggest that Hitler and the Nazi, German government were aware of the potential of nuclear energy during World War II. In fact, the German nuclear program, known as the Uranverein[26], was launched in 1939, shortly after the discovery of nuclear fission.  The program was initially focused on developing nuclear reactors as a means of producing energy, but after the outbreak of war, the focus shifted to the development of nuclear weapons. However, the German program faced a number of challenges, including limited resources, a shortage of qualified scientists and engineers, and a lack of political support from Hitler and other high-ranking officials. Ultimately, the German nuclear program was unsuccessful in developing a functioning nuclear reactor or a nuclear weapon before the end of the war. The Allied powers, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, were able to develop their own nuclear weapons and use them to end the war in the Pacific.  After the end of World War II, both the Soviet Union and the United States launched efforts to recruit German scientists who had worked on the German nuclear program, as well as other German scientists and engineers with expertise in related fields. This effort, known as Operation Paperclip [27]in the United States and Operation Osoaviakhim in the Soviet Union, aimed to bring these scientists to their respective countries to work on military and scientific programs, including the development of nuclear weapons.  The US Operation Paperclip brought around 1,600 German scientists and engineers to the United States, including some who had worked on the German nuclear program. These scientists were granted immunity from prosecution for any war crimes they may have committed, and many went on to make significant contributions to the US military and scientific programs, including the development of nuclear weapons.   The Soviet Union also made efforts to recruit German scientists, although the exact number and details of this program are less well-known. Some German scientists were indeed taken to the Soviet Union, although the scope and impact of this effort is a matter of debate among historians. The practice of recruiting scientists and engineers from other countries has continued in various forms since World War II, and has been criticised for its potential to promote brain drain from developing countries and contribute to global inequality.

There is great controversy surrounding the nature of the recruitment of German nuclear scientists by the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II. While some of the scientists were indeed recruited with their knowledge and consent, others may have been coerced or pressured into cooperating.  Some historians argue that the US and Soviet programs were not above taking advantage of the chaotic and uncertain postwar environment to abduct or coerce German scientists, often with the promise of protecting them from prosecution for war crimes or other offenses. Others argue that most of the scientists who were brought to the US or the Soviet Union were willing to cooperate, and that their contributions to science and technology had a positive impact on their host countries.  The exact nature of the recruitment of German scientists is still a matter of debate among historians, and it’s possible that different individuals were treated differently depending on their circumstances and the particular context of their recruitment.

When nuclear energy was first discovered and developed, scientists and engineers were aware of some of its potential side effects, including the generation of radioactive waste and the risk of radiation exposure. However, they did not fully understand the long-term implications of these effects, and in some cases, underestimated the risks involved.  Early nuclear testing in the mid-20th century resulted in significant levels of radioactive contamination in the environment, particularly in areas near testing sites.  Over time, our understanding of the risks and side effects of nuclear energy has improved, and safety measures have been developed to mitigate these risks. However, the potential dangers of nuclear energy remain a significant concern, and many scientists, policymakers, and members of the public continue to debate the risks and benefits of nuclear power as an energy source.

It is prudent to define some basic terminology and concepts at this stage:

  • Nuclear power: Nuclear power refers to the use of nuclear reactions to generate heat or electricity. It involves the controlled use of nuclear reactions to release energy, which can be harnessed for various purposes, including electricity generation.
  • Nuclear energy: Nuclear energy refers to the energy that is released during nuclear reactions, either as heat or as radiation. Nuclear energy can be harnessed for various purposes, including electricity generation, propulsion, and medical applications.
  • Nuclear power station: A nuclear power station, also known as a nuclear power plant, is a facility that generates electricity using nuclear reactions. It typically consists of one or more nuclear reactors, which produce heat that is used to generate steam, which drives turbines to produce electricity.
  • Nuclear reactor: A nuclear reactor is a device that contains and controls nuclear reactions, which release energy in the form of heat. The heat is used to generate steam, which drives turbines to produce electricity. Nuclear reactors are the key components of nuclear power plants. They come in different types, including pressurized water reactors, boiling water reactors, and others.
  • Nuclear meltdown: Nuclear meltdown is a catastrophic failure of a nuclear reactor, where the reactor’s core overheats and the nuclear fuel melts, potentially releasing large amounts of radiation into the surrounding environment. This can happen due to a variety of factors, such as a loss of coolant, a power failure, or a human error.
  • Nuclear fallout: Nuclear fallout refers to the radioactive particles that are released into the atmosphere during a nuclear explosion or meltdown. These particles can be carried by winds and spread over a wide area, potentially causing radiation exposure to people and the environment.
  • Radioactivity: Radioactivity is the emission of particles or radiation from the nucleus of an atom undergoing a nuclear reaction. It is a natural phenomenon that occurs in certain types of elements, such as uranium, and can also be induced artificially in nuclear reactors or weapons. The radiation emitted by radioactive materials can be harmful to living organisms, as it can damage cells and cause radiation sickness or cancer.

The physical side effects of nuclear energy contamination on the human body can vary depending on the level and duration of exposure, as well as the type of radiation involved. Some potential side effects of radiation exposure include:

  • Acute radiation syndrome: This is a serious illness that can occur when a person is exposed to high levels of radiation over a short period of time. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin burns, and damage to the nervous system.
  • Cancer: Exposure to high levels of radiation over a long period of time can increase a person’s risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as leukemia and thyroid cancer.
  • Birth defects: Pregnant women who are exposed to high levels of radiation can have an increased risk of giving birth to children with birth defects.
  • Reduced immunity: Exposure to radiation can weaken a person’s immune system, making them more vulnerable to infections and other illnesses.
  • Long-term health effects: Even low levels of radiation exposure over a long period of time can have negative effects on a person’s health, such as an increased risk of cancer and other illnesses.

