What is radiation?

Answer:   Radiation is everywhere. It is energy travelling through space that may take such forms as light, wave or tiny particles much too small to see.  Sunshine is one of the most familiar forms of natural radiation. The health effects of radiation - both natural and artificial - are relatively well understood and can be minimized through careful safety measures and practices.

 

Background

Radiation is everywhere. It is energy travelling through space that may take such forms as light, wave or tiny particles much too small to see.  Sunshine is one of the most familiar forms of natural radiation.

Ordinary matters around us are made of atoms which have a mass concentrated in its nucleus consisting of neutrons and protons. Some atoms or their nuclei can split (fission) or fuse (fusion). Some atomic nuclei are unstable and transmute spontaneously into other nuclei with different properties and emit radiations (particles or electromagnetic rays). The radioactivity of any given nucleus is specific and characterized by the type of radiation emitted, its energy and the speed at which the nucleus decays. The main types of radiations emitted by radioactive nuclei are X rays, α, β, γ. Depending on their power of penetration, these emissions are blocked or shielded by paper, water, glass, aluminum, concrete or cement. Both natural and artificial radioactive atoms emit the same kind of radiation, with the same effects on living organisms. Protection against both is the same. Radioactivity is a natural phenomenon: the earth when formed 5 billion years ago consisted of a mixture of stable and radioactive materials and its radioactivity is of course now decreasing.

Sources of natural radioactivity are cosmic rays, inhalation (radon), soil (granite) while those of artificial radioactivity are medical, military (nuclear weapons test), nuclear power, occupational, accidents. Natural background exposures on the globe are at a mean value of 2.4mSv/yr but can be in many regions up to 4 or 5 mSv/yr and even up to 100mSv/yr in a few regions.

The health effects of radiation - both natural and artificial - are relatively well understood and can be minimized through careful safety measures and practices.

Remember the slogan “I am radioactive, and so are you ! ”. Our skeleton absorbs potassium and our tissues contain carbon, both of them are radioactive!

 

References: book “Understanding the future nuclear power, Bertrand Barré- Pierre René Bauquis”, WNU Summer Institute 2009 Abel Gonzales Presentation