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Radioactive decay in books

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What determines whether a particular element will have alpha or beta decay?

For example

238 4 234
U -----> He + Th
92 2 90

is always shown as having alpha decay in books

Is this always the case? Why does it not have beta decay?
Is one type of decay ie(alpha decay in this case) merely more likely to happen?
If so, can you calculate this?

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Solution Preview

238 4 234
U -----> He + Th (Energy required=Q=4.25 MeV)
92 2 90

The radionucletide 238U decays by emitting an alpha particle in the scheme shown above. You may think about 4He to be the alpha particle in here.

A nucleus that decays spontaneously by emitting an electron or psoitron (a positively charged particle with the mass of an electron) is said to undergo beta ...

Solution Summary

This solution explains the relationship between particular elements having beta or alpha decay.

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