Fundamental Research Division
From the source to the dosimetric impact assessment
Radioactive elements have always been naturally present on Earth. The use of radioactivity for medical, industrial and military applications has generated the production of artificial radionuclides.
Radioactivity has been naturally present in the environment since the formation of the Earth. In the atmosphere, radiation of cosmic origin interacts with certain elements to generate radionuclides such as carbon-14, beryllium-7, sodium-22, and tritium.
The Earth’s crust contains only about twenty radioactive elements, still present since the formation of the Earth due to their very long radioactive half-lives. These so-called “primordial” radionuclides decay into a stable element, in the case of potassium-40, or in a series of radioactive daughters, in the case of the uranium-235 and -238 families and thorium-232. The radiation emitted during the decay of these radionuclides thus has a terrestrial origin.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, radioactivity has been used in various industries and in medicine. These human activities have involved natural radionuclides and/or are the source of artificial radionuclides.
Medical applications concern three fields:
Industrial applications are very diverse. While some are well known (e.g. electricity production), others are more confidential. Examples include:
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.