Some students think that (ionising) radiation only stems from nuclear power plants

Quantum and Nuclear


Consequently, very few students think that radiation can arise in natural ways such as from space or rocks. They also demonstrated a lack of clarity about the nature and propagation of background radiation.

Resources to Address This

  • Outline the discovery of ionisation radiation with this background information, pointing out that it was discovered and explained long before the construction of nuclear power plants.

    Discuss the natural radioactive materials used in early experiments and the discovery of radiation from space.

    View Resource
  • Demonstrate the existence of background radiation with different detectors. The different sources of this background can then be discussed, showing that nearly all of it is from natural sources.

    Students can also analyse radiation from collected dust, typical doses and whether they should be worried about the size of their annual dose.

    View Resource


  • Eijkelhof, H. M. C., () Radiation and risk in physics education, PhD thesis.

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