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Nuclear Radiation And Its Effects On People

1007 words - 5 pages

Radiation is energy emitted from the nucleus of an unstable atom in the form of particles and wave. All matter is composed of atoms, which are the smallest part of an element that retains the characteristics of that element. The atom consists of two parts, the nucleus of the atom and the electron shell. Within the nucleus there are positively charged particles called protons and neutral particles which are called neutrons. Orbiting around the nucleus (electron shell) of the atom are negatively charged particles called electrons. If the number of neutrons, protons and electrons are correctly balanced, the atom stable isotope. However, if the number of protons, neutrons or electrons becomes unbalanced, the atom becomes unstable. Once the atom becomes unstable, it attempts to balance itself by emitting excess energy from the nucleus, which is referred to as radioactive decay. During this radioactive decay, the energy that is emitted from the nucleus of the unstable atom in the form of particles and or waves is called radiation.There are four basic types of radiation found in a nuclear power station and each has its own characteristics. The four types of radiation are alpha, beta, gamma and neutron. Alpha radiation is the largest of the particles emitted from the nucleus of the atom, and thus has the least penetrating ability of any of the four types of radiation. Because of its size, an alpha particle can travel no more than an two inches in dry air, and can easily be shielded by a sheet of paper. However, because it is large and it deposits all of its energy in a short distance, alpha radiation is primarily an internal hazard, and if inhaled or ingested, alpha radiation can damage the sensitive internal organ of the body. The primary source of alpha radiation at a nuclear facility is the reactor fuel. Beta radiation is the smallest of the particles emitted by the nucleus of the atom, it can travel a few feet in dry air, and has the ability to penetrate the dead layers of skin on the body and deposit its energy in the live skin cells. Beta radiation exposure is normally referred to as a skin dose, but it also causes a special hazard to the lens of the eyes. Beta radiation can be shielded by a thin piece of plastic or aluminum or even a covering of clothing. Gamma radiation is the wave emitted from the nucleus of the atom. Pure energy with no mass or charge, gamma radiation is whole body penetrating. Referred to as a whole body dose, gamma radiation makes up 90% or more of a Radiation Worker’s exposure to ionizing radiation. Gamma radiation is best shielded by lead and other dense materials. Neutron radiation is a particle that can be emitted from the nucleus of an atom through either decay or as part of the fission process. The primary source is of neutron radiation at a nuclear facility is the nuclear fission process. Neutron radiation is normally found near the reactor when the plant is operating. Neutron radiation...

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