Radioactive decay

Radioactive decay

Radioactive decay has been described in broader terms as the natural breakdown of an unstable atomic nucleus to release its energy. It occurs when a nuclide changes to its nuclear form into another form, and this is called transmutation. The release of energy occurs when a radionuclide with a certain type of nucleus transforms into another form of atom, which has a different nucleus state, and this is often called the daughter nuclide. This happens because the atom is usually unstable and will always seek to stabilize. It is not possible to predict when it can occur, since it is random. Nuclear decay is of three types: alpha decay, gamma decay and beta decay. Alpha decay occurs in a nucleus that has many protons in it thus repulsing greatly, and a helium nucleus is released in an attempt to reduce the repulsion. When neutron ratio to proton is very high in the nucleus, these amounts to instability, and a neutron is turned into a proton and an electron, which is then emitted from the nucleus, hence beta decay occurs. The third type of decay is the gamma decay that occurs when the nuclear has too much energy in it, and nucleus changes from high-level energy to lower level. In the process, a high-energy particle is released, which is the gamma particle or ray (BookRags, 2011).

Radioactive decay application

            Radioactivity is experienced all the time and most of the radioactivity comes from natural processes. Many people think of radioactivity as being harmful to a person but in reality, it has many uses. Today, many developed countries such as Japan and the United States use radioactivity to produce energy such as electricity. It is also used for treatment of patients such as radiotherapy and scanning and other medical examinations. It is also applied in dating of artifacts in archeology, and still, in big ships it is used to run the big engines. These are very good applications of radioactive decay. However, it has disadvantage, such as, if exposed to the environment, it can have a long-term effect, and still, there are those who use it in proliferation of nuclear weapons. If well applied, it can be of great benefit to human race since it does not emit harmful gases that ruin the environment, except the radioactive waste that can be well stored to avoid leaking to the environment.

How the radioactive decay rate can be changed if this is possible

            Radioactive decay occurs spontaneously and the half-life depends on the structure of each isotope. Half-life is the amount of time it takes for an isotope to decay up to half its original size. The rate of decay is proportional to the amount of elements present, and with this, one can tell the time this atom has been in existence by knowing the rate, and calculating how much is left and how long it will take to decay it. Radioactive decay rate cannot be changed since the atoms are not influenced by the surrounding, but rather, the elements in them.

Theoretical circumstances leading to creation of:

White dwarf star

White dwarf star are small stars with a high concentration of electron degenerate matter, and are quite dense, and it is what stars turn into when they exhaust their nuclear energy. For a white dwarf to be formed the nuclear fuel must be exhausted and the stars are thought to be the end of stellar evolution of main-sequence stars with masses of about 0.07 to 10 solar masses. Nuclear fuel is the cause of mass loss from the star, and it is lost overtime in about 10 years.

A red giant

            After a star has been in existence for many years, the protons at the center run out and only a central region made of alphas is left. After running out of fuel, the star will start cooling and the shell outside will fall inwards and continue to become smaller. As it contracts inward, it becomes hotter enough to fuse the protons to alphas. Hence, a new source of energy is gotten that makes that makes the core hotter that ever before, and the outside shell will expand to make the star a red giant. Inside the core, it heats up more as it contracts the nucleus at center, making it heavier. The fusion will release energy for a short time, to keep the red giant burning for sometime.

A neutron star

A neutron star has a mass of about 1.4 times that of the sun, despite being only 20 kilometers in diameter. They are formed by stars that have reached their end time, and grew to around four to eight times bigger than the sun during their normal tine. A neutron star’s protons and electrons combine due to the high density of the star, where the name comes from.

A black hole

A general relativity theory suggests that a compact mass may distort space-time to form a black hole. In this hole, nothing can go through even light or any object, and gravitational force it directed towards it. When a star that has depleted its fuel suddenly experiences abrupt gravitational collapse, they explode forming matter with singularity or infinite density and this could result to a black hole (NCSA, 2011).

A supernova

            When a star reaches its end, the gases at the core continue to contract, and form iron. When the big stars about 8 times the sun reach this stage, where they have no more fuel, they explode as a supernova. A supernova could be seen in the space, just after explosion, before its duct blows further and further. For supernova to occur the star must have exhausted its fuel.



NCSA. (2011). A Black Hole Is Born. Retrieved from

BookRags. (2011). Radioactive Decay. Retrieved from


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