Nuclear safety

IET factfile: Nuclear safety

An introduction to nuclear safety.

It has long been known that very high doses of radiation can cause death through the destruction of body tissues and that lower doses can increase the risk of cancer and may lead to genetic damage. It is probably because of the association of radiation with nuclear weapons and with cancer that it inspires fear in many people. More is probably known, however, about the effects of radiation than almost any other environmental agent.

It is not generally appreciated that we are all inescapably exposed to natural radiation arising from sources such as cosmic rays, rocks and soil, building materials and natural radioactivity in the food we eat. The average person in the UK normally receives more than 85% of his or her annual radiation dose from their surroundings, although there is a wide variation.