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Evaluating the Hazards of Radiation and its Sources

Content Material

Student Directions: Your learning objectives are as follows:

  • You will be able to describe the units used to measure radioactivity and exposure to radiation
  • You will be able to make conversions between units
  • You will be able to tabulate levels of exposure and physiological effects associated with them
  • You will be able to identify the main sources of exposure to radiation in everyday life
  • You will calculate your annual exposure using an online calculator
  • You will be able to formulate a question concerning some aspect of exposure to radiation and obtain a response from an on-line expert
  • Depending on the type of class you are in you will also be able to formulate an informed opinion about the dangers of nuclear power plants relative to other forms of power generation

Units of radioactivity and radiation exposure

You will use the worksheet to compile your results. Either print it out first or fill it in using your computer.

Using your internet browser and either a search engine like Google or the websites from the list below, first identify the three different ways in which radioactivity and radiation exposure are measured. Use the table in the worksheet as a guide. Note that each unit has space for two different entries. You will find that each measurement has two units which can be used to measure different sizes.

After you have completed the table answer the questions on the worksheet.

Units of radioactivity and radiation exposure

The next step is to assemble a table comparing equivalent radiation dose with the biological effects associated with that dose. This will give you an idea of the hazards associated with exposure to radiation. Then you will be able to appreciate the level of danger to radiation we are exposed to on a daily basis after you use the radiation exposure calculator. By searching the websites, the ones you used for the previous table or other ones, you will develop a table that looks something like the one on the worksheet (you can change the ranges to suit your needs).

Find out what the EPA recommends as an annual radiation exposure and compare with the table. Do you think that the EPA recommendation is safe?

Radiation exposure calculator

Now determine your average annual exposure to all forms of radiation using information from the Environmental Protection Agency. Go to their website . Identify the three main general sources of radiation exposure. Answer the questions on the worksheet.

Now compute your annual dose. Investigate how it varies according to geographical region and elevation. Answer the questions on the worksheet.

"Ask an expert"

The second part of the on-line activity is to "Ask an expert." Go to the website of the Health Physics Society and go to the "Ask the experts" link. Spend some time thinking about a question you can ask which does not already appear in the FAQs. Get the question approved by your instructor and submit it to the Experts. Record the answer you obtained.

Real or imagined: the dangers of nuclear power

Also be prepared to develop an informed opinion about the real dangers of nuclear power generation and discuss it in class.

Referenced URLs:
 

http://www.fda.gov/default.htm

http://hps.org/