Nuclear Radiation

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12492

The destructive power of nuclear bombs isn't their only danger; the effects of radiation released by them can last for many years! Even the effects from non-weapon use can be tragic! What can you do?



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Why do you think the nuclear bomb site in Hiroshima has been left unrestored?

Two atomic bombs was dropped in 1945 to end World War Two.

The bombs landed on two cities in Japan: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They destroyed a large area of each city and had lasting health impacts for the survivors. Perhaps the building in the image above has been left to remind others of the damage of war and nuclear weapons.

If you skipped or need to review the previous Radioactivity Related Lessons on elements and decay, find them in the right-hand sidebar.

Nuclear radiation can have severe consequences in the body. The potential damage depends on how much radiation the individual is exposed to.


Radiation exposure in the body is measured in rads, which describe the amount of radiation energy absorbed by the body. The higher the rad count, the more damage to the human tissues and organs. One of the first side effects of radiation exposure is the loss of hair from the body.

  • Can you think of one application for radiation that is well-known for hair loss?

Cancer treatment patients often lose their hair as a result of the radiation therapy they receive.

cancer patient

As the dose increases, people begin to develop radiation sickness. Radiation sickness is characterized by vomiting, fatigue, and diarrhea. Generally, these individuals have experienced a reduction in white blood cells and are more prone to develop infections. Survivors from the attacks in Japan reported radiation sickness symptoms lasting for ten years following exposure.

white blood cells

If the exposure level increases, radiation sickness can become worse leading to a hemorrhage (extreme loss of blood). High exposure concentrations can lead to death, either immediate or shortly following exposure.

Radiation can also negatively impact the environment. High amounts of radiation can cause mutations in the plants, and even death!

plant mutation

Animals and marine life are also susceptible to radiation exposure.

  • Did you know that animals can develop cancer like humans?

Animals in the area surrounding nuclear accidents have a higher risk of cancer because of the radiation exposure. Radiation can also negatively impact the ability of animals and marine life to reproduce because it attacks the cells along the reproductive tract.

Exposure to radiation can have long-lasting impacts on the organisms and environment. Humans can experience flu-like symptoms at low levels, and more severe hemorrhaging and cell death at higher concentrations. The environment can be badly damaged, with plants unable to grow and animals developing cancer. Exposure to nuclear radiation should be considered a serious risk.

  • What do you consider the greatest risk from nuclear radiation?
  • How could that be prevented?

List ten safety procedures on a sheet of paper that you think might prevent exposure to nuclear radiation.

In the Got It? section, you will learn more about how nuclear radiation is treated in the human body and environment.

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