Gamma rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation that results from a redistribution of electric charge within a nucleus. Gamma rays are essentially very energetic X rays ; the distinction between the two is not based on their intrinsic nature but rather on their origins. X rays are emitted during atomic processes involving energetic electrons. Gamma radiation is emitted by excited nuclei or other processes involving subatomic particles; it often accompanies alpha or beta radiation, as a nucleus emitting those particles may be left in an excited (higher-energy) state.
Gamma rays are more penetrating than either alpha or beta radiation, but less ionizing. Gamma rays from nuclear fallout would probably cause the largest number of casualties in the event of the use of nuclear weapons in a nuclear war. They produce damage similar to that caused by X-rays such as burns, cancer, and genetic mutations.