The physical effects of nuclear energy contamination can also have psychological and social impacts on affected individuals and communities. For example, fear and chronic anxiety about radiation exposure can have a significant impact on mental health, and displacement or disruption of communities due to nuclear accidents or contamination can lead to social and economic challenges.

There is no specific “antidote” for nuclear radiation exposure, as the effects of radiation on the body are not caused by a living organism like bacteria. However, there are medical treatments that can help manage the symptoms of radiation sickness and reduce the risk of long-term health effects. If a person is exposed to high levels of radiation, they may be treated with medications to help prevent or manage nausea and vomiting, which are common symptoms of acute radiation syndrome. They may also be given medications to help stimulate blood cell production, as radiation exposure can damage bone marrow and reduce the body’s ability to produce new blood cells.

In addition to medical treatments, prevention and mitigation measures are the best defense against the harmful effects of radiation exposure. These include measures such as:

  • Minimizing exposure: Limiting exposure to sources of radiation, such as nuclear power plants or medical imaging equipment, can help reduce the risk of radiation exposure.
  • Protective measures: Wearing protective clothing and equipment, such as lead aprons or radiation shields, can help reduce exposure to radiation.
  • Decontamination: In the event of a nuclear accident or contamination, decontamination measures can help remove radioactive materials from the body and the environment.
  • Monitoring: Regular monitoring and screening can help detect early signs of radiation exposure and allow for early intervention and treatment.

While the above listed measures can help reduce the risk of radiation exposure and manage its effects, they cannot completely eliminate the risks associated with nuclear energy and radiation.

The effects of nuclear radiation exposure depend on a number of factors, including the type and amount of radiation, the duration of exposure, and the individual’s age and overall health.

Exposure to high levels of radiation can be very dangerous and potentially lethal, causing acute radiation syndrome (ARS) and leading to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and damage to the immune system and other organs. However, even exposure to lower levels of radiation over a longer period of time can increase the risk of cancer, genetic mutations, and other health problems.  Not all exposure to nuclear materials or radiation is immediately lethal or even harmful. Many workers in the nuclear industry, for example, are exposed to low levels of radiation as part of their job and are able to work safely with appropriate safety measures in place.  While it is correct that exposure to nuclear materials or radiation can be very dangerous, it’s not necessarily a death sentence, and there are steps that can be taken to minimize the risks associated with exposure. Mitigation is possible and a pragmatic approach to the serious challenge.

Aside from generating electricity, nuclear energy is used in various other applications around the world, as follows:

  • Medical uses: Nuclear energy is used in a variety of medical applications, including medical imaging, radiation therapy for cancer treatment, and sterilization of medical equipment.
  • Industrial uses: Nuclear energy is used in some industrial processes, such as the production of plastics and other materials.
  • Scientific research: Nuclear energy is used in scientific research, including nuclear physics research and materials science.
  • Food preservation: Nuclear energy is used to sterilise food products to prevent spoilage and to extend their shelf life.
  • Environmental monitoring: Nuclear energy is used in environmental monitoring, including the measurement of air and water pollution levels.
  • Space exploration: Nuclear energy has been used in space exploration, including powering satellites and space probes.
  • Nuclear propulsion: Nuclear energy can be used as a propulsion source for ships and submarines.
  • Archaeological use in radiocarbon dating of artifacts and fossils unearthed during excavations.

Food can be irradiated to increase its shelf life and prevent spoilage. The process of food irradiation involves exposing food to ionizing radiation, which can kill bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that can cause foodborne illness or spoilage.  Irradiation can be used on a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, meats, poultry, and spices. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of irradiation for a variety of foods, including spices, fruits, and vegetables. The use of food irradiation is controversial, however, and there are concerns about the safety and potential health effects of consuming irradiated foods. While some studies have shown that irradiated food is safe to eat and does not cause any harmful health effects, others have raised concerns about potential changes in the nutritional content of the food or the formation of harmful byproducts during the irradiation process.

As with any food processing technique, proper safety measures must be taken to ensure that the irradiation process is used safely and effectively, and that the resulting food products are safe to consume.  However, eating irradiated perishable food does not cause radioactivity to accumulate in the human body or animals. Irradiation of food involves using ionizing radiation, such as gamma rays or electron beams, to kill bacteria and other pathogens that can cause foodborne illness or spoilage. This process does not make the food radioactive or cause it to become contaminated with radiation.  The amount of radiation used in food irradiation is tightly controlled and carefully monitored to ensure that it is safe and effective in reducing the risk of foodborne illness or spoilage. The radiation levels used in food irradiation are much lower than those that would cause any harmful health effects to humans or animals.  The World Health Organization (WHO) and other health organizations recognise food irradiation as a safe and effective way to reduce the risk of foodborne illness and improve the safety of the food supply. The WHO has stated that “food irradiation is a technology that can improve the safety and quality of many foods, and its use is increasing around the world.”  To emphasise, eating irradiated perishable food is not a cause of accumulating radioactivity in the human body or animals.  The use of food irradiation is regulated by national and international organizations to ensure that it is safe and effective. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) both have regulations and guidelines for the use of food irradiation. These regulations cover the types of food that can be irradiated, the maximum levels of radiation that can be used, and labeling requirements to inform consumers that the food has been irradiated.

Internationally, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has established guidelines and standards for the use of food irradiation. These guidelines cover all aspects of food irradiation, including safety, quality, and labeling. The IAEA works closely with national authorities to help them establish and enforce regulations for food irradiation in their countries.

