You are on page 1of 2

1

Radioactive decay
By: Ilse van de Geijn & Max de Rooij

Radioactive decay or radioactivity is a certain property of a
substance, discovered by Henri Becquerel and Marie and
Pierre Curie. The measuring units of radioactivity are also
named Becquerel and Curie after them. Most of the
elements are stable, they do not change, nor they are part
of a chemical reaction and so, all the atoms in the element
stay the same. But in some elements the atoms change.
During the change, the atoms can send out three types of
particles, alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays.
The alpha and beta particles have been discovered by
Ernest Rutherford, the gamma rays have been discovered
by Paul Villard. But, is radioactivity beneficial for the
human race, or is it a discovery that will lead to the extinct
of all the human beings on the planet?
Radioactivity can be used for X-ray scans and cancer treatments. With the X-ray scans doctors are
able to check whether a patient incurred a bone fracture. Cancer can be treated by radiation in
different types. External radiation is used to reach areas deeper inside the body and orthovolt is used
when the area which has to be treated is not located too deep in a body. Ortho volt is used with
different types of skin cancer for example. Internal radiation is in fact placing a tiny source of
radioactivity in the body with for example small needles.
It can also be used to produce high amounts of electricity without harming the environment a lot.
When a radioactive nucleus absorbs a neutron, it may release an enormous amount of energy
including kinetic energy, gamma rays and some free neutrons. The kinetic energy is converted to
thermal energy and this heat will be absorbed by water or another gas or liquid that can be used for
cooling and is used to generate steam.
But some serious disadvantages of radioactivity are the dangerous aspects of using this type of
science. Radioactivity can interrupt the connecting process of living cells. This can express in defaults
in mitosis. Such mistakes of the body can cause cancers. Not only this, but also some serious damage
can be done to cells. Radioactivity is able to change characteristics of cells, so in fact it can change
DNA. This damage to the DNA can be inheritable, especially if the egg or sperm cells are damaged by
the radiation. When a woman gets radioactively infected it is more likely for her to develop
handicapped children or a child with physical deviation. A good example of this is the disaster in
Chernobyl in 1986. An incredibly huge disaster occurred. In the middle of the night, one of
Chernobyls four nuclear reactors exploded. Most new-borns after this major disaster are deformed
because of the damaged DNA of their parents. Also many people who had been exposed the high
radioactive radiation got ill. Their bodies developed cancer and other constant diseases. A common
type of cancer is thyroid cancer. Scientists expect 8000-10.000 people to suffer from this cancer by a
couple of years from now owing to high radioactive radiation.

2

Also, radioactivity can be used to produce nuclear weapons. The bombs that were dropped on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also made with radioactivity. Still there is a thread that one day a
nuclear war will break out. If this happens, no human will survive. That is why the UN forbids the use
of nuclear weaponry.
Of course, we now know a lot more about radioactivity than when they had
first discovered it. Now we know that we have to be very careful with
radioactive decay, it can cause serious damage to our body. Safety has
become a priority when working with radioactive materials, unlike in the
past, when many people got ill because of experimenting with radioactivity
unsafely. Nowadays we got certain signs that indicate that radioactivity is
present and the working conditions in a nuclear facility have been improved
significantly.
We conclude that the discovery of radioactivity is good for humanity as long
as it is used for medical treatment etc. It may not be used as a weapon because it is very dangerous
and can cause many diseases. It is certainly useful if you want to decrease the amount of pollution
and decelerate the global warming, but you have to remember that safety is the main priority when
working with radiation. Because nobody deserves it to suffer from a horrible disease or even die. But
how did we come to such a subject?
We found radioactivity particularly interesting because theres a major discussion going on whether
its good or bad to use it. It can be used for many things, not only war. In the early days, when the
first radioactive element radium was discovered, it was used in toys, cleaning agents, books and a lot
of other things. This was mainly to try and figure out where it was good for. We believe that
radioactivity will be the futures main energy source and it will be used for much more useful stuff.