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Radioactive Fallout

Recent Developments Affecting Fallout

The former Soviet Union, the United States, and Great Britain agreed in 1963 to stop all testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, under water, and in outer space. France and China, however, have continued such tests. The United States and Russia further agreed in 1993 to eliminate two-thirds of their nuclear warheads by 2003. This agreement, made possible by the ending of the Cold War, greatly decreases the chances of nuclear warfare and the generation of enormous quantities of fallout.

Disastrous nuclear accidents, such as those at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, have made nuclear reactors much less popular. No nuclear reactors ordered after 1973 have been completed in the United States, although several are under construction in Japan, Thailand, Turkey, and elsewhere.



Bock, G., G. Cardew, and H. Paretzhe, eds. Health Impacts of Large Releases of Radionucludes. John Wiley and Sons, 1997.

Carlisle, Rodney P. Encyclopedia of the Atomic Age. New York: Facts on File, 2001.

Eisenbud, M. and T.F. Gesell. Environmental Radioactivity: From Natural, Industrial, and Military Sources. Academic Press, 1997.

Lillie, D.W. Our Radiant World. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1986.

Matthews, John A., E.M. Bridges, and Christopher J. Caseldine The Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Environmental Change. New York: Edward Arnold, 2001.


Nuclear Weapons Fallout Compensation. Joint Hearing before the Committee on Labor and Human Resources and the Subcommittee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 97th Congress. Examination of the Potential Dangers of and Liability for Radioactive Emissions Resulting form The Government's Weapons Testing Program. March 12, 1982. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982.

Dean Allen Haycock


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—Two molecules in which the number of atoms and the types of atoms are identical, but their arrangement in space is different, resulting in different chemical and physical properties.

Nuclear fission

—A nuclear reaction in which an atomic nucleus splits into fragments, with the release of energy, including radioactivity. Also popularly known as "splitting the atom."

Nuclear reactor

—A device which generates energy by controlling the rate of nuclear fission. The energy produced is used to heat water, which drives an electrical generator. By-products of the fission process may be used for medical, scientific, or military purposes, but most remain as radioactive waste materials.

Nuclear weapon

—A bomb that derives its explosive force from the release of nuclear energy.


—Spontaneous release of subatomic particles or gamma rays by unstable atoms as their nuclei decay.


—A type of atom or isotope, such as strontium-90, that exhibits radioactivity.

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