Ionising Radiation
Quantum and Nuclear

Emphasising the nuclear

Teaching Guidance for 14-16 Supporting Physics Teaching

Why are they called nuclear power stations?

The phenomenon of radioactivity is due to changes in the nucleus of each atom of a radioactive material. It is for this reason that we refer to:

  • Nuclear weapons
  • Nuclear power stations
  • Nuclear reactions
  • Nuclear energy

For some students this point may not be obvious:

Karl: Why are they called nuclear power stations? I thought it was to do with radioactivity!

Teacher: Nearly right! It is to do with radioactivity. Radiation is emitted from the nucleus of the atoms in fuels for these power stations and enables more nuclear emissions. That's why we call them nuclear reactors or nuclear power stations.

From time to time it is a good idea to refer to nuclear alpha/beta/gamma radiation or nuclear ionising radiation just to remind students of their origin.

Ionising Radiation
is used in analyses relating to Radioactive dating
can be analysed using the quantity Half-Life Decay Constant Activity
features in Medical Physics
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