Radiation is energy that comes from a source and travels through some material or through space. Light, heat and sound are types of radiation. The kind of radiation discussed in this presentation is called ionizing radiation because it can produce charged particles (ions) in matter.
Ionizing radiation is produced by unstable atoms. Unstable atoms differ from stable atoms because they have an excess of energy or mass or both.
Unstable atoms are said to be radioactive. In order to reach stability, these atoms give off, or emit, the excess energy or mass. These emissions are called radiation. The kinds of radiation are electromagnetic (like light) and particulate (i.e., mass given off with the energy of motion). Gamma radiation and X-rays are examples of electromagnetic radiation. Beta and alpha radiation are examples of particulate radiation. Ionizing radiation can also be produced by devices such as X-ray machines.
Characteristics of Gamma Radiation and X-Rays.
1. Gamma radiation and X-rays are electromagnetic radiation like visible light, radio waves, and ultraviolet light. These electromagnetic radiations differ only in the amount of energy they have. Gamma rays and X-rays are the most energetic of these.
2. Gamma radiation is able to travel many meters in air and many centimeters in human tissue. It readily penetrates most materials and is sometimes called "penetrating radiation.".
3. X-rays are like gamma rays. They, too, are penetrating radiation.
4. Radioactive materials that emit gamma radiation and X-rays constitute both an external and internal hazard to humans.
5. Dense materials are needed for shielding from gamma radiation. Clothing and turnout gear provide little shielding from penetrating radiation but will prevent contamination of the skin by radioactive materials. .
6. Gamma radiation is detected with survey instruments, including civil defense instruments. Low levels can be measured with a standard Geiger counter, such as the CD V-700.