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Radioactivity - Radioactive Substances
From outside the body, beta and gamma radiation are the most harmful to humans.

Radioactivity - Radioactive Substances

This GCSE Physics quiz on radioactivity takes a look at radioactive substances. Radioactive substances emit hazardous particles which can damage the structure of materials and molecules including those in our own bodies. It is released as the nucleus of an unstable atom decays, breaking down into new materials. It only happens to unstable isotopes of element, for example, carbon-12 atoms are stable isotopes and their nuclei never change. Carbon-14 is an unstable isotope and sooner or later, its nucleus will change to a nitrogen-14 nucleus by emitting radiation. Radioactive decay is spontaneous, in other words, it happens at random and for no apparent reason.

As time progresses, the level of radioactivity emitted from a sample will drop as the nuclei of the atoms break down into new, more stable isotopes.

1.
Which of the following instruments can be used to measure the amount of radiation being emitted by a source?
Geiger-Muller tube
A ticker tape timer
A mercury thermometer
An orrery
It is usually connected to some sort of counter to register the intensity of the radiaoctivity
2.
If a particle is radioactive and emits electromagnetic waves, what kind of decay is taking place?
Alpha decay
Beta decay
Gamma decay
Water decay
Gamma has the highest energy of all of the waves of the electromagnetic spectrum
3.
Which material found in nature is a naturally-occurring fissile isotope?
Boron-5
Carbon-12
Uranium-235
Plutonium-244
Fissile means that the nucleus can be made to split. Uranium-235 is the only naturally-occurring substance that can sustain a chain reaction of nuclear fission
4.
A certain radioactive material emits two protons and two neutrons to become stable. What kind of radiation has been emitted by this material?
Alpha
Beta
Gamma
Light
An alpha particle is the nucleus of a helium atom
5.
How do we dispose of nuclear waste from our nuclear reactors?
Burn it
Bury it
Freeze it
Feed it to animals
At present we don't have a good way to dispose of nuclear waste so we encase it in a thick layer of concrete and bury it in the ground. This stops the radiation from being harmful to objects near it, however the radiation produced in nuclear reactors has a very long half-life so the material will need to remain buried for a very long time
6.
Which of the following materials is the most-used fuel within nuclear reactors?
Uranium
Plutonium
Boron
Argon
There are reactors that use plutonium but the majority of nuclear power stations use uranium
7.
Which of the following conditions could be caused by exposure to radiation?
Vomiting
Hair loss
Death
All of the above
Varying amounts of exposure to different types of radiation can cause a wide range of ailments, with prolonged exposure causing death. This is why it is very important to ensure safety procedures are adhered to when dealing with radioactive substances
8.
Radioactive substances can be harmful to humans. Which of the following materials could be used to block all types of radiation?
Thin sheet of aluminium
A tennis ball strategically placed between the source of radiation and a person
A very thick piece of paper
A very thick piece of lead
In nuclear reactors, lead would be too expensive so they use concrete that is several metres thick
9.
What type of radiation is the most harmful to humans?
Alpha
Beta
Gamma
They are all dangerous
Inside the body, alpha is the most dangerous as it can't get out of the body and will damage cells. However, outside the body, beta and gamma sources are extremely dangerous as they can penetrate the body
10.
What is emitted from a particle if beta decay occurs?
A helium atom
An electron
A burst of electromagnetic radiation
A small Russian doll
Like alpha radiation, beta can be deflected by electrical and magnetic fields as they are both charged particles
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - Radioactive decay and half-life

Author:  Martin Moore

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