Question Video: Identifying Applications of Nuclear Radiation Science

Which of the following is not an application of nuclear radiation? [A] Heating substances [B] Producing mutations [C] Producing radio waves [D] Producing images of the insides of objects

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Video Transcript

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 answer.

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