There are also independent organisations that monitor and audit the use of food irradiation to ensure that it is safe and effective. These organizations include the World Health Organization (WHO), the Codex Alimentarius Commission (a joint commission of the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), and the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.  These organizations regularly review and update their guidelines and standards for the use of food irradiation based on the latest scientific research and information. They also conduct regular audits and inspections of food irradiation facilities to ensure that they are following regulations and producing safe and high-quality irradiated food products.

In South Africa, the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) is responsible for the regulation and monitoring of food irradiation. The NECSA is a state-owned company that operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE). The NECSA provides irradiation services to the food industry and also regulates the use of food irradiation in the country. The NECSA has established guidelines and standards for the use of food irradiation, and it regularly monitors and inspects food irradiation facilities to ensure that they follow these regulations.  South Africa, been “A Nation of Thieves”[28], it is possible that corruption may occur in any sector, including in the regulation and monitoring of food irradiation. However, the South African government has established measures to combat corruption, including the establishment of specialized anti-corruption units and the implementation of transparency and accountability measures.  The NECSA[29] is also subject to regular inspections and audits by national and international regulatory bodies to ensure compliance with international safety standards. In addition, the NECSA has established a system for reporting any incidents or concerns related to the use of food irradiation. It is important that any suspected incidents of corruption or other unethical behaviour be reported to the appropriate authorities for investigation and action.

The above uses of nuclear energy can be beneficial, they also come with potential risks and safety concerns, and proper safety measures must be taken to ensure that the technology is used safely and responsibly.

Thus, mortals grew in power and eventually harnessed the power of nuclear energy, the power of which was immeasurable and would eventually cause widespread destruction. One such manifestation of the destructive power of nuclear energy was experienced in the Chernobyl disaster.  The Chernobyl nuclear disaster was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on 26th April, 1986, at the No. 4 reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located near the city of Pripyat in Ukraine. The disaster is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history in terms of both cost and casualties. The disaster occurred during a safety test, when the reactor’s power output surged out of control, causing explosions and a fire that released a huge amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere. The explosion and subsequent fires killed two plant workers immediately, and caused the death of 28 firefighters and other workers in the following weeks due to acute radiation sickness.  The radioactive fallout from the disaster spread over a large area, including parts of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and other European countries, and caused severe environmental and health impacts. The exact number of deaths and illnesses related to the disaster is still a matter of debate, but estimates range from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands. The disaster prompted widespread criticism of the Soviet Union’s handling of the situation and led to major changes in the international nuclear industry’s safety standards and regulations. A 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the plant remains in place to this day, and the site is considered one of the most contaminated places on Earth.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster was caused by a combination of factors, including design flaws in the reactor, human error, and a lack of adequate safety measures.  The reactor design used in Chernobyl, called the RBMK-1000[30], had several inherent flaws that made it more prone to accidents. One of the main flaws was the reactor’s positive void coefficient, which means that if the cooling water in the reactor boiled away, the nuclear reaction would actually speed up instead of slowing down. This flaw made the reactor highly unstable and susceptible to sudden power surges, which is exactly what happened during the disaster.  The immediate cause of the disaster was a safety test that was being conducted on the reactor. The test was intended to simulate a power outage and to measure how long the reactor’s turbines would continue to generate electricity using residual steam. However, the test was poorly planned and executed, and the reactor’s operators made a series of errors that led to the disaster.  During the test, the reactor’s power output began to fluctuate, and the operators attempted to stabilise it by withdrawing control rods, which are used to absorb neutrons and control the rate of the nuclear reaction. However, the control rods became stuck, causing the reaction to accelerate and leading to a sudden power surge that caused a steam explosion.  The explosion ruptured the reactor’s fuel rods and caused a fire that burned for several days, releasing a large amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere. The lack of a containment structure around the reactor also contributed to the spread of the radioactive material. The disaster was ultimately caused by a combination of human error and design flaws, as well as a lack of adequate safety measures and emergency response procedures.

The test that was being carried out at the Chernobyl reactor on April 26, 1986, was known as an “inertia test.” It was intended to simulate a power outage and to measure how long the reactor’s turbines would continue to generate electricity using residual steam.  The test was a routine part of the plant’s safety procedures and was required by the Soviet authorities as a condition of the reactor’s operating license. The aim of the test was to verify that the reactor’s cooling system could continue to function in the event of a sudden loss of power.  Specifically, the test involved reducing the reactor’s power output to a very low level and then turning off its main circulation pumps. This would cause the cooling water in the reactor to boil and turn into steam, which would then be used to power the turbine and generate electricity for a short period of time.  The purpose of the test was to determine how long the residual steam would be able to generate electricity and to measure the reactor’s stability during this process. The test was supposed to take place over several hours, during which time the reactor’s operators would monitor the process and record the data. Unfortunately, the test was poorly planned and executed, and the reactor’s operators made a series of errors that led to the disaster. The combination of design flaws in the reactor and human error during the test ultimately caused the catastrophic explosion and meltdown.

According to various reports, following investigation, there were several human errors that contributed to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, including:

  1. Inadequate training: The operators responsible for the Chernobyl reactor were not adequately trained to handle the complex procedures involved in the safety test.
  2. Lack of communication: The operators did not communicate effectively with each other during the test, which led to confusion and misunderstandings about the reactor’s status.
  3. Disabling safety systems: In order to conduct the test, the operators disabled several safety systems, including the emergency cooling system and the automatic shutdown system. This left the reactor vulnerable to a catastrophic accident.
  4. Violation of procedures: The operators violated established procedures by withdrawing too many control rods from the reactor at once, which led to a sudden power surge and explosion.
  5. Inadequate emergency response: After the initial explosion, the plant’s emergency response team did not have adequate training or equipment to handle the scale of the disaster. This delayed the evacuation of nearby residents and worsened the effects of the radiation release.

