Nuclear in your neighbourhood
Hi, I'm Adam.
What do you think of when I say "nuclear" or "radiation"?
What if I told you that radiation is all around us?
Don't believe me?
Well, let's have a look around.
Have you ever heard of cosmic radiation?
It comes from the sun and from space but the Earth's
atmosphere provides us with a lot of protection
from cosmic radiation.
It makes up about one-fifth of the naturally occurring
radiation we are all exposed to everyday on Earth.
Of course, the higher up you go, the less protection
from the atmosphere there is.
That's why your exposure to natural radiation
increases when you work in space, take a flight,
or even go mountain climbing.
But don't worry, the extra radiation exposure
you'd get from taking a cross-Canada flight is only
a tiny fraction of the total radiation dose you can be
safely exposed to in one year.
The Earth itself is also naturally radioactive.
Radioactive elements like carbon and hydrogen occur in
plants, water, and air.
Rocks and soil also contain small amounts of uranium.
Sixty percent of all the radiation you are
exposed to comes from naturally occurring sources
like the sun and the Earth.
So, where, then, does the other forty percent come from?
From man-made nuclear activities.
And that's where we come in.
I work at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission,
or CNSC for short.
We regulate the use of all nuclear substances in Canada,
whether they're being used to power a reactor, to detect
cracks in a jet engine, or to detect and treat cancer,
just to name a few.
Most of the exposure you'll receive from man-made nuclear
activities will actually come from medical procedures.
Nuclear medicine is used to diagnose and
treat many different illnesses.
Cancer clinics use nuclear substances or machines like
linear accelerators to treat cancers by targeting the cancer
cells with high-energy beams.
They can also use tiny radioactive implants to
kill the cancer cells.
The CNSC inspects hospitals and clinics to make sure that the
nuclear substances and equipment are being used safely.
We also make sure the nuclear substances
are disposed of properly.
The CNSC also licenses many other uses
for nuclear substances.
They can be found in just about every neighbourhood.
Let's start with your home.
Say you were going through your daily morning routine,
and you burn your toast, what would happen?
[smoke detector beeping]
This smoke detector would go off.
Most household smoke detectors contain a radioactive material
called Americium-241 to detect smoke in the air.
They are safe and do not pose any health
risk to you or your family.
The CNSC licenses the Canadian companies that design
and produce smoke detectors.
Did you know that your computer, your alarm clock
and all other electric appliances in your home
could be powered by nuclear technology?
Fifteen percent of Canada's electricity is generated
by nuclear power plants.
Which brings us here...
There are a total of nineteen nuclear reactors in Canada.
The CNSC licenses these facilities to ensure
that they operate safely.
One of their license conditions is to regularly test the ground
and surface water around the facility to make sure people
and the environment are safe.
Now let's move on to your school.
Wondering where you can find the nuclear material?
It's right here... in the exit sign.
Tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, is sealed inside
glass tubes that are treated with phosphor.
The tritium makes the phosphor glow, even during a power outage
as it doesn't need electricity or batteries to work.
Supermarkets, hospitals, and many other public
places use tritium exit signs.
And yes, as you probably guessed, we regulate
facilities that process tritium.
So what does your supermarket have to do
with nuclear technology?
In Canada, a number of foods such as onions,
potatoes, wheat, flour, spices and some seasonings
are approved for irradiation.
Irradiation is the process of exposing food to ionizing
radiation in order to kill microorganisms.
This is done to prevent food poisoning from harmful bacteria,
like E. coli and salmonella, and to keep food fresh longer.
And no, irradiating food does not make the food radioactive.
Now we all know that summer in Canada is construction season.
Portable gauges are radiation devices often
used on constructions sites.
They can measure road thickness and detect moisture
in soil without having to dig.
The CNSC licenses all handheld radiation devices and ensures
that anyone using them has been properly trained.
Now for the really cool stuff - space exploration also relies
on nuclear technology to study and explore our
solar system, including Earth, the Moon and Mars.
Although the United States led the charge in the
latest Mars space missions, Canada contributed in small
but significant ways.
In one of the missions to Mars, Canadians contributed the Alpha
Particle X-Ray Spectrometer, or APXS for short.
It's a sensor that uses alpha particles and
X-rays to determine the chemical composition
of the rocks on Mars.
So as you can see, radiation and nuclear technology
are all around us...
near and far.
The CNSC ensures that all nuclear facilities, activities
and man-made substances are safe in Canada and that you and I,
and the environment are protected.
Visit the CNSC's YouTube Channel. Check out the CNSC videos explaining the nuclear sector in Canada, and how it remains safe through our regulations. You can explore our "Ask an Expert" video playlists, or catch up on past Commission hearings and meeting presentations.
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