ISBN9782553014307 EditorPresses internationales Polytechnique pages172 Published2009-06-08
Buy paper version
Share Blurb

Back Cover


A number of good textbooks on radiochemistry have been published for experts and advanced students, but very few are written for the general public and the nonspecialist. Those that exist are mostly written either by opponents of nuclear power or by those invested in the industry. This book takes no stand on the political controversy surrounding nuclear power; the facts are presented with no sermon attached, and anecdotes from the author's vast experience in the field provide a more personal insight into this complex subject. He gives detailed descriptions of several serious nuclear accidents, including that at Chernobyl. While the author's perspective is primarily Canadian, the descriptions and illustrations are relevant for readers in any country. In the final chapter, the author asks the question, "Are we completely safe?" The answer, intriguingly, is "I hope not." Read on to see why.



This book is written for anyone who is interested in understanding one of the more pressing problems of our current times: the management of radioactivity and the public perception of its danger. Without getting into the mathematical physics, Dr. Wiles lucidly explains the nature of radioactivity, the many uses of radiation, and the management of nuclear risks, including both the disposal of nuclear waste and the operation of nuclear power reactors. This book makes a valuable addition to the library of any interested citizen, and is especially well suited for teachers and students in environmental science, environmental engineering and environmental geography. While it touches on questions of nuclear chemistry, the book presumes no prior knowledge of the subject; it is highly accessible and intended for the layperson.


Following a description of the structure of the atomic nucleus, the author describes the several kinds of nuclear instability and their consequences: alpha, beta and gamma emission. He then outlines the actions of these types of radiation and their biological effects, andexplains the uses of radiation and radioactivity in engineering, science and medicine. Next, he describes nuclear fission and how nuclear reactors produce nuclear power, and finally, he discusses nuclear fuel waste, with detailed descriptions of its disposal chemistry. A chapter on the various nuclear accidents that have occurred in the past leads into a thought-provoking section on whether or not we have learned enough to be sure that we are safe today.

Donald R. Wiles has been teaching radiochemistry for many years at Carleton University in Ottawa. After his first job purifying radium in Port Hope, Ontario, he spent several years working on nuclear fission at McMaster University, MIT and Oslo. Among his scientific and technical publications, he has also published a book entitled The Chemistry of Nuclear Fuel Waste Disposal (Presses internationales Polytechnique, 2002).

Chapter 1 Radioactivity: What It Is
The Nucleus
Some Unstable Nuclei
What Is Radiation Like?
How Is Radiation Damaging?
Measurement of Radiation
The Biological Action of Radiation

Chapter 2 Industrial and Scientific Applications of Radiation
Industrial Uses of Radiation
Scientific Uses of Radiation and Radionuclides
Atomic Movement in Solids
Radioactive Dating

Chapter 3 Medical and Health Applications of Radiation
Medical Uses
Radiation Treatment of Tumours
Notes on Other Health Applications
Sterilization of Medical Supplies
Irradiation of Food, Pests and Cosmetics

Chapter 4 Nuclear Fission and Nuclear Reactor
Nuclear Fission
What Is Nuclear Power?
Reactors of the World
Experimental Reactors
What Can Go Wrong in a Nuclear Reactor?

Chapter 5 Radioactivity in the Environment
Natural Background Radiation
Man-Made Radionuclides
The Environmental Migration of Radionuclides
What Can We Do About It?

Chapter 6 Who Is Watching?
What Are the Limits?
Who Is in Charge?
Atmospheric Monitoring

Chapter 7 Major Nuclear Accidents
The Anatomy of an Accident
Accidents That Have Happened
What We Have Learned

Chapter 8 Nuclear Waste Disposal
What Is Nuclear Waste, and Where Is It Kept?
What Can We Do for the Future?
Nuclear Fuel Waste Disposal in Other Countries
Additional Forms of Nuclear Waste

Chapter 9 Are We Completely Safe Now?
Potential Dangers
A Final Thought

Appendix I Some Radionuclides Used in Medicine and Industry
Appendix II Some Useful Mathematical Derivations
Appendix III Bibliography and References
Appendix IV Glossary