Radiation: How Dangerous Is It?


There are many scary things about radiation and radiation sickness on the internet scaring the bejeezes out of everyone. But at the same time they just announced on the news that radiation was detected right here in my state in rainwater. So what does that mean for me, for my garden, for my cat? Am I going to be riding around in a car that glows at night? Well, first, let’s get some facts. Radiation is an energy... it radiates just like sunlight and in fact the energy of the sun is nuclear energy. It is the energy that is generated converting solid elements into energy. The same thing happens in a nuclear power plant, where neutrons are shot at a bunch of uranium, which splits the uranium atoms releasing more neutrons which then split even more uranium atoms, and on and on and on .... i.e. chain reaction. This entire chain reaction is kept inside a very large reactor, and the continuous process powers turbines which then produces electricity. This is known as nuclear fission.

Now the sun uses nuclear fusion, which is only possible with very, very high temperatures, which is exactly how the hydrogen bomb was devised. It uses a bomb blast to provide the very hot temperature needed to fuse atoms together, releasing huge energy.

In both cases, the energy that is released is invisible and are known as gamma rays. If these gamma rays escape, at close range they will pulverize anything in their path because of the force of the energy, and then at further distance they can disrupt our own body’s energy production as well as all the electrical signals that give our systems life. This energy when released, moves at the speed of light and is dissipated over distance by water, buildings, walls, etc. The most effective stopping mechanism is several feet of concrete or lead which brings back reminiscences of fallout shelters when I was a kid. Back then they thought if we just hid under our desk it would be helpful. Never listen to nuns.

But energy is neither created nor destroyed as the laws of physics tell us. In this case, it explains quite a lot. The nuclear energy that we create has two byproducts, the radioactive waste material from the reactor which has to be stored since we cannot convert it into anything safe to use or dispose of, and radioactive water which is the water that has been used to cool the reactor inside which this ongoing power struggle is taking place as well as to make up the cooling pools outside the reactor. All of this can create radiation sickness which is more prevalent closest to the location and less the further from the location you go.

So what does that mean for you? Depending on the amount of particles that are released, radioactive particles and water drops can be absorbed by our water supply, our food in the fields, trees, plants, every living thing and almost every non-living thing. After all, it is still an energy. However we absorb radiation daily from the sun, from other living things and from sources that are much closer to home like at the doctor’s office getting a CAT scan or X-Ray. This is all energy that we need to survive... in fact living things require some radiation energy every day for health. We could not survive without the radiation from the sun.

But like everything else, too much radiation or too much of certain types can damage us. The healthier you are, the less likely you are to suffer the effects of any toxic assault. But if someone is elderly, already dealing with a disease process or debilitated, then the effects would be much greater. There are also factors such as wind, rain, elevation, number of buildings, etc. that determine just how much radiation any one area would receive.

For more information, read Radiation: Prevention is the Best Protection