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Question Video: Defining Radioactive Contamination Science

Which of the following most correctly defines radioactive contamination? [A] An object containing unstable atoms emits nuclear radiation. [B] An object containing unstable atoms moves to a place where no other objects contain unstable atoms.

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Video Transcript

Which of the following most correctly defines radioactive contamination? (A) An object containing unstable atoms emits nuclear radiation. (B) An object containing unstable atoms moves to a place where no other objects contain unstable atoms.

To answer this question, we must remember what it means to say that an object is radioactive as opposed to radioactively contaminated. Recall that an object is considered to be radioactive if it contains unstable atoms which can emit nuclear radiation. Also remember that radioactive contamination occurs when a radioactive substance is mixed with a nonradioactive substance.

Let’s look at the following example. In this example, we can see that the beaker containing the green substance contains unstable atoms. The blue substance does not contain unstable atoms, but it has been mixed with the green substance, which does contain unstable atoms. It is accurate to say that the blue substance has been radioactively contaminated by the green substance. Another way to phrase the same thing is with option (B). An object containing unstable atoms moves to a place where no other objects contain unstable atoms.

In our example, the object that contains unstable atoms is the green substance, and the object that does not contain unstable atoms is the blue substance. The correct answer is option (B).

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