Radioactive Atoms–Nature and Behavior

We understood in the previous chapter that nature is made of atoms whose configurations vary. In radiation protection, our principal focus is on a particular subset of atoms that are by nature unstable. Our interest extends as well to protection of persons and the environment from radiation that may not have come from a radioactive atom (e.g., a radiation-producing machine). An important basic distinction in our discussion is the difference between radioactivity and radiation. Radioactivity is the process of spontaneous nuclear transformation that results in the formation of new elements. Radiation includes the various forms of particles and/or rays that are emitted by these atoms (and perhaps other secondary processes) during this nuclear rearrangement. Some atoms (in nature or artificially derived) are stable, and some are unstable. Unstable atoms rearrange themselves to achieve stability.


Alpha Particle Radioactive Decay Secular Equilibrium Alpha Decay Beta Emitter 
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    In health physics, in English-speaking countries, we once spoke of “parent”, “daughter”, “granddaughter”, and so on, to describe members of a decay series. In the late 1900s, considerations regarding political correctness suggested use of the genderneutral “parent” and “progeny”. This is clumsy, and does not lend itself to distinguishing between second and third and subsequent generations, but to avoid endless lawsuits and other forms of domestic terrorism, we use the gender-neutral terms here. Interestingly, in Spanish and Portuguese speaking societies, the usage was “parent” and “son”, which have similarly been objected to as being sexist.Google Scholar
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© Springer 2003

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