These human errors, along with design flaws in the reactor and a lack of adequate safety measures, ultimately led to the Chernobyl disaster. The catastrophe highlighted the importance of properly training nuclear plant operators, maintaining robust safety systems, and having effective emergency response procedures in place.

he Chernobyl nuclear disaster had a significant impact both locally and globally. Locally, the immediate impact was devastating. The explosion and subsequent fire released a massive amount of radioactive material into the environment, contaminating the air, water, and soil in the surrounding area. The nearby city of Pripyat was evacuated, and over 100,000 people were displaced from their homes. The disaster caused at least 30 deaths in the immediate aftermath, and many more people suffered from radiation-related illnesses in the years that followed. The long-term impact of the disaster is still being felt today. The area surrounding the Chernobyl reactor remains highly contaminated and is largely uninhabitable. The disaster had a profound impact on the local environment, with many plants and animals exhibiting abnormal growth and mutations due to exposure to radiation. The disaster also had a significant impact on the local economy, as many people lost their homes and jobs.  Globally, the Chernobyl disaster had a significant impact on public perceptions of nuclear energy and safety. The disaster led to increased scrutiny and regulation of nuclear power plants around the world, as well as increased focus on the importance of safety measures and emergency response procedures. The disaster also led to significant changes in the way that nuclear accidents are reported and managed, with increased emphasis on transparency and public information.

The Chernobyl disaster also had a significant impact on the global environment. The explosion and subsequent release of radioactive material into the atmosphere led to widespread contamination of the air and water, which had effects far beyond the immediate area. The disaster contributed to a significant increase in global radiation levels, with measurable effects on human health and the environment.  The Chernobyl disaster remains one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, with significant impacts on both the local and global levels. It serves as a reminder of the importance of properly managing and regulating nuclear energy, and the need to prioritise safety and transparency in all aspects of the industry.

The Chernobyl disaster had a significant impact on the future of nuclear energy. The disaster led to increased scrutiny and regulation of nuclear power plants around the world, and many countries implemented stricter safety measures and emergency response procedures in response. The disaster also led to a decrease in public support for nuclear energy, as many people became more aware of the potential risks and dangers associated with nuclear power. Following the Chernobyl disaster, there was a slowdown in the construction of new nuclear power plants, and many existing plants were required to undergo extensive safety upgrades. In some countries, such as Germany and Switzerland, there were even calls to phase out nuclear energy entirely.  However, despite these setbacks, nuclear energy has continued to be an important source of electricity for many countries around the world. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in nuclear energy as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. Many new nuclear power plants are currently under construction, and there are ongoing efforts to develop new and safer nuclear technologies.  Essentially, the Chernobyl disaster had a significant impact on the nuclear energy industry, leading to increased regulation and safety measures, as well as changes in public perception and support for nuclear energy. However, the industry has continued to evolve and adapt in the years since the disaster, and nuclear energy remains an important part of the global energy mix.

There are, as tallied in 2021, over 440 nuclear power plants in operation worldwide, located in 31 countries.[31] The number countries, while not comprehensive, with nuclear power plants, along with the number of reactors and their generating capacity, is listed as follows:

  • United States: 93 reactors, 98.5 GW
  • France: 56 reactors, 61.4 GW
  • China: 50 reactors, 52.9 GW
  • Japan: 33 reactors, 30.7 GW
  • Russia: 28 reactors, 24.2 GW
  • South Korea: 26 reactors, 23.2 GW
  • India: 23 reactors, 6.3 GW
  • Canada: 19 reactors, 13.5 GW
  • Ukraine: 15 reactors, 13.8 GW
  • United Kingdom: 15 reactors, 8.9 GW
  • Germany: 7 reactors, 8.1 GW
  • Sweden: 6 reactors, 6.8 GW
  • Spain: 7 reactors, 7.2 GW
  • Belgium: 7 reactors, 5.9 GW
  • Taiwan: 6 reactors, 5.6 GW
  • Switzerland: 5 reactors, 3.2 GW
  • Brazil: 2 reactors, 1.9 GW
  • Argentina: 3 reactors, 1.7 GW
  • Mexico: 2 reactors, 1.5 GW
  • Pakistan: 5 reactors, 1.4 GW
  • South Africa: 2 reactors, 1.8 GW
  • Netherlands: 1 reactor, 0.5 GW
  • Finland: 4 reactors, 2.8 GW
  • Hungary: 4 reactors, 2.0 GW
  • Czech Republic: 6 reactors, 3.8 GW
  • Romania: 2 reactors, 1.3 GW
  • Slovakia: 4 reactors, 1.9 GW
  • Bulgaria: 2 reactors, 1.9 GW
  • Iran: 1 reactor, 1.0 GW
  • Belarus: 1 reactor, 1.2 GW
  • United Arab Emirates: 4 reactors, 5.6 GW

The two nuclear reactors in South Africa are located at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, which is situated about 30 kilometers north of Cape Town, in the Western Cape province. The Koeberg Nuclear Power Station[32] is the only nuclear power plant in South Africa and has two pressurized water reactors with a total capacity of 1,860 megawatts. The power plant began operation in 1984 and generates about 5% of South Africa’s electricity.

