What Radiation does and why is it so dangerous?


I’m watching Chernobyl and it said something along the line of “an atom Unanium is an bullet”. So is it like waves of atom that travel across like an explosion?
If so then why is the land is uninhabitable if the waves of atom already passed it?

Thank you

In: Physics

The land remains inhabitable as the radiation tends to mix with the air. Can’t remove air, now, haha!

The radioactive material tends to hang around in the environment. In the air, in the soil, the water, which then gets ingested by plants and animals.

These rarioactibe material emit ionising radiation when they decay. Specifically, the danger of radiation is that it ionises atoms (i.e. removes electrons from atoms). If this happens to a part of your DNA, it damages it, your body will attempt to repair the damaged DNA bit sometimes it does so incorrectly, leading to cancerous cells.

Dangerous Radiation shoots out a constant stream of tiny bullets that have a chance to interact with your body’s molecules. More radiation is more chances/impacts. The two key risks are 1. Damage to DNA resulting in abnormal cell behaviour (ie cancer), 2. If too many of your cells take damage in too short a timeframe, even if none of them were cancerous your body has too many cells to repair and will fail.

I don’t know that much about physics but I think it’s an interesting topic. Try to read about gamma radiation. That should send you down a Wikipedia rabbit hole.

I’ve seen everybody try but I’ll try to make it simpler.

Radiation is essentially invisible light, very destructive invisible light. It goes through you and damages your cells. Radiation comes in the form for simplicity as an Alpha particle, a Beta particle or as a gamma ray / xray.

Radiation is emitted by radioactive isotopes (or electrically generated by an xray tube). Some isotopes have a half life of a few seconds while some like uranium will continue to emit radiation long after the human race has been wiped out.

Typically radioactive isotopes are shielded or contained in shielding which limit exposure by only allowing gamma rays to escape and even then they are shielded to prevent most gamma rays from being a problem. The real trouble comes from inhaling or ingesting radioactive isotopes that have becomes atomized by some means like an explosion or whatever. This now allows alpha and beta particles to be released, with the alpha particle being something like 20x more destructive then it’s gamma counter part. These radioactive particles in conjunction with the atomized isotope will then continue to irradiate you until they have been expelled by your body, or until you die.

The best and only defenses against radiation are distance, and shielding.

Radiaiton is actually pretty weak cancerogen. You must be exposed to very high doses to get deterministic effects.

Take a look at dose chart [https://xkcd.com/radiation/](https://xkcd.com/radiation/) .

If you want to know more about aftermath of chernobyl and fukushima watch this lecture from the director of Chernobyl tissue bank: [https://youtu.be/pOvHxX5wMa8](https://youtu.be/pOvHxX5wMa8) (Radiation Health Risks from Nuclear Accidents – Facts and Fantasy) (and effects of radiation are explained pretty much ELI5 ).

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