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Industrial Uses of Radiation & Radioactive Material. David C Howell Radiation Safety Officer Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Uses of Radiation. America’s advanced industrial economy and high standard of living wouldn’t be possible without the use of radiation

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industrial uses of radiation radioactive material

Industrial Uses of Radiation & Radioactive Material

David C Howell

Radiation Safety Officer

Wake Forest University

Baptist Medical Center

uses of radiation
Uses of Radiation

America’s advanced industrial economy

and high standard of living wouldn’t be

possible without the use of radiation

and radioactive materials:

More disease-resistant crops

Medical research

Medical diagnosis& treatment

uses of radiation3
Uses of Radiation

Manufacturing processes

Consumer goods & services

~20% of America’s energy from nuclear power


America derives substantial economic and

employment benefits from the use of

radiation and radioactive materials:

4,000,000 jobs

$60 billion in tax revenues to local, state & federal governments

$330.7 billion annually in total industrial sales


Nuclear energy’s direct and indirect

economic impacts in the US:

442,000 jobs

$17.8 billion in local, state & federal tax revenues

$90 billion in total sales of goods & services


Some radioactive materials occur in


...most are produced

in nuclear reactors or

particle accelerators


Once they are produced, they

are packaged and shipped

safely to users throughout

the United States; users are:





medical uses
Medical Uses

One-third of the 30 million hospitalized

Americans are diagnosed or treated with

radionuclides (e.g., 99mTc, 67Ga, 111In and


Normal bone scan

Bone metastases

medical uses9
Medical Uses

Hyperthyroid conditions

in humans and cats can

be successfully treated

with radioiodine therapy

Brachytherapy (Greek for “short distance”) is used for intracavitary, interstitial and superficial treatment of tumors; small radioactive sources are placed near the tumor

medical uses10
Medical Uses

More than 11 million nuclear

medicine procedures are

performed each year in the

United States

Radioactive materials are

used in 100 million lab tests

on tissue specimens and body


scientific research
Scientific Research

The FDA requires that all new

drugs be tested for safety and

effectiveness; more than 80% are

tested with radioactive materials

Radioactive materials are also used in biomedical research, metabolic studies, genetic engineering and environmental protection studies

scientific research12
Scientific Research

Archaeologists use 14C to date

artifacts containing plant or

animal material

Museums rely on radioactive materials to verify authenticity of art objects and paintings

Criminal investigators use radiation to examine evidence

industrial uses
Industrial Uses

Automobile industry makes use of isotopes to test the quality of steel in cars

Aircraft manufacturers use radiation to check for flaws in jet engines

Mining & petroleum companies use isotopes to locate and quantify geological mineral deposits

industrial uses14
Industrial Uses

Oil gas & mining companies useisotopes to map geological contours (using test wells) and mine bores and to determine presence of hydrocarbons

Pipeline companies utilize radioactive isotopes to look for defects in welds

Construction crews use radioactive materials to gauge soil moisture content and asphalt density

agricultural uses
Agricultural Uses

Hardier and more disease resistant crops (peanuts, tomatoes, onions, rice, soybeans, barley) have been developed using radioactive materials in agricultural research

Nutritional value, baking and melting qualities of some crops and cooking times have been improved using isotopes

Radioactive materials pinpoint where illnesses strike animals to breed disease-resistant livestock

agricultural uses16
Agricultural Uses

Radioactive materials show how plants absorb fertilizer; this helps researchers figure where and how much to apply to crops for maximum yield

Isotopes help farmers and scientists control pests; e.g., California has used radiation sterilization since the mid-70s to control Mediterranean fruit fly infestations

consumer products services
Consumer Products & Services

103 US nuclear power plants provide ~20% of electricity

Smoke detectors installed in ~90% of America’s homes rely on 1-2 μCi of 241Am to monitor for smoke to signal a fire

Computer disks retain data better when treated with radiation

consumer products services18
Consumer Products & Services

Non-stick pans are treated with radiation to retain the coating

Photocopiers and plastic manufacturers use small amounts of radiation to eliminate static and prevent jamming

Cosmetics, hair products and contact lens solutions are sterilized with radiation to remove irritants and allergens

consumer products services19
Consumer Products & Services

Radioactive materials are used to sterilize medical bandages and implements as well as foodstuffs to kill pathogens

1930s Fiestaware contains uranium in the ceramic glazes

To maximize light output, some lantern mantles contain radioactive thoriumnitrate

nuclear power

Nuclear Power

David C HowellRadiation Safety OfficerWake Forest UniversityBaptist Medical Center

1941 42

December 1941: The United States enters World War II when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor

August 1942: The first pure sample of plutonium was isolated

September 1942: The Manhattan Project is formed to secretly build the atomic bomb before the Germans build one


November 1942: Los Alamos, NMis selected as the site for the US atomic bomb laboratory

By December, the first nuclear reactor was assembled in a squash court under the stands of Stagg Athletic Field at the University of Chicago; on December 2, 1942, the first atomic reactor was brought to criticality

1942 45

1942-45: Oak Ridge National Laboratory is built in Oak Ridge, TN; plutonium production begins

1943-45: Hanford Site is built in Richland, WA; first reactor begins plutonium production in September 1944

April-May 1945: US troops liberate concentration camps; Germany surrenders


July 16, 1945: US explodes first atomic device near Alamagordo, NM

August 6 & 9, 1945: United States bombs Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan

late 1940s 50s
Late 1940s-50s

1946: Oak Ridge ships first nuclear reactor produced radioisotopes for civilian use to the Barnard Cancer Hospital in St. Louis

Dec. 20, 1951: Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 lighted these four bulbs with the world’s first usable amount of electricity from nuclear energy


1953: President Eisenhower proposes joint international cooperation to develop peaceful applications of nuclear energy in his “Atoms for Peace” speech

January 1954: The first nuclear powered submarine, USS Nautilus, is launched; was the first boat to visit the North Pole; steamed 500,000 miles in 25 years

where is uranium found
Where is Uranium Found?












South Africa

three mile island 1979
Three Mile Island - 1979

A minor reactor malfunction caused the temperature in the primary coolant to rise, automatically shutting down the reactor. Unfortunately, one of the relief valves failed to close and most of the primary coolant drained away, leaving the reactor core at a very high temperature. The fuel rods were damaged and radioactive material was released into the cooling water. No explosion resulted from this. The problem was contained in the reactor building, as designed. However, it did cause a lot of public concern and loss of confidence in the nuclear power industry.

chernobyl 1986
Chernobyl - 1986

A power surge, during a test to determine how long the turbines would spin after a power loss, caused steam to lift the cover plate off the reactor, and an intense fire spread fission products into the atmosphere. This accident was caused by human error and a poorly designed and engineered reactor. The accident caused the deaths of 30 power plant employees and firemen, while another 134 emergency personnel experienced acute radiation sickness.

the future
The Future?

1980 US population: 226,545,8052000 US population: 281,421,906Increase of 54,876,101 people (~24.2% change)

No new nuclear power plants have been licensed or built since the early 1980s

Brownouts in California, increased electrical usage in Silicon Valley, PCs, warmer summers demand more A/C, etc.

Building gas turbine and fossil fuel plants; limits on solar/hydro/wind power

Politics & public opinion will determine nuclear power’s future in the US