Unit 3: Ionising Radiation - Sources and Uses

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  • Ionising Radiation
    • Uses
      • Nuclear reactions make electricity, propel ships and power satellites
      • Cancer treatment
      • Research tracing material movements using radio-labelling
      • Hospital equipment sterelisation
      • Measuring paper and steel thickness
      • Production of artificial mutations in plant breeding programmes
      • Sterilising male pest insects
    • Sources
      • Cosmic radiation (10%) - sun releases charged sub-atomic particles that release em radiation
      • Gamma rays from lithosphere (14%) - radioactive isotopes release radiation (only gamma reaches us)
      • Internal radiation from body (11%) - activation products enter via food and water and decay
      • Radon from ground (50%) - decay of uranium atoms gaseous radon produced (long half life, releases alpha). May travel through cracks in building foundations and concentrate in rooms
      • Medical exposure (14%) - x-rays, cancer treatment and tracking substances use radiation (benefits outweigh risks)
      • Occupational exposure (0.3%) - high risk nuclear power, manufacturing, mining, medicine, research and airflight
      • Weapon fallout (0.2%) - testing of nuclear explosives contaminates Earth's surface
      • Consumer products (0.1%) - smoke detectors and camping gas mantles contain radionuclides

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