WJEC GCSE Physics 2 Nuclear radiation

nuclear revision :)

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  • Created on: 22-05-12 18:10
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Megan Nolan
Physics Revision notes:
Nuclear Physics
When the protons and neutrons in an atom are unbalanced, if the nucleus has too much energy, an
unstable nucleus is formed. To try and stabilise the nucleus, they emit energy, in the form of
radiation- alpha, beta or gamma.
Alpha () Beta () Gamma ()
Low penetration Medium penetration High penetration
(stopped by paper) (stopped by aluminium) (mostly stopped by
High ionization Medium ionization thick lead)
Large- 2 neutrons and High energy electron Low ionization
2 protons emitted from nucleus Is a ray/ wave
Sometimes known as a as the neutron turns Has no charge
helium nucleus into a proton + a beta 00
42He 42 particle
0-1 0
-1 e
Because alpha has a low penetration rate, the outside of the body is not in danger from it, as
it cannot penetrate the skin to ionise the cells. However, if it is inhaled, or somehow
swallowed or injected, it will ionise really easily and the lungs, stomach or other internal
organs will be severely damaged. Because alpha can't penetrate skin, it can't get out of the
body, and remains inside, continuing to ionise.
Beta does not fully penetrate the skin, so again, would only be severely dangerous if inside
the body already.
Gamma penetrates the skin easily, and can therefore be quite dangerous outside the body;
however, it has low ionisation. Gamma rays also leave the body really quickly, due to its high
Background Radiation:
This is the radiation in our natural environment, and is counted in counts per second in a Geiger
counter; it's usually around 14 cpm. Sources include man-made and natural sources, such as:
- Medical equipment in hospitals
- Nuclear power stations
- Emissions from burning fossil fuels
- Sources in food and water
- Sources in the atmosphere, i.e. radon gas in rocks
- Cosmic rays from outer space
- Within the human body, i.e. inside bones
Radon gas in the UK:
Possible risk of lung and stomach cancer
Colourless, odourless gas
The map shows the areas with a high amount of radon gas
Health risks and treatments:

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Megan Nolan
Health risks of increased radiation exposure include cancers, but some cancers can also be cured, or
reduced, with radiation- this is radiotherapy. Radiotherapy shoots radiation at the cancerous cells; a
low ionising radiation with a short half-life is often used (beta or gamma), it is also important that the
radiation is penetrating and can penetrate through the skin to leave the body quickly.
During radiotherapy, as many doctors as possible must leave the room to reduce the risks.…read more


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