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NUCLEAR

ENERGY
CHAPTER 6
RADIOACTIVE SUBSTANCES
Radioactive substances are substances that
have unstable nuclei.
A process where an unstable nucleus emits
radioactive radiation is known as radioactive
decay.
Radioactive elements will decay and at the
same time produce radioactive radiation and
heat to form new elements that more stable.
Radioisotopes
Isotopes are atoms with the same number but
with different neutron numbers.
Isotopes that exhibit radioactive properties are
called radioisotopes.
Element Stable nuclei Unstable nuclei
Proton
number
Neutron
number
Proton
number
Neutron
number
Sodium 11 12 11 13
Carbon 6 6 6 8
Oxygen 8 8 8 9
Types of radioactive radiations
During a radioactive decay process, one or
more of three types of particles are emitted
from an unstable nuclei.
The nucleus of a radioactive substance, which
is unstable, produces or emits alpha () , beta
(), and gamma () ray to form more stable
nuclei.
Radioactive decay with emission of
beta particles
Radioactive decay with emission of
alpha particles
Type of
radiation
Structure of
particle
Electric charge Mass Penetrating power
Alpha, consists of 2
protons and 2
neutrons
they are
helium nuclei
Two positive
charges, 2+
4 atomic
mass units,
4 u
Weak penetration
power
Can be stopped by a
thick piece of paper
Beta, Each beta
particles is an
electron
One negative
charge, -e
1/1820 u Moderate penetration
power
Can be stopped by an
aluminium sheet with a
thickness of about 0.5
cm
Gamma, A packet of
electromagnetic
energy, known
as a photon
It has no electric
charge, it is
electrically
neutral
It has no
mass
Very high penetration
Can only be stopped
by a block of lead, of
thickness about 3 cm or
more
Ionising power
Radiation can cause ionisation of matter.
Radioactive radiations collide with atoms of
the matter and knock electrons off the atom.
The atom is said to be ionised.

The depletion of radioactive rays in
an electrical field
Penetrating power
Penetrating power is measured by measuring
the total distance travelled from the point the
radiation enters the matter to the point it loses
all its energy.
The penetrating power of
radioactive rays
Uses of radioactive substances
Uses in Explanation
Agriculture Radioactive phosphorus-32 is used to measure the
effectiveness of manure.
Carbon-14 is used by scientists to study photosynthesis
Medicine Solution of iodide-131 is used to diagnose thyroids
condition
Cobalt-60 , a gamma emitting source is used to kill cancer
tumours.
Industry Radioactive liquids that are beta emitters are used to
detect leakage in the underground system of pipeline.
Geiger-Muller tube used to detect the level of radiation at
the surface is monitored
Uses in Explanation
Archaeology Carbon-14 is used to determine the age of fossils.
Food preservation Canned food are irradiated with gamma rays to kill
microbes (cobalt-60).
Gamma rays can prevent potatoes and onions from
germinating.