Frequent Questions

2. What are the uses for Radionuclides?

Radionuclides have properties which can be valuable in a number of applications. Some radioactive elements have uses in nuclear medicine for diagnosis treatment or research. Tracers such as iodine-131 (I-131) follow the uptake of an element such as iodine into the thyroid. Other radioisotopes such as bismuth-212 (an alpha particle emitter) are used to kill cancer cells. Others like technetium-99 highlight an area of the body so it can be seen more clearly during imaging. Nuclear reactors utilize the heat of radioactive decay of uranium (U-235) to produce steam which turns turbines to generate electric power. Americium-241 is used in smoke detectors, and cobalt-60 and cesium-137 are gamma (photon) sources used to kill pathogens and insects in food.

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