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IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Enhancing Nuclear Safety


Publications

Natural radioactivity: The epic story of radium

Resuming the work by the French physicist Henri Becquerel, Pierre and Marie Curie gave the name "radioactivity" to the property possessed by certain elements of spontaneously emitting radiation. In 1898, Marie isolated polonium and radium, two elements thus for unknown and highly radioactive.

Radium led to innumerable applications in physics and chemistry, but like X-rays, it was the medical sector that seized hold of this element in its fight against cancer.

Praised for its benefits, radium becomes a source of youth for the public and a source of profit for the industry. It took some time and evidence to admit the danger of its radiation…


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