However, some countries, such as Germany and Switzerland, have announced plans to phase out nuclear power, while others, such as China and India, have plans to expand their nuclear capacity in the coming years. Additionally, there are ongoing efforts to develop new, relatively safer and advanced nuclear technologies that could potentially transform the global energy landscape in the future.

It is necessary to note that all forms of energy generation come with inherent risks of danger to humans as well as the environment and malfunction of equipment, including nuclear power. However, some forms of nuclear power are considered to be relatively safer and have fewer inherent risks than others. For example, traditional light water reactors, which use water as both a coolant and a neutron moderator, are currently the most common type of nuclear power reactor in use around the world. While these reactors have a proven track record of safety, they still come with certain inherent risks, such as the potential for a loss-of-coolant accident, which could lead to a core meltdown.  There are other types of nuclear reactors that are currently being developed and tested, which are designed to be inherently safer than traditional light water reactors. Some reactors use different coolants, such as molten salts or gases, which can operate at much higher temperatures and pressures, allowing for greater efficiency and lower costs. These reactors are designed to have built-in safety features that make it more difficult for them to experience accidents like core meltdowns[33]. While all forms of nuclear power come with inherent risks, the degree and nature of those risks can vary depending on the design of the reactor and the safety measures that are put in place. As with any technology, it is important to carefully weigh the risks and benefits before deciding whether or not to use nuclear power as part of a country’s energy requirements.

Nuclear waste is a byproduct of nuclear power generation. It consists of the spent fuel from nuclear reactors, as well as other radioactive materials that are generated during the process of nuclear fission.  Spent nuclear fuel is highly radioactive and can remain so for thousands of years. As a result, it needs to be carefully stored and managed in order to prevent harm to humans and the environment. There are two primary methods for disposing of nuclear waste:

  1. On-Site Storage[34]: The most common method of storing nuclear waste is to keep it on-site at the nuclear power plant where it was generated. The spent fuel is stored in large steel and concrete containers, called dry casks, which are designed to contain the radiation and prevent it from leaking out. This is considered to be a short-term solution, as the containers will eventually degrade and need to be replaced.
  2. Deep Geological Repositories[35]: Another option for disposing of nuclear waste is to bury it in deep geological repositories. These repositories are located deep underground, in stable rock formations that are unlikely to be disturbed by natural events such as earthquakes. The waste is sealed in specially designed containers and placed in the repository, where it will be isolated from the environment for thousands of years. Several countries, including Sweden and Finland, are currently developing deep geological repositories for their nuclear waste.

The disposal of nuclear waste is a source of great community peace disruption, as it is now a challenge for the Japanese government following the Fukushima Nuclear facility destruction by a combination of natural event in the form of an earthquake followed by a massive tsunami, as it requires balancing the need to protect public health and the environment with the cost and feasibility of the disposal method. There is ongoing research and development of new methods for storing and disposing of nuclear waste, including advanced reprocessing technologies that can recycle some of the waste into usable fuel, but no perfect solution currently exists.

Water is used in nuclear power plants for a variety of purposes, including cooling the reactor and the turbines. This water can become contaminated with small amounts of radioactive materials as a result of its contact with the reactor and other components of the plant.  In most cases, the contaminated water is treated to remove the radioactive materials before it is released back into the environment. This is typically done using a combination of physical and chemical processes, such as filtering, ion exchange, and evaporation.  However, some nuclear power plants generate large amounts of water that is too contaminated to be released back into the environment. In these cases, the water may be stored on-site in specially designed tanks until it can be treated and disposed of safely.  In 2011, following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, large amounts of contaminated water were released into the Pacific Ocean. This was a controversial decision that was criticized by many environmental groups and some governments, who argued that it posed a risk to public health and the environment.  In Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, large amounts of contaminated water were generated as a result of efforts to cool the damaged reactors. This water was stored on-site in specially designed tanks, but the tanks are running out of space and the Japanese government has been considering different options for disposing of the contaminated water.  One option that has been proposed is to treat the water to remove the radioactive isotopes, including tritium[36], that are present in it, and then release the water into the ocean. Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is naturally occurring and is also produced during nuclear reactions. It is relatively weakly radioactive and can be removed from water using specialized treatment processes, but it cannot be completely eliminated. This option has been controversial, with many environmental groups and some governments arguing that it could pose a risk to public health and the environment. They point out that even small amounts of radioactive materials can have long-term health effects, and that releasing contaminated water into the ocean could have unknown consequences.  The Japanese government has argued that releasing the treated water into the ocean is a safe and responsible option, and that it is supported by scientific evidence and international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency. They have also argued that other countries with nuclear power plants, such as the United States and France, have released tritiated water into the ocean without any adverse effects.  Ultimately, the decision on how to dispose of the contaminated water from Fukushima will have to balance the need to protect public health and the environment with the feasibility and cost of different disposal options. The decision is likely to be closely scrutinized by the international community, given the global impact of the Fukushima disaster.  The disposal of water from nuclear power plants is an enormous challenge, that requires careful management to ensure that it does not pose a risk to public health or the environment, which are inevitable, hence the disposal issue is an eternal challenge.

Apart from the nuclear disasters and radioactive fallout, during “peace time”, at Chernobyl and Fukushima, considered the second worst disaster, facilities, there have been the following most notable nuclear reactor disasters:

  1. Three Mile Island accident (1979):[37] A partial meltdown occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, USA, resulting in the release of radioactive gases into the environment.
  2. Kyshtym disaster (1957):[38] An explosion occurred at the Mayak nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Russia, resulting in the release of large amounts of radioactive materials into the environment. It is considered the third-worst nuclear disaster in history.
  3. Windscale fire (1957):[39] A fire broke out at the Windscale nuclear reactor in the UK, releasing radioactive materials into the environment.
  4. SL-1 accident (1961):[40] A nuclear reactor in Idaho, USA experienced a criticality accident, resulting in the deaths of three operators and the release of radioactive materials.
  5. Goiânia accident (1987):[41] A radioactive source was stolen from an abandoned medical facility in Brazil, leading to the exposure of many people to high levels of radiation.

