Radioactivity : The Pros and Cons


Since its discovery by Henri Becquerel in 1896 much has been learned about radioactive elements and their properties. This knowledge has led to many beneficial applications of the numerous radioisotopes.

Did you know that some of the foods we eat have been treated by exposure to radiation?

Have you ever wondered how we know the age of dinosaur bones?

Have you ever known anyone who was treated for cancer with radiation therapy?

Have you ever wondered how a nuclear submarine is powered?

Have you ever had an x-ray to look for a broken bone or a cavity?

All of these beneficial applications are due to scientific research, discovery and development of nuclear chemistry

Although nuclear chemistry has provided numerous beneficial applications to our society there is also a dark side to nuclear chemistry that was must be aware of. The legacy that nuclear disasters such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have left us has brought some societies to question the continued use of nuclear energy. Why did these disasters happen? How do we protect ourselves form these types of disasters? How do we dispose of nuclear waste? Why don't we just use coal or petroleum to furnish our energy needs?

The use of the atomic bomb to end World War II has been studied and re-evaluated for 50 years since its use in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Should the US have use the A-bombs? Were there any other choices?

No doubt you have heard other stories of people being exposed to nuclear radiation and developing cancer - sometimes in the name of scientific research and medical development. Were these studies ethical? Were they worth it?

These questions are all important and of no small significance. We must use the past to teach us valuable lessons about the continued use of nuclear chemistry. Explore on in this module to gain a better understanding of nuclear chemistry. Then come back to this page and think about the questions raised.


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