Skip to 0 minutes and 0 secondsSAM SMIDT: Hello, and welcome to the course. I'm Sam Smidt.

Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsGEMMA WARRINER: And I'm Gemma Warriner. Over the next four weeks, you'll be taking a good look at the issues that surround nuclear energy and energy supply in general.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsSAM SMIDT: We'll also be looking at some of the issues that make nuclear energy more of a difficult choice and the reasons why governments are sometimes more cautious about adopting it. But this first week's all about the science.

Skip to 0 minutes and 22 secondsGEMMA WARRINER: We're going to be looking at fission and radioactivity. Now, I have a Geiger counter here. You might have seen one of these before. Radioactive materials emit particles, and we'll be looking at these particles later this week. When one of these particles enters the tube, it's registered as a click. So the more clicks you hear, the more radioactive it is nearby. Now, you may hear there's some clicks going on while I'm talking to you now. Now, that's to be expected. That's background radiation, and it's due to the low level radioactivity that surrounds us all the time. Now, I have a couple of sources of that radioactivity here. Well, Sam does. We have some bananas.

Skip to 1 minute and 9 secondsSo if I put the Geiger counter next to them, they're getting a few clicks. So they are contributing to the background. We're going to get more clicks if I put the Geiger counter next to Sam's watch. You can hopefully hear there. We're getting quite a few more clicks. That's because Sam's watch is quite an old watch, and the fluorescent paint actually contains radium, and radium is radioactive.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 secondsSAM SMIDT: The other thing we're going to focus on this week is fission, which is how we get most energy that is produced in nuclear reactors. Fission is when you split nuclei of large unstable elements, usually uranium, into two smaller, more stable nuclei and energy is released in the process. That's pretty much all there is to it, but you'll learn about how we measure that energy, and that's all related to Einstein's famous equation e equals mc squared. Stay with us and it'll all become clear.

Exploring radioactivity

Course educators, Sam Smidt and Gemma Warriner introduce themselves and do some experiments with a Geiger counter to show radioactivity.

In Week 1 you’ll learn about the science behind nuclear energy. This learning will set you up for the rest of the course as you consider nuclear energy in context.

In the next step, you’ll find out more about the course.

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This video is from the free online course:

The Science of Nuclear Energy

The Open University