What is Radiation?

People who hear the word “radiation” can have very specific reactions — ranging from calm to worry. But how should we react?

That’s the focus of What is Radiation?, part of The Heritage Foundation’s Powering America documentary project. The video includes interviews with nuclear power plant workers about their experiences working with and around radiation on a daily basis.

So what is radiation?

“Radiation simply is energy in motion. That’s all radiation is,” said Jim Hopson, Communications Manager at the TVA Watts Bar Nuclear Station. “And we’re surrounded by radiation all the time. Light is radiation.”

That fact — that radiation is all around us — is a key focus of the video. Radiation is used to diagnose and treat cancer, but also to destroy harmful bacteria in the food we buy at grocery stores. Trans-Atlantic airline pilots are exposed to radiation every time they fly. Even the potassium in bananas contains radiation.

When it comes to the radiation produced by nuclear reactors, there are multiple and thick levels of shielding to protect workers and the surrounding communities.

“The issue is not to be afraid of radiation,” Hopson said. “The issue is to understand it and to respect it, just like any other energy source.”

Watch the full video here.

See also: Radiation Resource Guide