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In nuclear reactions are all the species involved, naked nuclei that is, are they all atoms that have been completely stripped of their electrons? If not, then shouldn't an alpha decay result in the formation of an anion and shouldn't a beta decay result in a cation?

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  • $\begingroup$ Alpha decay results in an energetic particle leaving the nucleus, and fast enough that it is unlikely to pick up the necessary electrons to be neutral. So, yes, the atom left behind has two spare electrons (plus/minus any ejected by interactions with the departing alpha), and will rapidly give at least one up. But, the question is: what are you really asking about? $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 2 '16 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ If this process goes on and there is accumulation of charges taking place shouldn't it be evident in the form of some drastic property changes of the material for example, a solid specie decaying should break out of its solid state due to the building repulsive interaction in the atomic level. $\endgroup$ Nov 3 '16 at 15:29
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Nuclear reactions involve energies far greater than anything in chemistry. Whether or not the nuclei are stripped of their electrons, does not matter at all (except for electron capture, of course; to capture an electron, you must have one around in the first place).

So yes, a beta decay of a neutral atom does indeed result in a cation. As for alpha decay, here we have a massive particle leaving, so the remaining nucleus would be shoved in the opposite direction with considerable force, no doubt enough to break it free of any chemical bonds and strip it of quite a few outer electrons. If not for this factor, the process would leave behind an anion.

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  • $\begingroup$ Will the recoil of the parent nucleus always release the exact number of electrons ? If so, what governs this? $\endgroup$ Nov 3 '16 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ The recoil will release some random number of electrons, depending on the energy of the alpha particle, mass of the remaining nucleus, ionization energies of the element, and who knows what else. There is nothing "exact" about it, whatever that might mean. $\endgroup$ Nov 3 '16 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't there a possibility that the post-decay product is not electrically neutral? Hence,If this process goes on and there is accumulation of charges taking place shouldn't it be evident in the form of some drastic property changes of the material for example, a solid specie decaying should break out of its solid state due to the building repulsive interaction in the atomic level. $\endgroup$ Nov 3 '16 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ The product is almost certainly not neutral, but as soon as the dust settles down, all runaway charges rush towards each other via the phenomenon known as electric current, and neutralize everything pretty soon (or not so soon, depending on the material). That being said, creeping change of nearly all properties in radioactive materials is a known effect, and a huge problem in certain technologies. $\endgroup$ Nov 3 '16 at 15:40

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