Definitions

Radiation: Energy sent out in the form of waves or particles.

Ionization: The ability of high-energy radiation to displace electrons from atoms and cause matter through which it passes to become electrically charged.

Nonionizing radiation: Long wavelength, low frequency, low energy form. Examples: ultraviolet rays, visible rays, infrared rays, radio waves, microwaves, lasers, ultrasound, NMR systems. Ionizing radiation: Short wavelength, high frequency, high energy forms. Emitted from unstable forms of elements called radioisotopes. Examples: x-rays and gamma rays. Half-life: Period of time it takes for a radioisotope to lose half of its radioactivity.

Isotope: A variation of an element with a different number of neutrons in the nucleus. All isotopes of an element have the same number of protons; differing neutrons give isotopes of the same element different atomic weights. Decay (disintegration): Unstable isotopes spontaneously transform in order to reach a more stable configuration; may involve the release of ionizing radiation.

Radioisotope: Isotope that releases ionizing radiation during its decay.

Criticality: The chain reaction of fissionable atoms that results in the release of energy. Basic operating principle behind fusion bombs and nuclear reactors; an efficient means of generating energy.

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