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Science P2 Topic 6

Edexcel GCSE additional science physics: radioactive materials

QuestionAnswer
What is background radiation? Radiation that is always present at a very low level, coming from space and naturally radioactive substances in the environment
What is the main source of radiation in the UK? Radon gas- it is a radioactive isotope produced by the decay of uranium in a rock that diffuses into the air and builds up in houses with poor ventilation
What affects the amount of radon gas in an area? Soil type, building stone used in a certain area
What are some sources of radiation in the UK? Old medical equipment, food and drink, nuclear power, radon gas, cosmic rays from outer space
What are some uses of gamma rays? * sterilise medical equipment * irradiate food to kill pests and allow it to last for longer * to treat cancer in radiotherapy * diagnosis of cancer using tracer solutions
What are some uses of alpha particles? Americum 241 is put in household smoke alarms and ionises the air in the smoke detector producing an electric current- if smoke enters the alarm it absorbs some alpha particles which alters the current, triggering the alarm
What are some uses of beta particles? It is used to check the thickness of paper- if a detector notices that there are too many or too few beta particles passing through the paper, the pressure applied on the rollers squeezing wood pulp is changed
What is the activity of a substance? The number of nuclear decays per second, measured in Becquerel (Bq)
1 Bq = ? 1 nuclear decay per second
What is the half life of a substance? The time taken for half the unstable nuclei in the substance to decay, causing the activity to decrease by half
How is the radioactivity of a source measured? Using a Geiger-Muller tube- it clicks everytime ionising radiation is detected in the tube and produces a count rate (number of clicks per second/ minute)
What are some precautions taken with radioactive materials? * tongs are used when handling them * they are stored in lead containers * protective clothing is worn * sources are never pointed at people * exposure time is limited
How have scientists changed ideas about radioactivity over the years? 19th century- people burned themselves handling radioactive sources 20th century- link was made between cancer and radioactive sources
What are the features of high level nuclear waste? Sealed in glass, lasts for 50 years, very radioactive, often is spent fuel from reactors, high activity, transported in thick concrete/ lead
What are the features of intermediate level nuclear waste? lasts for thousands of years, moderately radioactive, stored in concrete/steel, old high-level waste
What are the features of low level nuclear waste? stored in special landfill sites, not very radioactive, remains slightly radioactive for thousands of years, often is old medical tracers
What are the problems with the methods of disposal of radioactive waste? * firing into space if expensive and launch vehicle could crash back on earth * barrels that are dumped in the sea could corrode and leak * storage underground is a problem due to earthquakes
Created by: 11043