There have been other incidents, on a relatively smaller scale, involving nuclear power plants that did not result in major disasters but still had serious consequences, such as the 1975 Browns Ferry fire in the USA and the 2006 radioactive leak at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Canada.[42]

On 01st February 2023, a small radioactive pellet fell off a transport vehicle in Australian[43], while being transported along a 1400 km stretch road[44], triggering a major search.  Fortunately, the search was fruitful. The hazardous device was ultimately found near the town of Newman, located along a 1400 km route from the Gudai-Darri mine to Perth. Radioactive materials are transported around the world every day for a variety of purposes, including medical treatments, industrial processes, and nuclear power generation. The transport of these materials is subject to strict regulations and safety protocols to minimise the risk of accidents and protect public health and the environment. If a radioactive material is released during transport, the response depends on the type and amount of material involved and the circumstances of the accident. In general, the response would involve containing and cleaning up the spill to prevent further spread of the material and to minimize exposure to radiation.  The amount of radiation exposure that people might receive from a transport accident depends on many factors, including the type and quantity of material involved, the distance from the accident, and the time spent in the affected area. If there is a risk of significant exposure, authorities may evacuate nearby residents or recommend that they take protective measures such as sheltering in place or taking potassium iodide tablets to protect against radioactive iodine exposure.  Incidents involving the transport of radioactive materials are rare, and the safety record for transporting these materials is generally very good. The regulations and safety protocols in place are designed to minimize the risk of accidents and protect public health and the environment.

In the 21st century, another emerging challenge is the possible theft of radioactive material by terrorists and militia groups is a genuine concern, as it could potentially be used to create a so-called “dirty bomb” or other radioactive weapons. However, such incidents are extremely rare and the nuclear industry has strict regulations and security measures in place to prevent unauthorised access to radioactive materials.  Facilities which handle radioactive materials are required to maintain strict audit and control over those materials, including monitoring their use and storage, and implementing physical security measures such as restricted access controls, security cameras, and alarms. Many facilities also work closely with law enforcement and other agencies to monitor for potential threats and share intelligence on security risks.  In addition to these measures, there are international agreements and guidelines in place to promote the safe and secure handling of radioactive materials and to prevent their theft or misuse. For example, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has established a Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources[45], which outlines principles and measures for ensuring the safe and secure use, storage, transport, and disposal of radioactive sources. While the threat of theft or misuse of radioactive materials is a concern, the nuclear industry and international community have taken many steps to prevent such incidents and minimize the risks associated with handling and transporting radioactive materials.

The International Atomic Energy Agency [46](IAEA) is an international organization established in 1957 to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to prevent its use for military purposes, such as nuclear weapons. Its mandate includes:

  1. Promoting the safe and peaceful use of nuclear technology: The IAEA provides technical support and advice to member states on the safe and secure use of nuclear technology for energy, medicine, agriculture, and other peaceful purposes. It also promotes research and development in these areas.
  2. Safeguarding nuclear materials and facilities: The IAEA works to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by verifying that nuclear materials and facilities are being used only for peaceful purposes. It carries out inspections and monitors nuclear activities to ensure compliance with international safeguards agreements.
  3. Promoting nuclear safety and security: The IAEA works to enhance the safety and security of nuclear facilities and activities, including nuclear power plants, through the development of international safety standards and guidance. It also provides training and assistance to member states in emergency preparedness and response.
  4. Facilitating cooperation in nuclear technology: The IAEA promotes cooperation among member states in the development and use of nuclear technology, including research and development, technology transfer, and sharing of expertise.

The IAEA is governed by a Board of Governors, consisting of representatives from member states, and is headed by a Director General, who is appointed by the Board. The agency is funded primarily by contributions from its member states.

Main Picture: Chernobyl Nuclear Facility showing the scale of the destruction
Inset Bottom: The fire damaged paediatric ward, with dolls placed in the children’s beds.
Inset Middle: Long Term effects of radiation exposure, from the nuclear fallout, in children and adults.
Inset Top: Chernobyl Reactor 4 before the explosion on 26 April 1986 at 0123 am Moscow Time
Photo Credits: Getty Images

The Bottom Line is that there is a Chernobyl city in Ukraine, located about 14 kilometers south of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The city was established in the 12th century and is named after a type of plant called wormwood that grows abundantly in the area. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant, is actually named after the nearby city of Pripyat[47]. However, the disaster that occurred at the plant on April 26, 1986, became known as the Chernobyl disaster, and the name has since been associated with the power plant.  There were four nuclear reactors at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, and the explosion occurred in reactor number four on 26th April 1986. The abandoned buildings and funfairs that are shown in pictures and videos are mostly located in the nearby city of Pripyat, which was evacuated after the Chernobyl disaster. Pripyat[48] was founded in 1970 as a purpose-built city to house workers for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plan and it is located only a few kilometers away from the plant. After the disaster, the entire population of Pripyat was evacuated, and the city has remained abandoned ever since.  After the Chernobyl disaster, the damaged reactor was sealed off and a massive clean-up and decontamination operations were undertaken. The site is now managed by the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management[49], and the exclusion zone around the plant remains in effect. After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the three remaining reactors at the power plant continued to operate. The second reactor was shut down in 1991 due to technical problems, and the last reactor was shut down in 2000 as a condition of Ukraine’s entry into the European Union[50] of 27 countries. The first reactor was shut down in 1996, shortly after the plant’s disaster, and the third reactor was shut down in 1997 due to safety concerns. The plant was officially decommissioned in 2000 and was partially shut down in 2000, and the remaining reactors were finally shut down in 2008. A large containment structure, known as the New Safe Confinement, was completed in 2019[51] to prevent further radiation leaks from the damaged reactor.

