View Full Version : Some Quick Questions about Radiation

04-24-2009, 11:28 PM
Heya people,

I have a quick question which regards Nuclear Radiation and how something can become 'Radioactive' and can kill people. My questions are as follows:

How can certain objects become radioactive, like for example paper or certain metals like Copper or Brass?

What would be a viable radioactive source to make these objects radioactive? I did a lot of research and found a lot of different ways of adminstering radiation, but I am looking for exterior contamination and not anything that is administered internally.

How would said objects become radioactive? Do you just place the objects next to a radioactive source for a number of days or does it have to be placed onto the object?

I've read about Polonium Dust, Uranium and Plutonium Nuclear Waste and Nuclear Fuel, as well as ways of depositing waste nuclear products, like 'Dry Cask' storage. Is it possible to ascertain such nuclear materials from these sites? What security is there to protects such dangerous materials?

This is for a screenplay im thinking of doing. All input is greatly appreciated.


04-25-2009, 12:38 AM
there are several kinds of radiation.

Electromagnetic radiation includes visibile light, but also potentially harmful forms like Xrays and Gamma rays. Nuclear reactions may produce these rays, but they cannot permanently "contaminate" a material. They can cause harm to living things and trigger chemical change. (eg ultraviolet rays frequently damage plastic)

Then there are the various particles caused by radioactive decay. Radioactive metals, like plutonium, Uranium, and all the other ones on the bottom rows of the periodic table decay at various rates, producing radiation. As these metals decay, they produce particles that are identical to the subatomic components of atoms. Neutron radiation is one of the more harmful type. The so called 'alpha' particle is really just the nucleus of a helium atom that is emitted during nuclear decay.

When something is said to be 'contaminated' it means that a certain amount of radioactive particles have attached themselves to the object. This is why when you watch movies and people get exposed to radiation, they are invariably given a shower and a good scrub by people in radiation suits. Unfortunately, these metals can accumulate in the bodies of exposed plants and animals, killing them internally. Worse, some of the decay products of radioactive elements are themselves radioactive. Radium and Radon are good examples. So you have an breaking down, emitting radiation, and producing smaller atoms, which also break down, producing radiation, and all this is happening in your body. The reason that we put radon detectors in our basements is because radioactive decay in the center of the earth produces radon, which then 'bubbles' up to the surface, and can accumulate in your basement.

As for other things getting contaminated, sure. Metals are frequently attracted to one another through magnetic reasons. And paper is porous, so plenty of bad atoms can get stuck in there. Basically, the electrically charged atoms will 'stick' to any surface they are exposed to. Certain objects can be wiped clean, but not every object.

04-25-2009, 01:36 AM
Ahhh, thanks for that!

So it would be viable, in my case, to use Radium. Excellent!

04-25-2009, 01:44 AM

04-25-2009, 01:49 AM
Nuclear waste is sounding more like a viable option then, from the sounds of it...Excellent!

04-25-2009, 01:50 AM
Whoops! I was wrong.

Radon is a noble gas. Radium is an alkali. So yes, use Radium.


04-25-2009, 02:01 AM
Yaaay I can use Radium! Woo! Lol.