CNSC Videos

Nuclear in your neighbourhood

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Transcript

Hi, I'm Adam.

What do you think of when I say "nuclear" or "radiation"?

Not these?

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 right?

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.