The site is now considered decommissioned, although the process of dismantling the reactors and other facilities is ongoing, Chernobyl itself is now largely abandoned, with only a few hundred people living in the exclusion zone. However, there are still workers who maintain the site and ensure the safety of the surrounding areas. Ironically, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has become a popular destination for tourists interested in the history and science of the disaster.

Chernobyl itself, is located in Ukraine and is therefore under the control of the Ukrainian government, at present. The surrounding Exclusion Zone, which was established after the Chernobyl disaster, is also under Ukrainian government control. However, the nuclear power plant itself is owned and operated by the Ukrainian state enterprise “Energoatom”[52]. However, the Soviet Union, of which Russia was the largest and most powerful republic, was responsible for the Chernobyl nuclear program and the management of the disaster response, but is not involved in its current operations or management.

The exact number of deaths due to the Chernobyl disaster is a subject of debate, and estimates vary. According to the official Soviet Union record, two plant workers died on the night of the explosion, and 28 firefighters and plant workers died of acute radiation sickness in the following weeks. However, other estimates suggest that the immediate death toll could have been higher, and that the long-term death toll due to radiation exposure is difficult to accurately determine.  The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR)[53] estimated in 2000 that up to 4,000 deaths could be attributed to the accident, including the immediate deaths and deaths from radiation-induced cancer.  Other estimates have put the total number of deaths much higher, up to tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands, but these estimates remain unconfirmed.  Many people who were exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl disaster suffered from other health problems, such as thyroid and other malignancies, who subsequently demised.

In Greek mythology, Prometheus famously stole the Fire of the Gods’ from the heavens and gave it to humankind, thus bestowing upon mortals the power to create and destroy. The parallel between the myth of the theft of Zeus’s fire and the discovery of nuclear energy is striking. Like fire, nuclear energy has the power to transform and shape the world, for better or for worse. The Chernobyl disaster, where human error and technological failure led to catastrophic consequences, serves as a sobering reminder of the dangers of playing with such immense power. The Fukushima disaster, which resulted from a combination of natural disaster and human error, underscores the fact that even the most advanced technology can be vulnerable to unexpected events. The bombings of Hiroshima[54] and Nagasaki[55], which marked the first and only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, stand as a haunting reminder of the terrible toll that humans can inflict on each other when we wield the power of the atom, the symbolic “Fire of the Gods”, with “No “atoms for Peace”[56]. These events, both mythical and historical, serve as cautionary reminders about the importance of prudence and responsibility in the pursuit of knowledge and power.

The poignant odyssey of Prometheus and the theft of only a spark of the fire of Gods’ serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us that knowledge and power can bring both benefits and risks. The story remains relevant even in the 21st century, as we continue to grapple with the challenges posed by nuclear power and its consequences.  As mortals, we have abused the power of nuclear energy, just as Prometheus abused the power of the “Fire of the Gods” causing an enormous peace destruction, with “NO atoms spared”. Like Prometheus, we must learn to use this knowledge responsibly and with caution, lest we cause further harm to ourselves, the world, and even further climatic degradation and environmental change, around us.  It is also prudent to remember that During World War II, the German nuclear weapons project[57] aimed to develop nuclear weapons by using heavy water as a moderator for nuclear reactors, when two scientists, Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, declared in an issue of the scientific journal.[58] In December 1938, German chemist Otto Hahn [59]and his assistant Fritz Strassmann sent a manuscript to the German science journal on nuclear fission.  The official Nazi Nuclear Pogramme commenced in April 1939.[60] Heavy water is a form of water where the hydrogen atoms in the water molecule are replaced with deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen. Deuterium[61] has a neutron in addition to the proton found in regular hydrogen, making it twice as heavy as normal hydrogen. The chemical formula for heavy water is D2O, which means it has two atoms of deuterium and one atom of oxygen. Heavy water has a slightly different set of chemical and physical properties compared to regular water, and is used in various industrial and scientific applications, including nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons production. Heavy water is used as a neutron moderator in certain types of nuclear reactors, such as pressurized heavy water reactors[62] (PHWRs). In these reactors, heavy water is used to slow down neutrons so that they are more likely to cause fission in the reactor’s fuel, which usually contains uranium-235 [63]or plutonium-239[64]. Heavy water is preferred as a moderator in these reactors because it has a higher neutron capture cross-section than regular water, which means that it is better at slowing down neutrons. Additionally, heavy water is less likely to absorb neutrons than regular water, which can help improve the efficiency of the nuclear reaction. The Norwegian Vemork hydroelectric plant was one of the few sources of heavy water in the world, and it was under German control during the war.  In 1943, the Norwegian resistance, with the help of the British Special Operations Executive[65] (SOE), planned and executed Operation Gunnerside[66], which was a successful sabotage mission to destroy the heavy water production facility at Vemork[67].  After the initial mission, the Germans attempted to ship the remaining heavy water to Germany via the port of Rjukan[68]. However, the Norwegian resistance learned of this plan and on February 20, 1944, a team of Norwegian resistance fighters successfully sank the ferry, the SF Hydro[69], carrying the heavy water across Lake Tinn in Norway[70]. The operation, known as Operation Freshman[71], was a costly failure for the British, as two Airspeed Horsa gliders, carrying commandos, crashed in Norway, killing 41 men.[72] However, as destiny for mortals was preordained, by powers that be, the sabotage of the heavy water plant and the sinking of the SF Hydro delayed the German nuclear program, and they were never able to produce a nuclear weapon during the war, which could have had a completely revised world order of Aryan supremacy[73], under the Nazi regime[74], with Hitler[75] winning the war, deploying nuclear weapons on allies.

