Roll up your sleeves if you really expect to gain an overview of this broad and stunningly under published topic. We live our lives in a world that is many times more radioactive than it ever was naturally. The sources of nuclear pollution (uncontrolled radioactive material) were initially confined to bomb tests, but with the advancement of our understanding of the things we can do with radionuclides, we began to produce them by the tonne. Production means contaminated waste. What a headache.
Reactor accidents have contributed to increased background radiation. Big time. How many square miles of land do we just have to walk away from never to return before we get it? The monuments to our foolishness stand for all (or no one) to see: the apartment buildings, stores and shops as well as the houses of whole communities sitting empty. The parks and playgrounds desolate. And all of it contaminated.
But there are small accidents that occur regularly where a nuclear excursion (such a polite term) results in the release of some radioactivity as well as injury or death. What many are unaware of is the number of shipments of radioactive materials that occur by common carrier every day. This huge shipping slate means accidents can occur (have occurred) that result(ed) in the release of small quantities of radioactive elements. And that doesn't include the large sources that get loose around the countryside here.
In the breakdown of the USSR, many tonnes of nuclear materials went missing. Some frightening portions were weapons grade fissionable material. But there are many sources (source: a bulk quantity of radioactive material that was produced to act as a portable generator for radiation energy) that got away. Highly radioactive materials are unknowingly being stripped and recycled as scrap. Over there, and even over here, too.
We need to get up to speed on this stuff. All of it. And we need to spool up quick. There are two serious problems with radiation: it's seriously dangerous (and for a long time in many cases), and it's invisible. The latter makes it easier to ignore. Working around the stuff can get you dead in seconds. And you may not even know it until after the fact. Dramatic, but true.
Radiation due to uncontrolled radioactive waste and other unconfined radioactive material is a growing threat. It quietly adds its contribution to cancers and the genetic damage we as a people suffer from. Radiation is all around us. It sits in dim corners. It flows in our waters. It rides the currents of air all over the globe. It does so unfelt. Unheard. Unseen. And we sleep very well at night without thinking about it.