Which of the following is not an
application of nuclear radiation? (A) Heating substances, (B)
producing mutations, (C) producing radio waves, or (D) producing images of the
insides of objects.
The question asks which option is
not an application of nuclear radiation. So, let’s review some of the
applications of nuclear radiation, and we’ll discuss the possible answer options
we’ve been given.
First, a major application of
nuclear radiation is in nuclear power plants. When a radioactive nucleus decays,
it releases nuclear radiation in the form of particles or electromagnetic waves. Nuclear radiation carries
energy. An object containing a large amount
of unstable nuclei — a rod of uranium, for example — will therefore give off a lot
of energy. Inside a nuclear reactor, the
energy given off by rods of radioactive uranium is used to heat water, which causes
it to boil and turn into steam. This steam can then be used to turn
turbines, and this motion is used to generate electricity.
Now remember, we’re trying to
identify which process is not an application of nuclear radiation. Since we’ve seen that heating
substances is an application of nuclear radiation in nuclear power plants, we know
that this is not the correct answer to the question.
Another application of nuclear
radiation is in medical imaging. Special radioactive substances
known as tracers can help us produce images of the inside of the body. When a tracer is injected into the
body, it gets absorbed by specific parts of the body, with different tracers being
absorbed by different body parts. By detecting the radiation that’s
given off by the tracer once it’s been absorbed, we can build up detailed, 3D images
of internal body parts, such as the brain. So, since nuclear radiation is used
to produce images of the inside of the body, we know that option (D) is not the
answer to the question either.
One more application of nuclear
radiation that we can recall is in agriculture. Radioactive materials can be used
to irradiate seeds for crops. Nuclear radiation causes changes to
the DNA inside seeds. These changes are known as
mutations. And some of these mutations are
beneficial, so planting these mutated seeds may produce more resilient crops or
plants with higher yields, for example. So, producing mutations is an
application of nuclear radiation. This means we can eliminate option
(B) as well.
So, we’re left with just option
(C), producing radio waves. Now, this is not an application of
nuclear radiation. Nuclear radiation can take the form
of electromagnetic waves, and radio waves are a type of electromagnetic wave. However, radioactive nuclei only
emit high-energy radiation, usually 𝛾 rays. They don’t emit radio waves, which
are a much lower-energy form of electromagnetic radiation. There are currently no applications
of nuclear radiation that involve producing radio waves. So, option (C) is our final