Main Picture: The Chernobyl Power Station, aerial view, showing the effects of the massive explosion and fire following the meltdown.
Inset Right Bottom: Discarded, used Personal Protective Equipment: gas masks strew in a room.
Inset Right: Post nuclear fallout in the nearby city, of Pripyat, around the Nuclear Power Facility showing the abandoned funfair.
Inset Right: The inside of a reactor hall in the nuclear facility, with personnel in protective gear, measuring radioactivity and filming.
Inset Right Top: The area surrounding the nuclear power facility, post nuclear fallout, with personnel analysing the levels of radioactivity.
Photographs credits: Getty Images

References:

[1] Personal quote by author April2023

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_Nuclear_Power_Plant

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Union

[6] https://www.britannica.com/technology/atomic-bomb#:~:text=atomic%20bomb%2C%20also%20called%20atom%20bomb%2C%20weapon%20with,a%20heavy%20element%20such%20as%20plutonium%20or%20uranium.

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_nuclear_disaster

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Greek_mythological_figures

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titans

[11] https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/world-museum/greek-myths-and-legends/prometheus-stealing-fire-gods

[12] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epimetheus

[13] https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/gods/zeus/#:~:text=Facts%20about%20Zeus%201%20Zeus%20became%20the%20ruler,having%20many%20affairs%20with%20mortal%20women.%20More%20items

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartarus

[15] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_(mythology)

[16] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athena#:~:text=Athena%20or%20Athene%2C%20often%20given%20the%20epithet%20Pallas%2C,from%20which%20she%20most%20likely%20received%20her%20name.

[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrahamic_religions

[18]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Genesis#:~:text=The%20Book%20of%20Genesis%2C%20the%20first%20book%20of,primeval%20history%20%28chapters%201%E2%80%9311%29%20and%20the%20ancestral%20

[19] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quran

[20] https://www.the-sun.com/news/2901304/what-ethnicity-is-bella-hadid/

[21] https://people.com/style/bella-hadid-talks-2021-cannes-red-carpet-lung-necklace/

[22] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Olympus

[23] https://www.bing.com/search?q=mount+olympus+home+of+zeus&qs=n&form=QBRE&sp=-1&ghc=2&lq=0&pq=mount+olympus+home+of+zeus&sc=6-26&sk=&cvid=FA58AB98340E4E71BC6BA450E01D1DC9&ghsh=0&ghacc=0&ghpl=#:~:text=the%20Greek%20gods%2C-,on%20Mytikas%20peak,-.%20The%20mountain

[24] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hephaestus

[25] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Prometheus-Greek-god

[26] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_nuclear_weapons_program

[27] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Paperclip

[28] https://www.transcend.org/tms/2023/05/national-peace-disruption-this-is-a-nation-of-thieves/

[29] https://www.necsa.co.za/

[30] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RBMK

[31] https://www.nei.org/resources/statistics/world-nuclear-power-plants-in-operation

[32] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koeberg_Nuclear_Power_Station

[33] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_meltdown

[34] https://world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fuel-cycle/nuclear-waste/storage-and-disposal-of-radioactive-waste.aspx#Near-Surface%20Disposal

[35] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_geological_repository#:~:text=A%20deep%20geological%20repository%20is%20a%20way%20of,of%20long-term%20isolation%20and%20containment%20without%20future%20maintenance.

[36] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium

[37] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mile_Island_accident

[38] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyshtym_disaster

[39] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windscale_fire

[40] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SL-1

[41] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goi%C3%A2nia_accident

[42] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Nuclear_Generating_Station

[43] https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/31/business/missing-radioactive-capsule-explainer-rio-tinto-intl-hnk/index.html

[44] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-64483271

[45] https://www.iaea.org/publications/6956/code-of-conduct-on-the-safety-and-security-of-radioactive-sources

[46] https://www.iaea.org/

[47] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pripyat

[48] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pripyat

[49] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_Exclusion_Zone

[50] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union

[51] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_New_Safe_Confinement

[52] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energoatom

[53] https://www.unscear.org/

[54] https://www.transcend.org/tms/2023/04/global-symbols-of-peace-part-2-the-peace-flame-in-hiroshima/

[55] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

[56] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atoms_for_Peace

[57] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_nuclear_weapons_program

[58] https://www.bing.com/search?q=Fr%C3%A9d%C3%A9ric%20Joliot-Curie%20wikipedia&form=WIKIRE

[59] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discovery_of_nuclear_fission

[60] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_nuclear_weapons_program

[61] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deuterium

[62] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressurized_heavy-water_reactor

[63] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium-235

[64] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium-239

[65] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Operations_Executive

[66] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian_heavy_water_sabotage

[67] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian_heavy_water_sabotage

[68] https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1486/

[69] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SF_Hydro

[70] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinnsj%C3%A5

[71] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Freshman

[72] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_glider

[73] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryanism

[74] https://www.britannica.com/event/Nazism

[75] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler

______________________________________________

Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All
Email: vawda@ukzn.ac.za


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 8 May 2023.

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