Radiation Protection Glossary

A radiation protection glossary for Radiation Protection Supervisors (RPS), Radiation Protection Advisers (RPA) and anyone else interesting in radiation safety terms and definitions. The glossary is a mixture of health physics , phrases related to radiation protection legislation, transport, practical safety, technical terms and similar.

Search the Glossary by either clicking on a letter or typing a keyword into the search box. This glossary is relational so when looking at one term you can click through to other related terms as required.

For formal advice, see our Radiation Protection Adviser pages. 

Beta Particle

The beta particle has the form of a high speed negatively charged electron (or a positively charged electron in the case of the positron). In beta decay (electron emission) a neutron in the nucleus is converted to a proton with the release of a high speed electron and an anti neutrino. For example, C-14 decays to N-14 and the atomic number has increased by one whilst the mass number at 14 is unchanged. The beta particle is more penetrating than alpha particles but still much less so than gamma rays or x-rays. For every beta emitter there is a unique energy spectrum characterised by average and maximum beta energy. For Tritium (H-3) this is around 18.5 KeV, for C-14 its 156 KeV and for P-32 it is about 1.7 MeV.

If you start from nothing, it is very difficult to get anywhere

– Gerhard Herzberg -