A technician in a nuclear waste
storage facility receives a very small radiation dose every day that they work. Which of the following statements
correctly describes the effect this has on their health? (A) The more days the technician
works, the more harm they suffer from nuclear radiation. (B) The dose that the technician
receives is never large enough to harm them, and so their health is unaffected.
We have here a scenario where a
nuclear technician receives a very small dose of radiation every day that this
person goes to work. Because this daily dose is so
small, receiving it on any given day is unlikely to lead to a negative health
effect. But the thing is, the technician is
exposed to this very small dose day after day after day. Damage caused to the body by
nuclear radiation is cumulative. This means that every time a person
is exposed to nuclear radiation, it adds to the likelihood that they will be
By way of analogy, consider a
person who gets a sunburn. Getting burned by the sun once is
painful but likely won’t have any negative long-term health effects. However, if a person gets a sunburn
day after day, after week, after month, after year, those small bits of daily damage
to the skin will add up. In the long term, the likelihood of
this person developing skin cancer increases.
A similar principle applies for our
nuclear technician. The more days the technician works,
the more cumulative harm they suffer from nuclear radiation. A solution, of course, is for the
technician to stop going to work. But that’s something they can work
out with their supervisor.