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Radioisotopes to the Rescue

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Radioisotopes to the Rescue

By: Tahmid Zaman

        The modern era is the age of technological innovation. Everyday new inventions are created through science and helped better the lives of billions of people. One such innovation of the 20th century was the usage of radioactive isotopes to aid in various fields of science. A radioisotope occurs when a nucleus strives to achieve a balance between the protons and neutrons. All atoms seek a balance and when there is an excess of protons than neutrons in a nucleus that makes it unstable. To achieve this balance the nucleus tends to give up neutrons and in that process energy is released in the form of radiation. However, this great technological innovation brought along some risks, but the usefulness of such a technology far outweighs the few risks associated with it. While there are some risks involved, radiation from isotopes can be used in various ways in the fields of research, industry and medicine much to the benefit of society.

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        There are, however, the side effects to the radioactive isotope technology. Radioactive isotopes can be very harmful if not used right. In the research field, radioisotopes are constantly being studied, such as the use of particle accelerators where atomic particles are collided to study the effects. After the use of particle accelerators, the facilities are usually decommissioned and must be demolished. However, there are obvious radiations present in the particle accelerators and this may cause harm to the environment or people due to exposure. Also, harmful radioisotopes exist in the industrial world that may cause damage to the environment or people due to radiation exposure. In 1986, the Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine with a faulty design lead to a meltdown and millions of people were affected by the long-lasting Cesium-137 with a half-life of 30 years that emitted radiation over the decades. This shows industrial effects of radioisotopes when used in a wrong way.

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